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Does the acting Labour leader believe in anything?

uk_child_povertyHarriet Harman’s interview on the Sunday Politics of 12 July, has rapidly and justifiably gained notoriety on social media. It is important that there is a strong reaction from Labour MPs to the interview. The absence of such a reaction would be a very bad omen for Labour. Harman’s line of reasoning can be paraphrased and summarised by saying “The people voted for Tory Policies, not Labour ones, so we must listen to what people are telling us and adopt Tory policies when they are what the people want”.

The first few minutes of the interview went like this:

Andrew Neil: In your response to the government you said that Labour would be a grown-up and constructive opposition. That meant supporting government policies that you felt were sensible. You’ve now had four days to look at the budget. Which parts are sensible?

Harriet Harman: Well, I think we won’t oppose the welfare bill, we won’t oppose the household benefit cap. I mean, for example, what they brought forward in relation to restricting benefits and tax credits for people with three or more children. What we’ve got to do is listen to what people round the country said to us and recognise that we didn’t get elected again and this wasn’t a blip this was the second time we haven’t got elected and actually what people don’t what us to do, they don’t want us to do blanket opposition, they want us actually to be specific about what we are going to be challenging and holding the government to account on. But more than that, they want us to listen to their concerns and we’ve got to recognise why it was that the Tories are in government and not us which is not because people love the Tories particularly but because they didn’t trust us on the economy and on benefits. We have to listen to that and respond to that and that is why, as I say, we are not going to be voting agains the welfare bill, we are not going to be opposing the household benefits cap. We are going to be understanding the point about more than three children. That’s what people said all around the country.

A.N.: Is it more than three or more than two?

H.H.: More than two, three or more.

A.N.: And so you will go along with that. Tax credits for future families, not the existing ones, you will go along with no tax credit after two children.

H.H.: You know, when I was going around the country, on the Pink Bus, talking specifically to women, so often they would say “We’ve got one child, we’d really like to have another but we just can’t afford it, what with our home’s not big enough and the child care is too expensive”, and there is then, they’re working hard and then feel that is unfair on other people they they feel that they have bigger families that they would love to have if they were in a position to do that. Now, we have to listen to that. We can’t simply say to the public “You were wrong, we are going to carry on saying what we said before the election”. We have to listen to that. And the temptation is always to oppose everything. You know, it wasn’t our ideas, what’s in the budget. We must oppose it lock stock and barrel but that doesn’t make sense and we’ve got to wake up and recognise that this was not a blip. We’ve had a serious defeat and we must listen to why.

Isn’t it strange that Harriet Harman was never heard saying polls have shown over and over again that the majority of voters want the railways taken back into public ownership or that they think that local authorities should be responsible for schools? It is difficult to explain her idea of “listening” as being anything other than hearing only those things which one wants to hear. In other words it is rank hypocrisy. It is not listening at all.

It is difficult to imagine a party leader talking with less conviction. This represents the complete collapse of politics based on a different and better form of society for which we campaign, often against prevailing prejudice.

It is great that Jeremy Corbyn decided to stand for leader. That is the only way in which we have been offered relief from the dull tedium of politics as it is practised in Labour’s leading circles. Jeremy Corbyn believes in something which cannot be reduced to psephological calculations. He believes in the need to change society fundamentally that political and economic power is no longer in the hands of a tiny rich elite. The contrast with Harriet Harman’s abandonment of any deeply held convictions could not be greater. Similarly he stands out in the leadership stakes as the only one who is both democratic and socialist.


  1. Sandra Crawford says:

    Harriet Harman is what Tony Benn used to call a weather vane. She repeats what ever seems to be the line requested by those with the most sway in the Party, and that at the moment is the Progress Party.
    Although I would never normally agree with David Miliband, as I have never been deluded with either neoliberal economics nor US dominance in foreign policy, he did have Harriet Harman spot on five years ago. It was when he was listening to his brother stating the “Iraq war was wrong.”
    He turned to Harriet Harman and said to her “why are you clapping? You voted for it!”
    There you have it in a nutshell – it is just mindless follow my leader or mindless follow Progress, whatever flavour of the month.
    Labour requires conviction politicians, and the top variety should be democracy and equality, and looking after those who need it most.
    Agreeing to savage cuts is not being a good Labour MP, and pretending that people voted for it shows utter stupidity.
    Only 1 in 4 of those eligible to vote voted Tory, and even those in the main did note know exactly what they were voting for, given the Murdoch propaganda. Many others voted UKIP because they have been propagandised to blame immigrants.
    Harriet is showing the most basic errors in thinking possible, as well as a serious lack of thinking. I do not think she should even be a caretaker leader.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Personally and despite having an honest, decent and hardworking Local Labor MP, (for whom I’d previously voted,) it was the thought of electing the kind of entrenched Blair period right wing low life; exemplified by people like Harman, (who let’s not forget either wanted to exempt details of MP’s expenses from the freedom of information act,) more than anything else that made me vote UKIP.

      Nothing else really came into it.

    2. John P Reid says:

      Maybe she’s twigged we lost the election, and gave to accept things like opposition to A eu referendum was wrong, Benn and his weather vein, comment from a bloke who blamed everyone else for labour losing elections was dumb.
      I hardly think accepting there has to be cuts names labour the progress party,when those union bosses running labour for the last 5 years, wanted the magazine expelled

      1. SANDRA CRAWFORD says:

        Can you yourself explain why there has “to be cuts,” or is it something, like Harriet, something that someone has lead to to accept without evidence or thinking?

        1. John P Reid says:

          Because if we increase debt,on money we haven’t got, the country will be in so much trouble that future generations will suffer from worse poverty

      2. SANDRA CRAWFORD says:

        I do not remember Tony blaming anyone fo losng elections. I do remember him blaming Blair and his coterie for betraying Labour values, and that apart from losing his wife, was a main reason for his depression.

        1. John P Reid says:

          He blamed the SDP all the time,basically h reckoned if the SDP didn’t exist,those who voted for a centre party that wanted democratization of unions, the right to buy council homes, Multilateralismand staying in the EU, would have not voted SDP, but voted for a party with completely different views

          Ben also blamed the electorate for not voting for us, ‘the reason we lost was the electorate were wrong for not voting for us’ he said it on the BBC 1983 elections, it’s on iplayer

    3. David Pavett says:

      Sandra, I agree with you. Harriet Harman’s rise to such a position of influence speaks volumes about the intellectual state of the Labour Party. She is, on the other hand, only one of many other possible examples.

  2. Verity says:

    It has recently become clear that Labour’s newer generation of Social Democrats have lost their direction and are struggling to present a coherent alternative. In the weekend press, we have Tristan Hunt despairing about the inability of the leadership candidates to offer a big picture alternative – in his view dealing with the trivia. Incidentally, failing to give us a clue as to what it might be. Similarly in her embarrassing Channel 4 interview Kendall stated repetitively that her approach to the budget would be different – failing to tell us of any differences she had. Harriet Harman now finding the one issue to guide us to election victory. However the most telling of all was the interview that Chuka Umunna gave to the Financial Times:

    “Mr Umunna confirmed that his main reason for withdrawing from a contest ….because he was “shocked” at the level of press interest in his private life and the pressure it put on his partner and her family. BUT he also revealed that he did not feel he had the answers to Labour’s “big questions” about his party’s social democratic values in an era when capital and business was global and moved across national borders.

    We should not underestimate the state of disarray that Labour”s Social Democrats are in and how spontaneous reactions will become increasingly nervous and quite possibly dangerous and hysterical. Where is Mandy?

    1. David Pavett says:

      The post-WWII basis for social democratic politics has gone and this has left social democratic parties up shit creek in a wire vessel and without a paddle.

  3. James Martin says:

    Harriet Hardperson is a shining example of what happens when middle-class gender identity politics becomes dominant against that of any kind of socialism or class based political analysis – it’s not surprising that Liz Cuts-Kendal has backed her utterly disgraceful comments today.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Any proof Kendall is a middle class gender identity politician

    2. Robert says:

      But not unexpected surely.

  4. I reckon that Harman might be cleverer than she seems, although I admit that that is setting the bar pretty low. She came up through the Hard Left, and you never quite lose that. She is of the same generation as Jeremy Corbyn, and in their early years in Parliament they were on all of the same sides. Deep down, in her heart of hearts…

  5. Mervyn Hyde says:

    Harriet Harman is a massive disappointment, over the last 5 years not just in the last days.

    Bernie sanders is winning in America and Jeremy should take heart from it, working people need hope and these middle class careerists are not the answer.

    Please watch this video, you can’t believe the response he is getting across America. Not that I have any doubt that what he is saying wouldn’t resonate because Bernie has been saying for over five years now.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Very interesting. Thanks for the link.

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