Magazine article The Spectator

Turncoats, Traitors, Cowards

Magazine article The Spectator

Turncoats, Traitors, Cowards

Article excerpt

I DIDN'T wait nearly 20 years for a Labour government to see it undermined within eight months by the embittered, self-indulgent, antediluvian dregs of the parliamentary party. None of the 47 Labour MPs who voted against the government last week should ever be forgiven for this disgraceful act of public masturbation. Their pompously self-regarding breastbeating is beneath contempt.

It is a measure of their madness that these people think they have a right to challenge the government, but it also speaks loudly of their hypocrisy and cant. They all sought election as Labour representatives on 1 May. None of them could hold their seats as individuals outside the party; and as such they have no moral right to indulge their sacred consciences at the expense of the corporate whole. More specifically, it is not possible for the rebels (who should more properly be called quislings, turncoats, traitors and cowards rather than the inappropriately glamorous 'rebels') to argue with any credibility that they had not realised that the Labour party, which offers them their cushy livelihoods, was now the kind of party likely to cut benefits to lone parents.

Cries of `This is not the Labour party I joined' and 'I didn't join the Labour party for this' have been echoing round the lobbies these past few weeks. But of course it is not the party they joined; it hasn't been since 1994, when Tony Blair launched his leadership by making a straightforward statement against single parenthood which transformed the meaning of Labour politics in a single sentence. Any quisling MP who claims they never suspected when they took the Blair shilling in May that the new Prime Minister, in partnership with Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman, might introduce benefit cuts is either lying or stupid. In fact, in almost every case they are both.

It is that foreknowledge which invalidates the traitors' argument that everyone has moral lines their consciences will not allow them to cross, and theirs was this benefit cut. `What if the government policy was to murder every firstborn son, would you have us support that too?' they ask.

Most of them believe this, so in this case it is an example of their lack of intelligence rather than their lack of honesty. Moreover, it is an argument with enough superficial merit to have allowed the quislings to get off far more lightly than they should have. In reality it is entirely specious, of course. Such an argument only holds good when the goalposts have been moved. In this case nothing whatsoever has changed since the turncoats jumped onto the Blair bandwagon in May. A lone-parent benefit cut may not explicitly have been the policy, but it has clearly been the politics for a long time. They signed up with Blair the benefitcutter in the full knowledge of what he was. If they did not like it they should not have chosen to become Labour MPs under his leadership.

As it happens, I personally do not agree with the Prime Minister about either single parents or their benefits. I think he is wrong, and offensively so, about the intrinsic moral superiority of dual over single parenthood. At best it relies on an unsophisticated analysis of what constitutes a family and what makes it successful or otherwise. I also believe that the benefit cut was cruel, unnecessary and poorly thought out in terms of its relation to the wider welfare reform project. All the evidence one needs to support this view is that the largely imbecilic traitor MPs easily won the substantive arguments both in the media and on the floor of the House. …

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