Bernard Ingham: As crowds gather in rural England, Labour reaps its own bitter harvest

IT’S the national debt (£1.5trillion) to a penny that the thousands attending the Great Yorkshire Show today will not spare a moment’s thought for the plight of the Labour Party.

Why should they? Vast swathes of the countryside are painted blue on the political map and Labour, predominantly an urban party, has never had much to offer the rural dweller.

Nor for that matter have the Tories these last 25 years, in or out of coalition.

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The general political hysteria over global warming has, among other things, wrecked the landscape, threatened the green belt and raised the cost of fuel and power. And George Osborne’s grossly overdue withdrawal of subsidies for land-based wind farms will not prevent their proliferation offshore where they are more expensive and just as unsightly and useless.

It is one of the wonders of the modern world how politicians generally dead set against regressive taxation have been persuaded, through wind subsidies, to organise a massive transfer of resources from the poor to the loaded.

Greenwar and the Enemies of the Earth, as I call these pseudo-environmentalists, must be proud of themselves. The politicians are obviously out of their tiny little minds.

The average visitor to the Harrogate showground has every reason not to take them too seriously and to dismiss them from his thoughts at least for his day down on the farm.

But there are reasons for far deeper national concern about our political system than this idiotic pre-occupation with renewable sources of energy. I doubt whether HM Loyal Opposition has been in worse condition.

The Tories were pretty low when John Major fell in 1997 and went through three leaders before David Cameron only just made it into No 10.

The Bevanites, the Bennites and the Trots caused Labour enormous trouble but not even when the Gang of Four waved goodbye to Michael Foot to form the Social Democratic Party did we really believe Labour had had it. It still had substance, weight and personalities, if only it could pull itself together.

Now it is difficult to see how Labour can present itself as a credible party when the list of contenders for leadership is so lightweight and even lunatic. I refer specifically to that incorrigible Leftie, Jeremy Corbyn, who must be taken seriously because he has grassroots and union backing and more especially that of Unite, Labour’s paymaster.

This tells you all you need know about the current plight of the Labour Party. It literally does not know which way to turn. Surely, it cannot be leftwards after the recent signal failure of Ed Miliband, the unions’ choice, even though the party was routed by the even more extreme Leftist Scottish National Party.

Turning left would seem to be the short route to marginalisation in England as well as in Scotland, though for different reasons.

But where is the alternative leadership? Labour is devoid of substantial political figures in an age which gives them the sort of exposure to the electorate through television that campaigners would kill for. I doubt whether there has been a greater dearth of leadership material.

For me, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper are owt for tuppence – mere seekers after office without Tony Blair’s ability to cover up the conviction-free zones in their make-up. They are that modern robotic invention – the machine politician.

As for Liz Kendall, the moderate among this lot, can you imagine her telling the union barons who finance Labour where to put their brass? How on earth can the poor lass do anything with a party that is dominated by neandearthal union leaders who, as recent strikes confirm, are only too willing to wage their greedy wars at the expense of the public both as commuter and taxpayer?

All this profoundly depresses me, even though I must concede from experience that it is not until a leader is in post – and more especially government – that you know their true mettle.

It takes me back to the early 1980s when, for all Michael Foot’s oratory, Margaret Thatcher had more opposition within her own Cabinet than on the benches opposite her in Parliament. That did the government of this country no good at all. Our system is an adversarial one and we need a tough, purposeful opposition to keep the body politic and governance healthy.

Yet there appears to be not the slightest chance of Labour deciding what it is on this earth for and how to achieve it. Enjoy the show today. Back to the political mess tomorrow.