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Why Labour may no longer be the only alternative

May 31, 2016

 

Last week I outlined how I felt factional in-fighting within the Conservative Party was putting the business of governing the UK on hold.

 

The last person on the planet I expected to back that view was Welsh tory leader Andrew RT Davies. You’ll have to read his Sunday Times article yourself to decide.

 

As it happens, last week’s piece was the first of a two-parter. This week I ask the elephant in the room question as to why Labour has been remarkably unable to capitalise on such disorder within tory ranks.

 

Keeping pace with the party’s pronounced leftw

 

ard direction has been a confusing journey one for those on the outside. Some of the dynamics haven’t been that much clearer for the membership either.

 

Despite winning a huge mandate, Jeremy Corbyn’s rank and file party popularity has yet to manifest itself among electors. Nor has it gained him more than grudging esteem from a large chunk of his parliamentary colleagues.

 

Various election results this month could probably be described as a ‘mixed bag’ in terms of successes. Corbyn’s critics maintain that he should be doing a lot better than just holding his own against a Conservative party in disarray. 

 

What is sometimes easy to forget however is that Labour didn’t just lose the 2015 general election, they lost it abysmally. Just the task of getting the party back to its 2010 watermark is an immense one.

 

To many of those candidates hoping to regain marginal seats (or hold onto them) next time around, the idea of adopting a radical socialist approach on issues like Trident must feel a bit like hearing that floggings will continue until moral improves.

 

Where conventional wisdom really comes apart though is whilst Labour goes about embracing a left-wing ethos, less and less working-class voters see the party as the only alternative to Conservative rule.

 

Out on the doorstep, the pubs, the clubs and the supermarkets, the priorities are more immediate than nationalisation and the solutions are straightforward.

 

A new generation of voters, with no patience for the political classes, simply don’t regard themselves as reactionary for thinking that you can protect jobs by halting immigration.

 

And anyway, say the same punters, what’s wrong with a little capitalist exploitation if it means a nice private rental income from your late mam’s council house which you helped her get at a discount?

 

Added to all this counter-intuitive feedback comes the challenge of post-devolution politics.

 

Regional differences make one-size-fits-all solutions unviable and even less desirable.

 

The party’s fortunes in Wales mean collective decision-making is about to become an intrinsic part of the minority government package.

 

Labour is Scotland has reaped the whirlwind that it sewed, nurtured and fed for decades. Ironically it could now take independence before a revival ever becomes feasible.

 

Neither Labour or Conservatives can be described as being in a good place at the moment.

 

Both seem incapable of resolving internal divisions and both have leaders where the betting is against them remaining at the helm for very much longer.

 

I should imagine that Mr Farage is a very happy man.

 

 

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Keeping up with marathon man

 

I was fortunate to spend some time this weekend with Eddie Izzard, as you do.

 

If I was asked to sum up the guy in one word then it would be “energy” – he doesn’t stop moving or talking for a second.

 

I must confess that I can get weary with the way the media readily gobbles up various celeb pronouncements on social issues. The difference is that Eddie Izzard actually has something worthwhile to say.

 

He not only comes over as someone who genuinely likes people, but also as an individual that has spent time thinking about how to address the causes of social injustices and not just the symptoms.

 

I suppose when you’re running 27 marathons in 27 days across South Africa then you tend to get a lot of thinking time.

 

Personally, I found it exhausting just keeping up with him for a couple of hours in Swansea’s city centre.

 

 

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Best laid schemes and all that

 

There were one or two defining moments during the Welsh Assembly elections. I daresay one of them was when news emerged that Leighton Andrews had lost his seat as Rhondda AM.

 

In fact I’m sure that several council leaders joined Plaid Cymru in fisting the air given that it meant a key figure in the push for local government mergers was out of the cabinet.

 

Of course, as far as council leader Rob Stewart is concerned, Swansea has always been capable of either standing alone or else joining with Neath Port Talbot where so many projects are coming together under the Swansea Bay Region banner.

 

Former health minister Mark Drakeford has shown himself capable of dealing with complex challenges. Now that he has taken over the public services portfolio, he would do well to listen to Councillor Stewart and his colleagues about the practical side of delivering services.

 

It would make a welcome change, if nothing else.

 

 

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