Belfast Telegraph

Values are all well and good, but which ones does Labour actually believe in?

By Mark Steel

There was someone really dynamic and positive and determined and he could save Labour, apparently. It was Keir Starmer, said the hopeful people, and they wanted him to stand for leader. So I watched his interview on Newsnight and he said what Labour needed was "values".

Three times he said this, so the interviewer asked what sort of values they might be, and he said values that connected with people's values, to desire "a job and a house".

So that's where Labour mucked things up. Ed Miliband should never have said in the TV debate: "Let me tell you this, what people up and down the country are crying out for is to have their house taken over by an infestation of black widow spiders. And we will do that in the first year of a Labour government. Then we'll demolish your house brick by brick and spray plutonium over the rubble because we know you want to be homeless - and we will not rest until everyone lives in a wheelie-bin."

But once Labour has values, they can appeal to the electorate on this "job-and-a-house" manifesto.

Another important change from Labour, shared by all candidates for leader, is to adopt values that appeal to "aspirations". Because in the old days, Labour might try and think of ways to provide an actual house, maybe by building some, or some other outdated gimmick.

But now they can aspire to one instead. They can go round to the millions of people living in decaying estates and tiny mouldy flats, and assure them they're happy for them to aspire to whatever they like, maybe encouraging them to aspire even higher, by imagining ruling a kingdom made of tiramisu.

There might be a militant wing, that goes as far as paying for them to have a house, but that would be rushing things.

It seems certain the winner will be one of the candidates that supports values, rather than those who advocate the Labour Party should have no values and be sociopathic, setting fire to random passers-by and making a manifesto commitment to waterboard rabbits.

The next stage will be for each contender to work out how many values they need. Some might opt for six or seven, others will be more cautious and make do with four. Tony Blair famously once had three in one morning.

Eventually, they will be able to make a leader's speech such as: "We exist no longer in an age that's past, but in a world of movement. And that movement can change direction, sometimes up, sometimes diagonal, other times it might be in the shape of a duck, especially after Christmas. But we must move with families, by valuing values and only then will we deserve the values of the people."

Another method might be for the Shadow Cabinet to start a game of Scrabble, and the first word that's made is the word the new leader says Labour must adopt. If it's camel, they have to look Evan Davis in the eye on Newsnight and say "what we failed to convey at the election is the camel of the party."

Let's face it Evan, camels are hard-working, they know what it's like to save water for days and days, and it's our job to convince those voters who left us for Ukip that we understand what it's like in the desert with a sore hump."

Labour appears to accept that voters don't know what Labour stands for, but it can't help that Labour doesn't know what Labour stands for. To find something to stand for, the candidates could have looked at yesterday's papers. It turns out that the banks, in spite of all that's happened, have still been fiddling currencies, jeopardising the global economy to make themselves even richer.

The other main story was that the Government will introduce measures to clamp down on immigrants, including allowing the police to seize their money.

Presumably, the Government thinks the banks are run by illegal immigrants. Goldman Sachs is run from a rusty boat in the Mediterranean. Libyans cling to a mast as they manipulate the yen and when there's a big wave they can't see what they're doing so they press the wrong key and devalue the dollar. This puts people out of work in Stevenage, so it's only fair these reckless immigrants have their wallets taken off them.

To be fair, the candidates for Labour leader have commented on the banks and on immigration, and they're all certain that the Conservatives are right and Labour were wrong to ever suggest otherwise. This way their defeat can be blamed on anything Labour proposed that might have been different from what the Conservatives will do. Even their opposition to the Bedroom Tax will be scrapped, as that way Labour can adopt the values of aspiring to be kicked out of your house.

Then the next Labour leader can fulfil a dream of campaigning "from the centre ground". The problem is the centre ground moves. For example, 25 years ago in the Irish Republic, condoms and divorce were illegal. The centre ground was that using a condom would result in being burned for eternity and suggesting that the damned should be allowed a ginger beer every thousand years to quench their thirst made you a Left-wing extremist.

Now, the population has been asked to vote to legalise gay marriage, which has happened because supporters of gay marriage have argued and battled for their cause.

One sign that many people haven't given up battling for a cause in Britain is that tens of thousands have joined Labour and groups such as the People's Assembly since the election. In one sense, this seems a little late. Maybe the election sneaked up on people and they all thought, "Oh, blimey, has it happened already?"

It's possible these people have joined an organisation to try and shift the centre ground, or maybe they're jumping around with excitement screaming "values, values - at last I've got values".

Belfast Telegraph

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