When was Polly Toynbee granted the unique privilege of having comments disallowed on her Comment is Free pieces? I don’t read her often enough – is this a new thing? The only time I’ve ever seen comments disabled on a CiF piece was a recent example of Clegg’s, for legal reasons as it discussed the Barclays tax case.
I would have thought Polly would be comparatively safe from the baying hordes today too – partly because she’s written a good piece and partly because Peter Hain will surely draw all the fire with this desperate fear-the-BNP-and-vote-Labour effort.
Anyway, Polly is done with the nosepeg, it seems. She catalogues the failures of Gordon Brown and correctly identifies the rotten corrosion at the heart of the Labour party. She points out that Labour are too inert even to tackle Tory U-turns – without falling into that whiny “the Tories are worse” trap that gets more contemptible every time I hear it.
But she does have one last bullet in her gun:
This week a survey on the ConservativeHome website of likely new Tory MPs was an eye-opener. They are socially conservative, anti-environment, anti-Europe, anti-abortion, anti-gay adoption, pro-hunting and strongly in favour of the married couples’ allowance that redistributes tax to the middle class. Only 15% see the climate as important: terrorism matters much more. Most want to cut money for Scotland: a Tory win will trigger new support for independence. They are well to the right of their leader, even his tougher guise. Lord Ashcroft, who channels money to favoured marginals, has nurtured a nest of MPs more to his own liking.
Labour needs to make sure as few of these as possible reach the Commons.
I won’t trouble you with the details of the rest of that latter paragraph. You can fill in Pollyblanks well enough for yourself. Basically, she wants massive redistribution to take place, suddenly, in Labour’s hour of death – no more ID cards, no more winter fuel payments for wealthy over-60s (Polly gets one!). Identify the cuts that the Tories will, and make the wealth transfer that they won’t make. This is, apparently, a “Labour answer” as if for all the world Labour hasn’t been in power for the last twelve years and signally failing to do exactly that.
No-one, no-one at all now believes that this will happen. I don’t think Polly really believes it. Labour will not suddenly turn into a set of good guys, even if being the good guys is the obvious path to success – look at the Gurkhas. This government has a tin ear. It does bad things for the sake of it, even when they’re also the harder thing to do.
Polly’s aiming her gun at the wrong people. What she needs to do is turn her one remaining bullet on the Labour party itself. If she really, really wants to have those young Ashcroftians stopped, and if Labour really, earnestly believes that their ascendancy would be that fatal for the country, then there’s only one thing to do.
I’m not given to sweeping loyalist statements, I hope, but some political atmospheres seem characterised by such huge, sky-high patterns that they’re impossible to ignore. With all our imperfections – and I’m far from happy with some areas of policy – the Lib Dems are now, quite clearly, the natural home of progressive politics (in itself not a phrase I use lightly). Labour voters, supporters, media commentators and even Labour MPs should get behind the Liberal Democrats, examine their programme for government critically, point out the flaws, trumpet the glories, recommend them to the nation and vote for them.
This is the only way Polly’s going to get the last laugh on the Ashcroft crew. Of course, it’s highly unlikely. But, to be honest, it’s now no less likely than the prospect of Labour morphing into a half-decent government.