The Fight for Credibility

Politics these days is far cry from its predecessors. It’s manic, very much in real time, and lacks credibility. For us pragmatic, democratic, centre left or centrist voters, we yearn for the days of strong leaders, real news, and credibility in spades. This week, Theresa May and her minority government lacking any mandate put forward their pledges in the Queens Speech, a thin one at that, and it lacked substance, and a lot of promises from the manifesto released just last month.

The Queens Speech effectively saw the end to the grammar schools debate, the fox hunting farce, the school meals slip up, and showed no clarity on the government’s plan for Brexit. Theresa May is a dead PM walking, simply keeping the seat warm for one of her fellow cabinet members in the next 12-24 months. On the other side of the commons Jeremy Corbyn kept up his momentum from the election by ripping into May’s motley gang, and propelling Labour into slender poll leads this week. This was one of the shortest Queen’s Speeches of all time, and showed the fragility of the Tories position, and the lack of credible leadership they command right now.

Things are not going to get any easier for the government either. They are yet to strike a deal with the DUP, a deal which will further toxify their brand, and this week also saw the beginning of Brexit negotiations, something Labour can exploit. Davies vs Barnier is a David v Goliath situation, if David has his hands tied behind his back, and the lack of brain cells to throw a stone. It’s clear the Tories will cave throughout the talks, and the EU will be free to make a clear example of us. We look set to leave the single market and the customs union, and Labour should be forcing their way through this open goal.

For the first time this week, polls show Britons don’t want a no deal situation, prefer single market access to immigration controls, and even maybe slightly regret their decisions. Labour must capitalise on this, which is what makes McDonnell’s comments so worrying. McDonnell pledged last week to leave the single market, something which will not please many of Labour’s voters who voted this way for a soft Brexit, and who could very easily slip back over to the Liberal Democrats.

Another worrying sign is Labour going on the defensive. Too many times this week I have seen Labour members, quite seriously, claiming that Corbyn is effectively PM now. It’s a ridiculous, pathetic statement showing a clear lack of ambition from his supporters, and highlights how the hard left would happily live in constant opposition, rather than lead from the front. Labour did not win this election, the Tories are still perched, albeit precariously, in Number 10, and Corbyn still has a lot of work to do to turn this around, as I highlighted here.

Labour still need to reach out to the old, the working class, and the Labour heartlands if they want to get back into government. We must listen to these people’s views on immigration, Brexit, security, and public services. There are still huge question marks over Corbyn, McDonnell, and Abbott, and getting your name chanted at Glastonbury doesn’t change that. You can’t just assume you are now on course for certain victory.

This year’s election showed parties, and leaders at their least credible. May, Corbyn, Farron, and Nuttall were the worst collective group of party leaders leading into an election, and with each side boasting the likes of Abbott, Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, and Richard Burgon in their respective cabinets, politics is arguably at its weakest, when people need it to be at its strongest. Brexit will change our lives forever, and it needs strong, capable hands, something neither side can boast about.

Corbyn and Labour cannot just come alive at elections, they must show credibility by being a proper opposition throughout, and acting ready for government. Arguably, this is something that Corbyn has improved upon lately. After the Grenfell disaster, he showed true leadership by visiting those affected, unlike May who cowed away behind the scenes. What he must now do is show leadership over Brexit, show the country that the single market access must be the way forward, and oppose government negotiation screw ups along the way. Both sides of the commons are in opposite churches more than ever right now, but both lack credibility to push on.