It’s all a bit quiet on the Labour front: Tory conference is underway, and there are no expectations of dramatic scenes in parliament over the next couple of days. That is down to both a notion of fair play and because opposition parties cannot move towards a vote of no confidence in the government without first agreeing on a ‘national unity’ leader. Labour won’t agree to anyone other than Jeremy Corbyn – and why should they, when he heads up the shadow government? The Lib Dems won’t back the Labour leader, as doing so would show the public that PM Corbyn is not an apocalyptic situation. The opposition remains stuck, waiting for Boris Johnson to reveal whether he really has spotted a loophole in the Benn Act or it is simply “bravado” as senior Labour figures suspect.
Meanwhile, the UK strives further to mirror US politics. We’re lagging behind a couple of years, but we now have our own version of Donald Trump beset by allegations of impropriety. Boris Johnson has been referred to a police watchdog over claims that US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri received favourable treatment – through sponsorship grants and more – due to an alleged affair. On Sunday, columnist Charlotte Edwardes wrote that in 1999 Johnson put his hand “high up” her leg under the table during a private lunch. Both are denied by No 10. Unfortunately, the extent to which people care about women – and are likely to value concerns about misogyny over anything else in their politics – can never be underestimated. When ministers are questioned about the allegations, they are asked whether the claims should be “taken seriously” – as if ‘no’ is a perfectly acceptable answer.
And yet, at the start of the weekend, there was plenty of cause for celebration. Jeremy Corbyn announced that Labour in government would scrap Universal Credit – the Tory welfare reform accurately described as an “unmitigated disaster” by the opposition leader – and replace the Department for Work and Pensions with a new one for Social Security. The five-week wait that has fuelled poverty and food bank use? Gone. The ‘online only’ aspect that excludes so many? Dropped. The ‘rape clause’ that forces women to ‘prove’ they have been raped before receiving benefits under the two-child limit? Also binned. This is news that will transform people’s lives. It is what Labour should be talking about incessantly, in the same way that Johnson’s team will repeat “get Brexit done” over and over and over. As Bill Esterson has argued in a piece for LabourList, Labour must not allow the Tories to drag everyone into the gutter but should instead reiterate its key pledges – revitalised communities, a boost in living standards and a rebuilt Britain. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.