Bernard Ingham: Loony lefties who would leave us right in the mire

Hugh Gaitskell meets Park Hill residents  in Leeds where he was MP. Labour needs such a figure today, according to Sir Bernard Ingham.
Hugh Gaitskell meets Park Hill residents in Leeds where he was MP. Labour needs such a figure today, according to Sir Bernard Ingham.
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THESE days I spend too much of my time shaking my head and generally bemoaning the state of British politics. I fear the disease is becoming endemic. Many of my friends have the shakes, too.

And no amount of trying to reassure ourselves that things can only get better seems to work. They get worse.

Take the Labour Party leadership election. Frankly, I don’t know which candidate scares me most – Jeremy Corbyn or the latest Welsh windbag, Owen Smith.

Corbyn is a menace because he seems to be trying to present himself as the acceptable face of the modern revolutionary who would exploit democracy to win power and then keep it regardless.

As to policy, he is remarkably unspecific about how he would lift up the ordinary working man and his family. But he seems to think that money grows on trees and that he would make a real difference with it if he got into No 10.

That is the stuff of which nightmares are made – or it was until Smith suddenly emerged from Pontypridd to give us his vision of a worker’s paradise in the United Kingdom.

Smith has issued a 20-point manifesto dedicated to equality and the advance of the working man that reveals his astonishing ignorance of the real world and how it works.

Among other things, he would return to the strike-ridden days of the 1970s by repealing the Trade Union Act, resurrecting the Ministry of Labour in place of the Department of Work and Pensions and reintroducing some wages councils.

Having put the unions back in charge of industry, this unreconstructed romantic would put £200bn that we haven’t got into a new investment deal and pour brass into the NHS, schools and libraries.

He would apparently pay for the lot by reinstating the 50p rate of tax, imposing a wealth tax and reversing proposed cuts in corporation tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax.

Smith seems to have learned nothing since Labour, under Michael Foot, produced what was called the longest suicide note in history in 1983.

The Corbyn versus Smith battle is for who can dive deepest into debt.

What is wrong with our politicians today? They seem incapable of recognising that a rampant trade union movement, high taxes and financial incontinence are almost guaranteed to see Britain sliding down the drain.

Where on God’s earth does a workers’ movement bent on class war work for the ordinary chap and his family?

Corbyn and Smith, in representing two approaches by the Left to the problem of making Britain a fairer, more equal and more prosperous society, expose the Labour Party’s serious and dangerous failure.

It seems quite unable to develop a moderate programme to appeal to the vast mass of people who want to get on. 
If only they had Hugh Gaitskell at this hour.

Every alarm bell should be ringing in the Labour Party when a Tory Prime Minister feels able to take up her post with a list of whole areas where 
inequality exists and a promise to work to end it.

But this is where my head starts to shake again. Theresa May has even canvassed the idea of workers on company boards – just as Owen Smith has promised consultation rights for workers and their representatives on remuneration boards.

Both are out of their minds if they are prepared to shove workers’ representatives dedicated to class war on any company board.

If we need worker participation on company boards, we need workers who want to build success, not to destroy.

Just fancy Len McCluskey, backed up by Corbyn’s militant army, telling Rolls-Royce what to do. Sic transit gloria – and fast.

You may well conclude that I am in a serious state of depression. But that is not the end of it.

I am keeping an ever closer watch on our new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, who seems to be rather relaxed about spending and borrowing and investing billions (which, to repeat, we have not got) on major projects from airport expansion to a new high-speed rail system.

Has nobody told him that his predecessor, George Osborne, left him a budget deficit of £70bn?

That is half what Osborne inherited from Gordon Brown but until it is 
largely eliminated and under control Britain is vulnerable – and especially to those desperadoes who would use any excuse to show what a mistake Brexit was.

For the sake of British democracy, the time has come for Labour moderates to frame a new appeal.

Speak up, Hilary Benn, and give us hope.