The backlash from within Conservative circles to this week’s budget has really been quite a thing to witness. The right of centre press has been filled with “NI increase for self-employed means communism is here/entrepreneurs will starve/the 2015 manifesto has been torn to shreds,” and has been coupled with Tory backbenchers assurances that they will vote against anything that has the NI increase in it, the result of which has been a climb down. May has had to kick the whole thing into the long grass.
It has been interesting to watch the government this week; they have grown too used to having no opposition. When faced with one again, it was fascinating to see how quickly everything broke down (Hammond, for instance, was all over the place message-wise). Many have speculated that any half-decent opposition would have May’s government in real trouble – this week appears to support this claim. It also backs up another readily made assertion: that Jeremy Corbyn is a really, really, really, really terrible leader of the opposition.
To be partially fair to him, Corbyn doesn’t even try to do the job. To him parliament is some big sideshow, away from the real action, which involves a lot of marches. Being the leader of the opposition is one of the hardest jobs in politics, so you aren’t starting from a good place in terms of doing well at it when you don’t even think doing well at it is very important. Yet you would think even Corbyn could look at this week and figure out that May’s government – which he supposedly wishes to replace – can wobble without very much being thrown at it, and that maybe, just maybe, trying a little bit to you know, actually oppose the government might pay dividends.
I wouldn’t get your hopes up. If anything, Labour have been even more woeful than usual at the whole opposition thing these past few days. McDonnell’s stuff is too depressing to rake over in detail, the only break I can give him being that Labour have screwed up so monumentally this past year, the party has basically played itself into a corner. For instance, McDonnell could have responded with a riff about how the 2015 Tory manifesto seems to have been chucked aside with the change at the top, and so does this mean the Conservatives feel they have room to do whatever they like regardless of what people voted for at the last general election? But then he would have had to get into the big pledge the Tories have abandoned from their last manifesto, the whole let’s stay inside the single market doodah, and then that would have just reminded everyone that not only did Labour turn a blind eye to the Tories throwing that one away, they actively voted for them to do so. In politics, mistakes pile up.