An interesting if depressing edition of Any Questions on Friday. Interesting because of Sir Malcolm Rifkind and occasionally because of Simon Hughes. Depressing because of one person: Harriet Harman.
There is a theory that the Republicans lost the recent US election in part because the wind they thought they had behind them — the economy — blew against them. This happened because the electorate remembered who was in charge when the catastrophe started and thought the inheritors of the situation deserved more time.
The Labour party could stand a chance of getting back into power in 2015. But to deserve this they have to be honest enough to admit that while in office they ran up a terrible deficit and debt. They should then promise not to do it again. But if Harriet Harman is anything to go by — and she is the party’s deputy leader — they continue instead with outright denial.
In response to every point made by the rest of the panel in South London on Friday, Harman did the ‘play another tune’ line. So boring, so tedious to still be going on, more than two years later, about that debt we ran up. It may take a generation or more to pay off. It may have caused terrible unemployment and woeful growth. But in Harman-land you should only go on about this for perhaps a few weeks.
That is the best interpretation of her attitude. The worst, and more likely, is that she simply believes that if you deny the economic facts vigorously enough you can fool enough of the people and they will be foolish enough to return you to office. From the evidence of Friday’s audience she may be onto something. Many of them boo-ed whenever one of the rest of us even mentioned the economic mess we are in. It was baffling.
I can understand someone — though would think them rather dim — who thinks cuts aren’t the way to deal with the problem. But how to explain people who boo even a mention of the problem? Do they really believe we’re only in this mess because of bankers’ bonuses?
I hope the Labour party manages to do the right thing. But on the evidence of their deputy leader’s performance on Friday, doing the right thing would appear to be the last thing on their minds.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.