The Prime Minister has not learned the lessons of his predecessorsby John McTernan / December 3, 2015 / Leave a comment
It is increasingly clear that the most influential political slogan of the last two decades was “Not in my name.” Made famous in the marches against the Iraq War, in its relentless solipsism it is the definition of politics in our consumeristic age. It’s long march through the institutions may have culminated in the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. He was the choice of members so scared that Labour might do something in government that they disagreed with—electing Corbyn meant that there was no fear of gaining power, preventing betrayal in the most decisive way possible.
But the marginalisation of Labour as a mainstream party by its own members should not blind us to the fact that David Cameron is the most successful exponent of “Not in my name” politics. Starting with the first Syria vote in 2013, the Prime Minister has outsourced his policy in the Middle East. Initially to Ed Miliband who was blamed/credited for preventing action in Syria. The truth was that the Commons was for action—just not in the precise terms set out by Cameron at that time. Eventually, the Prime Minister put the issue in the hands of the House of Commons where—despite his own parliamentary majority—he asked for a promise of a clear majority in advance of even tabling a motion.
In the event the PM got his majority. Courtesy of the worst and the best of Labour. The worst was Jeremy Corbyn’s shambolic and contemptuous treatment of the Shadow Cabinet, the Parliamentary Labour Party and party conference. The best was the sheer nobility of Hilary Benn, proving that he can channel his father’s rhetorical skills if not the content of his rhetoric. The speech of a lifetime—and of a generation in the Commons. One that may well have saved Oldham West and Royston in the by-election. One that certainly saved David Cameron. For the Prime Minister could not find a voice in this debate. Could not explain, let alone inspire.