Labour seems opposed to opposition

OPPOSITION (noun): resistance or dissent, expressed in action or argument

"We won't oppose the welfare bill, we won't oppose the household benefit cap" Harriet Harman, acting Labour leader

Harriet Harman will soon be a figure from our political past -- but it’s clear she isn’t fading out quietly. Ed Miliband’s deputy, who stood alongside him as he introduced the policies that led to their election defeat, is rapidly signing up to much of the programme she so strongly opposed two months ago.

Back then she insisted deep cuts in welfare would ruin the country. Now she won't vote against them. Two months ago she wanted to raise tax credits in line with inflation. Now she supports curbing them.

“What we’ve got to do”, she told the BBC’s Sunday Politics, “is listen to what people around the country said to us.. we’ve got to recognise why it was that the Tories are in government and not us… they didn’t trust us on the economy and on benefits.”

But was Labour roundly rejected by the entire country, as Ms Harman insists?

Compare this year’s result to Labour’s disastrous 1983 campaign -- the gap between the two parties was half as big this time.

GenElex 1983 2015

Labour got 9,347,304 votes in May -- 2-million behind the Conservatives, it’s true. But on its most left-leaning programme in at least two decades, Labour still won more than 9-million votes.

Presumably, most of those 9-million Labour voters weren’t thrilled by the Chancellor’s Budget. And it’s possible they were expecting the party they backed to oppose wide-ranging welfare cuts.

Labour got 9,347,304 votes in May -- 2-million behind the Conservatives, it’s true. But on its most left-leaning programme in at least two decades, Labour still won more than 9-million votes.

Presumably, most of those 9-million Labour voters weren’t thrilled by the Chancellor’s Budget. And it’s possible they were expecting the party they backed to oppose wide-ranging welfare cuts.

The Conservatives got 37% of the vote -- they won a majority because the electorate is so much more fragmented. Harriet Harman says Labour can’t keep telling the voters they’re wrong -- but that’s exactly the message she’s given to the 9-million-plus people who just a few weeks ago voted for her party.

It’s true that you don’t win elections from the far left or right -- but you don’t win them either by alienating millions of your own supporters.

Are Ms Harman’s comments an attempt to have her say in the leadership race? She also warned Labour Party members not to choose “somebody who we can feel comfortable with, the point is to have somebody who can command the confidence of the country”

That sounds like an endorsement of Liz Kendall, and an attempt to slap down Andy Burnham.

Ms Harman revives the argument used when Tony Blair ran for leader 21 years ago. The difference is Tony Blair opposed a clapped-out, exhausted Tory party, in its 16th year in power.

The 2015 Tory party is in its 3rd month of governing alone, with a tiny majority but acting with the confidence that comes from a landslide. It can do that because the opposition appears rudderless, entirely without focus. The Conservatives could throw accusations of hypocrisy at Labour, but there scarcely seems any point -- though at this rate, they might enthusiastically agree.