Journalism like today’s Guardian piece, in which Frank Field tells us why he thinks Labour is going wrong, should be treated with extreme caution.
Despite being a member of Labour, Field was named the 100th most influential right-wing politician by the Daily Telegraph in 2008.
In May that year, he said that ultra-neoliberal prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who caused many of the problems facing the UK today, “is certainly a hero” and that “I still see Mrs T from time to time – I always call her ‘Mrs T’, when I talk to her.”
It would be churlish to suggest that, with opinions such as those on display in the Guardian piece and on Sky’s Murnaghan show, he should go and see his beloved Mrs T now.
But his views are unacceptable as stated.
He seems a good example of the kind of politician that Tony Benn described as a “weathercock”. As This Blog reiterated in July last year, Mr Benn said some politicians are like signposts. They point in the direction they want to travel and say, “This is the way we must go!” And they are constant. Others are like weathercocks; they lick their fingers, find out which direction the political winds are blowing and follow.
When Mr Field says Labour “is walking off in the opposite direction to where voters are”, he is clearly defining himself as a weathercock.
Labour’s current position – one firmly held by Jeremy Corbyn, the man Mr Field nominated for the leadership despite not sharing his views – is that of the signpost.
Voters may be in a different place right now – but Labour’s position is that this is because they have been misled by Conservative, Liberal Democrats and, yes, the former Labour leadership.
The “swing” Labour voters who didn’t support the party disagreed with Labour because Labour was too close to the Conservatives on too many policies. They wanted to see clear red water between the two parties, that wasn’t there in May 2015.
If people like Mr Field have there way, it never will be and the Tories will continue to beat his own party.
Mr Field needs to understand that Labour cannot win by being a pale imitation of the Tories. The landslide of 1997 happened because the voters thought Tony Blair would be radically different and he lost support at every subsequent election as people realised that he wasn’t, until his successor Gordon Brown was forced into Opposition by the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition.
Mr Field’s claims are more likely to lead Labour into another “walloping” than away from it.
Field, who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership in the interest of debate despite not sharing his politics, told Sky’s Murnaghan show that Corbyn was “in tune” with voters on issues such as inequality and the economy.
On other issues, however, such as security and immigration, “the Labour leadership is walking off in the opposite direction to where voters are, and in particular those swing Labour voters who didn’t swing our way and gave the government its unexpected election win last time”, he said.
“Clearly that’s going to have to be sorted out before the next election if we’re not to get a walloping yet again.”
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