Despite being rather conservative (with a small ‘c’), when it comes to our political theatre, the occasional physical assault often energises debate in Britain. Who can forget the pugilistic Prescott’s expressions of antipathy, for instance, Murdoch’s near miss with a cream pie, or the way in which Ed Miliband joined, for the second time, the dubious membership of political figures who have received a thorough egging?
Dean Porter’s messy expression might have found a better outlet in the pages of the broadsheets than a south London market, but his essential point – that the Tories and Labour are two sides of the same coin – is becoming increasingly hard to argue with.
Years of depressingly predictable attacks on the social state by the Conservatives have been almost unprecedented in their ideological ferocity. Meanwhile, the heart-breaking servility of their coalition barnacles, the Liberal Democrats, has probably inflicted more damage to youth political participation than nearly any other event in modern British history.
Labour, as the natural counterbalance, should be coming into its very element in these times, providing another way for people – for the purposes of this column, Londoners – tired of the myopic, uncaring and cold manner in which the current government is re-engineering the foundations of British society.
Just look at the scandals and pabulum that ordinary people have had to contend with over recent months and years. Proposals to abrogate workers’ rights in favour of employee share schemes that have no guarantee of value or security, legitimised slavery through forcing welfare recipients to work for free at high street shops, and when that was challenged successfully, brazen attempts to retroactively change laws to ensure the government’s legal victory.
Bedroom taxes, cuts to public services, tuition fee hikes, slashes in welfare provision, the privatisation of Royal Mail and the wholly inevitable feeling that the NHS will be dismantled, then handed to the private sector through a fire sale, very soon.
These are areas that are in Labour’s core, but the party has hardly covered itself in glory. Internecine bickering over the leadership between two brothers damaged Ed Miliband’s leadership from the off, and his very public fracas with the unions hardly endeared him to the party faithful.
It’s not just Miliband, though, even if he should bear the brunt of the blame as the public face of the party. Shadow ministers, with few exceptions, have consistently failed in their professional and moral duty to effectively oppose the government, even one consisting of such laughably incompetent and politicised personnel as this one.
Labour’s abject failure matters, and it matters to London, which has consistently voted as a majority for the party in general elections for years. The re-election of a Conservative Mayor, if we can truly call Boris Johnson that, should have served as a wake-up call to the party leadership. But it didn’t. Instead, Labour continues to languish in obscurity, frustrating the very people who should be its ardent constituents with its almost wilful reluctance to stand up, in any effective way, to the manner in which the Conservatives are changing the very structure of British social character. Instead, it’s allowed them to crow over hollow victories, misrepresent financial data to further ideological agendas, take credit for successes that were initially put in place by Labour politicians (the Olympics, Boris Bikes, anyone?) and preach their poisonous view of life to the masses without check or balance.
Clearly, I have no confidence in Ed Miliband. But under his leadership, I have no confidence in Labour’s ability to perform as a proper opposition, let alone govern the country, either. The Dean Porter School of South London Political Protest, it seems, has been far more effective.
Image by net_efekt courtesy of Flickr