Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Give Labour Its Pearl Harbor Moment, by David Lindsay

As Keir Starmer prepares to begin his Leadership of the Labour Party with enormous local election losses, so much for him. The Left’s answer to “You’re unelectable” will be, “Well, so are you.”

If Boris Johnson wanted to give Labour a proper Pearl Harbor moment, then he would announce that at the Conservative Party’s top 100 target seats, plus wherever a Conservative MP was standing down, the candidate would meet all of four criteria: he or she would have lived in the constituency for at least 15 years, would be living in rented accommodation, would hold no university degree or equivalent qualification, and would have an annual income not higher than £12,500. Before anyone starts, that last is two in five adults.

The Prime Minister should make it clear that while this was a complete one-off, there would be no exception to any of those four requirements this time, in order to change Parliament for a generation by ensuring an intake of at least 50 such MPs in 2024. As much as anything else, that income requirement would ensure that there were no shortage of women, ethnic minorities, and the disabled; I am both mixed-race and disabled, and I know. Anyone would think that it were really all about class. Some people might whinge that he had not gone through this committee, that committee and the other committee, but once he had made the announcement, then it would be too late. Tony Blair used to pull that trick all the time, because it works.

Where there were two or more such applicants, then the local association’s shortlist of two would go out to a binding, independently administered ballot of all registered parliamentary electors in that constituency. Johnson should then challenge Labour to match all of this for its own top 100 target seats, plus wherever a Labour MP was standing down. Labour could not begin to meet that challenge. Its reaction would be hysterical in both senses of the word.

At the same time, Johnson should announce that, unless they had said no within six hours of the announcement, then certain people would now be Visiting Fellows of the Downing Street Policy Unit, to publish through it with the approval both of its Director and of Dominic Cummings, not as an expression of government policy, but because what they were saying made a useful contribution to the debate. Each would receive an annual honorarium of £12,000, while remaining perfectly free to publish elsewhere in other capacities.

That would give a voice to the rural working class, and to the industrial and former industrial communities that were either outside the metropolitan areas or peripheral to them. A voice to those who were committed to upholding family and community values by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty. A voice to those who cherished free speech and other civil liberties, including due process of law. A voice to those who sought a fully independent British foreign policy, with a critical and sceptical approach to intelligence and security agencies.

A voice to those who found that the definition of anti-Semitism in the Oxford English Dictionary was perfectly sufficient: “Hostility to or prejudice against Jews.” A voice to those who did not feel represented by the usual Jewish, Afro-Caribbean or South Asian “community leaders” embedded in the right-wing Labour Establishment. A voice to those of mixed heritage, and to those whose migrant backgrounds lay beyond the Caribbean and South Asia.

A voice to those who acknowledged the scientific fact of binary and immutable biological sex. And a voice to those who celebrated the full compatibility between the highest view of human demographic, economic, intellectual and cultural expansion and development, and the most active concern for the conservation of the natural world and of the treasures bequeathed by such expansion and development in the past.

I have 30 names in front of me as I write. All are reasonably well-known to those who pay attention. Again, this would challenge the Labour Party to name each of them to a comparable position as well. And again, Labour would fail that test.

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