Comment: The Tories are walking all over Labour – Corbyn must act

Labour continues to send a signal to the public that it doesn't know what it believes in


The Conservative faithful continues its annual conference in Manchester today. Events so far have served only to highlight the hole in which the Labour Party now finds itself.

Let’s start with the issue of tax credits. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies the government’s proposed living wage would offset just ’27 per cent of the drop in household incomes from the impact of net tax and benefit reforms.’

This should be natural Labour territory and we should be seeing the party leading the campaign against the tax credit reforms announced in the Budget. Yet it is opposition from within the Conservative Party which is proving more effective and which is most likely to lead to some sort of comprise arrangement.

Yes, it’s just one issue, but it shows a failure of the new Labour leadership to speak to the issues which voters that decide elections care about most.

Why has the party been so silent as George Osborne slowly but surely pinches so much of the Labour manifesto – a living wage, full devolution of business rates and the establishment of a National Infrastructure Commission?

The audacity of Osborne, who yesterday described the Conservative Party as the party of labour and stole Aneurin Bevan’s  words – ‘we are the builders’ – has been possible only because Labour has seen its flag lowered over the cherished centre ground.

This is not to say that principles do not matter; but the reality that those around Jeremy Corbyn must grapple with is how to turn his left-wing rhetoric into an enticing ‘one nation’ programme for government – one that brings middle and lower earners together.

It is a programme that needs to speak to people’s aspirations and hopes, and properly address their fears that Labour can no longer be trusted to look after their taxes and provide proper national security.

Last night was a reminder of the problem Labour now faces. As the prime minister was in the conference bubble celebrating an election victory, Jeremy Corbyn was reduced, somewhat sadly, to addressing protests that will do nothing to change government policy.

To make matters worse, he did so alongside Terry Pullinger, deputy general secretary of Communication Workers’ Union, who argued that Corbynmania ‘almost makes you want to celebrate the fact Labour lost the election’.

Such words are profoundly depressing, and speak volumes about those for whom the comfort of opposition is somehow preferably to being able to do things in government.

We have rightly seen many Labour MPs tweeting about how depressing such words are, but it is time for Jeremy Corbyn to take a lead, to disassociate himself from such sentiments and make clear that for Labour to succeed the party must be in power. He needs to show a desire and eagerness to win which has so far been lacking.

To cite just one example: Labour now finds itself in the position where it either backs the renewal of the nuclear deterrent, putting Corbyn in a very difficult spot, or it decides to reject it, leading to mass resignations from the shadow cabinet. Tothe public thismust look farcical.

The reality is that Labour is currently a mess. It is failing to properly stand up for its legacy in government and it is failing to take the Tories to task on crucial policy issues.

We know that many in the PLP remain deeply unconvinced by the Corbyn leadership. The question now is how long will they wait until they move against it.

EdJacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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