Now, I do get the concept of abstention. It is a signal to express disdain for both options of a Hobson’s choice.
In other contexts, it is a luxury; a risk-free gesture when a vote one way or another changes nothing. It is used as a ploy to avoid confrontation with opposing, warring factions, but it invariably leads to a universal, under-bubbling loss of respect.
In a business setting, it is an absolute no-no. Board directors who abstain get turfed out, sharpish. After all, what use are directors who refuse to direct?
Yet in our current politics, it appears to be all the rage – even though this is the setting where it ought never happen. Politicians are voted in by their constituents. They have a civic (and salaried) duty both to support and to challenge on the basis of fact. There should be no place for empty posturing in the House – policies are to be either backed or attacked. If politicians want to reel off soundbites, they can flounce off to Twitter.
But however you choose to cut it, abstention in opposition is not opposition. It is avoidance. And this, lamentably, brings us to Slur Keith and his risible band of tyre-kickers.
The Labour Party is so inept at striking a policy balance that placates the opposing wings of the party that they simply opt for camouflage that obscures what they really think. They hope that, at an opportune moment, they will be able to fudge their way into the confidence of a bamboozled electorate.
But their problem is that their repeated sidesteps on most major issues has forged a pattern and therefore a characteristic in itself. From Windrush, to spy surveillance bills, to COVID Tiers, and now likely a Brexit deal, they have bottled it. We have an opposition that is standing on the sidelines.
They should perhaps rename themselves, ‘The Lay-by Party’.
As a result, a wholly inept and unprincipled gang of Conservative charlatans is strolling home on every vote. For most of 2020, the main opposition has been a gaggle of Tory backbenchers and the House of Lords. In the midst of crisis with a gang of bozos running amok, that stands out as egregiously remarkable.
Tory buffoonery is so emboldened that professional manchild Gavin Williamson popped up in TV this week to exclaim that the UK was ‘a better country’ than France, America, and Belgium. It’s not the facile kid blabber that should perturb us the most. It is that this chump could politically survive the examinations algorithm fiasco unscathed and still have the temerity for his playground rant.
That is what a lack of opposition looks like.
Longer term, we are all going to be scuppered by the tendency of general election voters to abstain, which we routinely witness with historically low turnouts. If this percentage is eroded further still by those who perceive a craven, non-committal opposition, we are destined to be condemned to an extended status quo.
Yes, another 5 years of bungling cronyism.
Ultimately, racking up more votes than the other side achieves change. No amount of posturing with gestures does the job unless opposition now is about losing gallantly on principle by refusing to take part.
If high ideals are Sir Keith’s thang, why not rally behind a principled argument one way of the other?
I think we all know why not – he doesn’t have one.