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Editorial: Labour seem keen to get out of touch with the public once more

ONE swallow a summer does not make. And no sooner had the leader of the Labour Party put the Prime Minister on the spot with a well-delivered probe into the government’s intentions over health service pay, than what good that was done was undone by a maladroit follow-up.

We should not pass over in embarrassed silence the unfortunate performance of the party’s deputy leader.

When pressed on the question, Angela Rayner abandoned whatever pretensions she once had as a fearless tribune of the workers and voice of the low paid to lose herself in a tangle of confused messaging over precisely what level the pay rise of health workers should be set.

Labour’s new establishment seem to have internalised the myth of their own making that the radical manifesto policies that were the bedrock of Labour’s 2017 advance, and even the main factor stemming its 2019 electoral slide, are the reason they sit on the opposition benches.

The voters are more radical than Labour. The Labour leadership’s private polling must surely understand that public opinion is quite firm on the question of NHS pay.

In fact, three-quarters support a 10 per cent pay rise for nurses with a mere one in 12 opposing. Among Labour supporters the figure in favour rises to 86 per cent with barely 3 per cent opposing.

When a party leadership pursues a policy not only at variance with the overwhelming opinion of the nation it aspires to govern but also one with a statistically insignificant body of internal support, the question naturally arises: on whose interests do they think they are acting?

There are, without doubt, people in the Labour sphere — Lord Mandelson, the never-to-be-ennobled Tony Blair come to mind — who quite consciously place their loyalty to the present system above any residual connection they may have to Labour’s progressive and proletarian traditions.

But a generous spirit inclines us to believe that this cannot be the case with each and every member of the shadow cabinet or Westminster Labour.

But until and unless they up their game, the distance between Labour and the electorate will grow. It is less than a month to the next round of elections.

We cannot leave the question of maladroit messaging without some reflection on Keir Starmer’s response to the suspected murder of Sarah Everard.

In the context of anguished comment even by the Metropolitan Police itself, it strikes exactly the wrong note to suggest that more police might be the answer to the problems these tragic events illustrate.

Diane Abbott answered these question with great emotional intelligence and spoke for millions of women when she tweeted: “Even after all these years if I am out late at night on an isolated street and I hear a man’s footsteps behind me I automatically cross the road. It is the habit of a lifetime to try and keep safe. But it should not have to be like this #SarahEverard.”

The question of whether male violence is an essential feature of the human condition or a phenomenon of our epoch is a question that cannot be left to philosophical debate.

It is a problem that needs tackling in the here and now.

When Frederick Engels made the point that the formation of class society entailed “the world historical defeat of the female sex” he made explicit the Marxist insight that its is changes in the material basis of society that condition the way human beings relate to each other.

But we make the future in the present. And our behaviour and language must prefigure that classless future.

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