Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Inconsistency of Simon Danczuk

Les May
THERE'S been a spat on Twitter about some tweets by Rochdale Labour councilor, John Blundell. In defending Simon Danczuk's right to be make critical remarks about the Labour party Blundell is on the side of the angels.  The right to hold those in power to account is what democracy is all about.
But those who are critical of Danczuk, (and in some cases go so far as to question whether he should still hold the Labour whip), surely have a right to expect that if he pledges his loyalty to work constructively his actions will show some signs of meaning it.
Three days after Corbyn's election to the Labour leadership he is quoted as saying:
'After the long slog of the leadership contest, I am looking forward to a fresh start for the Labour Party.
'We now have the chance to move on from the General Election defeat we suffered in May.
'There has been a heated debate on all sides during the last three months but now is the time for unity and to focus on opposing this Tory Government.
'I am encouraged by some of the Shadow Cabinet appointments and I hope this is an early sign that Jeremy Corbyn is serious about broadening his appeal to more moderate voters.
'That is what we need to do if Labour is going to win in 2020.
'Tough times are ahead, but I look forward to working with the new frontbench team to make sure hardworking families in Rochdale are well represented by Labour in Parliament.'
How sweet and reasonable. But since then he has been happy to be the mouthpiece for anti Corbyn comments quoted in at least three articles in papers from the Daily Mail stable and two in the Sun. One of these published the day after the conference opened, which shows him as the author is headed 'The party I love is now a deluded, bullying cult'.
In this he tries to disinter the spectre of 'The Militant Tendency' as a stick with which to beat Corbyn and his supporters.  What he does not see fit to mention is that although Militant held sway in Liverpool, at the height of its influence it never claimed more than 4,500 members.  This is about the number of people who have signed the petition to 'Dump Danczuk' which he has dismissed.  Contrast this with the quarter of a million people (251,417) who voted for Corbyn in the leadership election.
We have seen this tactic of claiming he is being bullied used before.  In Rochdale in 2009, it was
used to have five members of the constituency Labour party expelled.
But perhaps the most bizarre bit of the article was where he wrote:
'Labour’s historic mission is to ensure wealth, power and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few... '.
With all this talk of 'historic mission', I wondered if I'd stumbled into Marxist territory.  But at least it was nice to see that Simon did have a vague idea of what the Labour party used to be about.  Usually he is demanding that Labour slash welfare spending and 'get tough on immigration'.  (Incidentally if you read the article on immigration carefully you'll see another favourite Danczuk trick which he has used quite a lot; reporting a conversation he says he had with an unnamed third party, which of course no one can verify.)
He's also wrong about universal benefits.  In general these are targeted at the two periods of a persons life when they are least able to enhance their income by working; in childhood and old age, that is why they are universal.  Paying universal benefits to higher rate tax payers may seem wasteful, but it is an excellent reason for having them pay higher taxes which pay for the benefits of the less well off,  because they benefit too.  Note also how Cameron has dumped the cost of 'free' TV licenses on the BBC.  Unfair though this is, Simon's 'bull at a gate' approach would have ensured Labour's alienation from the very people who are most likely to vote in an election, the elderly.  Nice one Simon!
At a 'fringe' meeting after Corbyn's speech he said:  'You don’t win elections on a mantra of misery.'
By which he meant 'don't mention food banks and poverty'.  So much for Labour's 'historic mission' of four days ago.  I echo his saying 'Labour needed to "celebrate" its successes in government and how it had helped working people.'  But the irony is that 'New' Labour did manage to bring about a fall in the proportion of children and the elderly suffering income poverty (defined as 60% of median income) precisey by focussing on eliminating the misery that poverty brings.
And of course he was back on his old themes with 'You’ve got to talk about welfare reform, you’ve got to talk about immigration, you’ve got to be, as a political party, and leader of a political party, patriotic, you’ve got to talk about Englishness.'  (I hope the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the shade of Samuel Johnson were listening carefully.)
Increasingly Danczuk reminds me of the working class Tories I met when I was young and an opportunist to boot.  He'll have a chance to prove me wrong when the Tories put measures before parliament to scrap the 2010 Child Poverty Act.
The assumption that all the people who voted Tory in the last election only ever act out of self interest is cynical.  People, even people who sometimes vote Tory, do have consciences.  Labour needs to rediscover that as well as its 'historic mission' its policies can be rooted in morality too. Poverty in a country as rich as ours and the rise in dependency on food banks are immoral and Labour should ignore Simon Danczuk and say so.

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