Saturday, 25 February 2017

After Copeland, England should be afraid

The Conservative campaign in the Copeland by-election was fought against the background of planned sweeping cuts in the English NHS, including some local to the constituency. Both Labour (luridly) and Rebecca Hanson, the Liberal Democrat candidate, campaigned against the cuts. The Conservative win will clearly be taken as an endorsement of the Hunt plan as well as the attacks on the social services. Labour's muddle and trimming caused their loss of this seat and the chance to defend the NHS. The trickle of junior doctors and medical staff qualified from mainland Europe leaving these shores will turn into a flood.

One had hopes for Jeremy Corbyn when he was elected leader of the Labour party. At last there was someone in that position who could articulate the case for socialism after a succession of leaders who could not see beyond leadership for the sake of it. Not for nothing did a distinguished peer label the modern Labour party "the blob". Corbyn could have changed that. Instead, he seemed to go back on the principles* which caused him to rebel so often against the Blair-Brown administrations. He used to be a strong opponent of nuclear power. He used to condemn the European Union as a capitalist club. I believe he was mistaken on both counts, but people respected him for taking a firm stance. Yet when campaigning in Copeland, he appeared to back nuclear power. He reversed his position on the EU during the referendum campaign, albeit half-heartedly, then reversed again, imposing a three-line whip on his MPs to go into the pro-Brexit lobby with the Tories. Ordinary voters, that is those who are not tribal Labour, have rightly lost trust in both Corbyn and his party.

It looks now as if there is nothing to stop Mrs May from achieving things that even Mrs Thatcher dared not attempt.

* I used to admire Corbyn's courage as a backbench member for standing up for civil and human rights when Blair and co. moved to impair them. But it seems that he is not quite so humanitarian when it comes to Russian abuses.

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