September is the party conference season in our sceptre isle, something which should not bother normal people most years. This year, however, there are sinister political currents flowing. We should be wary of this autumn’s neap tides. Because for ordinary Britons everywhere they may become an inundation.
There are three political parties, three conferences.
The Liberal Party Conference, which doesn’t really count because they are represented by twelve Members of Parliament and led by amiable geriatric, Vincent Cable. It was last week, so you missed it, but don’t worry, so did everyone else.
This week, though – this week is the conference for the Labour Party, represented by 257 Members of Parliament.
‘Tis said among those whose delight is argument that the quickest way to lose your point is to bring Hitler into the conversation. So I’m going to lose mine straight away, because to me, at least, this year’s Labour Party Conference resembles nothing so much as a 1930s rally of the Third Reich. Leader of the party and aspiring Fuhrer is Jeremy Corbyn; rather middle class-looking, much the sort of figure you would expect to tick you off for stepping on his flowerbeds, but do not be deceived. He is a class A zealot who yearns to plant his red socialist standard in the Prime Minister’s parking space.
Corbyn sailed to power in his party on a tidal wave of idealistic students and far-left socialists who he encouraged to become party members so they could vote for him. He charged them a special cheap membership fee of £3 a head. This group persists and burgeons beneath the banner of ‘Momentum’, driving out more moderate members of their party. I like to think of them as ‘The Momentum Youth’.
In its time the British Labour Party has had many different manifestations – this is one of the least pleasant. Far from the centrist politics of their last Prime Minister, Tony Blair (think WMD), Corbyn’s affinities are unashamedly with the Trades Unions. His declared intention to nationalise everything that moves is a transparent attempt to restore the Union despotism of the 1970s which brought his country to its knees.
The problem seems to be a reluctance to learn: nobody, par exemple, who experienced the nationalised railways the first time around would want to see those dirty untended carriages or suffer those relentless strikes again. No-one would want to buy from manufacturers ruled by their union conveners whose power could halt production lines at any time. Yet it just might happen: Corbyn might snatch power in a General Election soon, not because of his popularity as a potential Prime Minister but because of the inadequacy of the present one.
Next week will feature the Conservative Party Conference. A genial bunfight in normal years, sometimes this can throw up great boiling geysers of schism and outrage, and this is potentially just such a year. The cause of such foment?
That damnable Brexit chappy!
Everybody knows a national referendum clearly showed a majority of the British people wanted to leave the European Union. To some, however, that democratic defeat was like the proverbial red rag to a bull. They have been trying, by fair means sometimes but mostly foul, to scare the socks off the general populace with horror stories and selective use of terms like ‘falling off the cliff’ and ‘crashing out’. They have produced barrel-loads of ropey statistics and dubious long-term prognostications, while accusing those in favour of the decision of ‘populism’ (which is apparently some kind of offence, unlike Machiavellianism, their stock-in-trade).
So far, these tactics have been so transparently redolent of self-interest they have only succeeded in hardening attitudes in the country at large, but they prosper in the belly of the Conservative Party. To Prime Minister Theresa May has fallen the odious task of reaching a ‘negotiated settlement’ with the disdainful bureaucrats of Brussels. Her inability to come up with a recipe that is satisfactory to everybody has proved her undoing, and she is nobody’s favourite at the moment, espoused by neither the gun-toting-bring-back-the-navy-and-blockade-the-English-Channel ‘hard Brexiteers’, nor the hand-wringing ‘Remoaners’ who don’t want us to leave the EU at all.
The Conservatives at Conference have a recipe for crises such as these. They deny any possibility of a ‘split’, they swear fealty to their Glorious Leader, and they stand in rapturous applause for the stirring words of her rallying call, while those whose work it is are eyeing her back for the exact position to deliver the knife-thrust. Meanwhile, in a well-attended fringe meeting, her successor in title makes his pitch…
Conference Season in the UK is not always so entertaining, or disturbing, as the closing weeks of this September promise to be. There is a real risk that the established political parties will be rent asunder by internal strife, delivering the UK back into the clutches of the Federal Republic of Europe against common consent. If that happens there will certainly be hell to pay, and possibly even revolution.
In a parallel universe, Jeremy Corbyn may grasp the reins, plunging the country into a dark neo-communist age. That would be a real ‘crash out’. On balance, I think not. The Momentum movement seems unable to shake off the taint of anti-Semitism, and in this country no-one likes racial prejudice.
Perhaps, after all, it is a matter of a few ripples in the lapsang souchong and there are halcyon days ahead. Perhaps it is time for revolution, because none of the principal political parties represent the people anymore. At my age, why should I care? I can sit back and watch, popping my pills and drawing my pension as the political world passes by, and nothing is likely to cause me direct harm from all this, is it? Yet somehow I do care. Could that be because I have seen it all before, and what distresses me is our tragic inability to learn?