(Photo: The Mirror)
By Rachael Ward – Regular Contributor
When one is giving support, it is important that they know what they are giving support to. Equally, when one casts a vote, one must have at least a vague idea of what they are voting for.
On an array of political questions, the opposition are understandably asked, what would you do if you were in government? This is where the Labour Party seemingly fall silent. That is, a silence in the sense of solid proposals. A great deal of question dodging is done through criticism and the expected oppositional rhetoric but all of which fall short of concrete plans.
Government shortfalls in recent weeks should have been a gift to the opposition. The social care crisis and the so-called cap to costs, Tory imbroglio over scandal and sleaze, and a migrant crisis taking hold from the Belarussian borders to boats washing up on British shores.
So far, Starmer has criticized the amended cap to social care costs, with means tested state aid no longer contributing to the cap. Over the Owen Paterson affair, Keir pointed to the Prime Minister’s pusillanimity, calling him a ‘coward’ rather than a leader. And with the influx of migrants hoping to reach safety on British shores, Priti Patel has been challenged for failing to grapple with the unprecedented flow of people fleeing from their former homes.
Few would disagree that the job of the opposition is, of course, to oppose. But opposition is only one part of the political game, proposing plausible policy alternatives is another. Some vague proposals have been issued from the party, but where does Labour really stand when it gets down to the specifics? Not so much a million-dollar question as a question worth some pricy political points.
With the crisis in social care being at the forefront of former governments of both political flavours, the prominence of the problem amid a pandemic makes a credible plan all the more important. Labour, among others, have listed the long-standing flaws in the system and not shied away from a firm commitment to reform. But the contents and composition of such a commitment are about as clear as a broken compass.
The picture painted of the government by the Paterson row was one which attracted aversion from both sides of the political spectrum. The government U-Turn after a political outcry then raised the question over whether MPs should take on second jobs. A question which Labour seems to want to answer no but is seen to be answering yes. According to Labour’s line, having a second job might compromise constituency work and parliamentary priorities, but an allowance should be made for public sector roles. Taking the moral high ground on this one also proved a bit more problematic when Starmer himself has been paid for his legal labour in his years as a politician.
The Shadow Home Secretary has challenged Patel for breaking her promises over making unsafe routes by sea unviable for migrants. With the record-breaking total of migrant crossings being topped up every day, accusations of broken promises do appear to be fitting. But what promises would Labour make and what would they do to keep them? Criticism is enough to perform the role of a critic. But to be an alternative government requires an alternative policy package.
The Labour Party might prefer to propose that such questions regarding plans for what they would do if they had hold of the political reigns are somewhat answerless when elections are not on the agenda. But rather than being answerless, these questions do demand answers.
With a general election not quite in sight on the political horizon, a lack of detail over specific plans is politically palatable. An absence of detail, however, is a little harder to accept.