Britain’s opposition party, Labour, has recently shifted radically to the left with the election of veteran backbench activist Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.
The ruling Conservative Party are wasting no time in taking advantage, rapidly occupying the centre ground that the party has abandoned.
Labour party peer Lord Adonis has today been named as the head of a new government body that will plan infrastructure projects. Chancellor George Osborne will announce the appointment at the Conservative conference today, according to the BBC.
Lord Adonis is a typical ‘New Labour’ party member — he was policy chief under Prime Minister Tony Blair and Transport Secretary under Blair’s successor Gordon Brown. This was the era of pro-business Labour, a far cry from Corbyn’s vision of Labour as the unabashed defender of the downtrodden.
Lord Adonis will remain a member of the Labour party but is resigning the Labour whip, meaning the Party can’t compel him to vote one way of the other. It’s far from a disaster but it’s an embarrassment for Labour.
Osborne is clearly taking advantage of Corbyn’s polarising effect withing the Labour Party. Five party frontbenchers resigned after Corbyn was elected, including former shadow health minister Jamie Reed who tweeted his resignation during Corbyn’s acceptance speech.
These Labour MPs find Corbyn’s ideas too left-wing and the Tories have spotted an opportunity to coax a few to the other side of Parliament’s dispatch box.
Not only has Osborne stolen a Labour man, he’s also in fact stolen a Labour policy. Lord Adonis’ new infrastructure committee will reportedly have a £5 billion ($US7.6 billion) budget to spend on new large-scale projects.
One of Jeremy Corbyn’s key arguments has been that Britain is suffering from a lack of housing and infrastructure development. The idea has found favour among economists and now Osborne has decided it’s not so bad either.
It’s not the first Labour Party policy that the Conservatives have adopted either — the National Living Wage introduced by Osborne in June’s budget was a key manifesto pledge that former Labour leader Ed Miliband campaigned on in the run-up to May’s election.
The introduction of the new minimum wage, £7.20 ($US10.95) an hour, has also alienated some businesses owners, usually one of the Conservative Party’s key constituents.
Clearly Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron are trying to steer the Tories into the centre ground in the same way that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did with the Labour Party in the mid-1990s. And they’re wasting no time taking advantage of the opportunity Corbyn has presented them with.
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