BORIS JOHNSON has got form when it comes to lavish promises that crash on the rocks of reality.
As London mayor, he committed himself to end rough sleeping, hugely increase the number of police officers and special constables and build many more homes that would be genuinely affordable. He fell short on every count.
Challenged about the value and safety of his costly new water cannon for the Metropolitan Police, he later offered to be blasted by them to demonstrate their non-lethal qualities. Unfortunately, the weapons were sold off at a loss before they could be used to such praiseworthy effect.
As the MP for Uxbridge, he promised to lie down in front of the bulldozers to prevent construction of a third Heathrow Airport runway. Happily for his brief Cabinet career, he was nearer to a runway at Kabul Airport when a crucial vote was taken in the House of Commons to give the bulldozers the green light. We shall see whether he cancels the runway now that he has the power to do so.
So Jeremy Corbyn was right to respond to the new Prime Minister’s announcement about massive investment in the Manchester-Leeds railway line with a degree of weary scepticism. After all, we have heard this and similar promises before, notably from pro-EU zealot George Osborne when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Furthermore, Andy Burnham pointed to the need for affordable bus services and integrated public transport systems in northern cities other than his own Manchester.
But, as both the Labour leader and the Manchester mayor undoubtedly understand, pointing to Tory bluster, omissions and past failures will not be enough to bring about the changes necessary to public transport strategy or anything else.
The new Prime Minister’s apparent determination to resolve Britain’s Brexit crisis will strike a chord with many members of the public who have had enough of delay and paralysis. Not surprisingly, he has received a boost in the latest public opinion polls, largely at the expense of the Brexit Party.
Support for Labour is holding up well in these circumstances, especially when so many of its MPs continue to queue up to rubbish their own leader and party on television and radio. Labour can still win the forthcoming general election. But two things need to happen and fast.
First, dissident Labour MPs must unite around their party’s leadership and project the positive alternative policies to blowhard Boris Johnson’s pies in the sky. These include public ownership of the railway industry, without which extra investment will disappear down the drain of profiteering and pointless competition.
Affordable public-sector housing, public ownership in the energy sector and more rights in the workplace are also potential vote-winners that a right-wing free-market Johnson administration will not be able to match.
Second, Labour’s lurch to a blanket anti-Brexit position must be halted and even reversed. Backroom plotting with ex-chancellor Hammond — the chief representative of monopoly capital in the Commons — and Dominic Grieve, a pillar of the legal and intelligence services establishment, must end forthwith.
Labour must return to the policy which helped secure an extra three and a half million votes in the 2017 general election, boosting the party’s share of the poll by one third. This was to honour the referendum result by leaving the EU with safeguards, while proposing forward-looking policies that would cut across EU treaty provisions, directives and court rulings.
Labour will have already seen expert legal advice on the barriers presented to so many Labour manifesto pledges by EU and single market membership. Setting out this information in public is long overdue.
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