When I was a student, an appalling toothache on a Sunday led me to take too much paracetamol. I didn’t take vastly too much, and only two tablets at a time, but over 24 hours about twice the recommended dose. I am pretty certain it would have done me no harm, but I was sharing a flat with medical students and they insisted on rushing me to Ninewells. There the staff acted on the presumption that it was a particularly ineffective suicide attempt, which it most definitely was not, and instead of doing something useful about the toothache they lectured me about paracetamol.
My long introduction was simply to set the scene for that lecture, which has remained vividly with me, because the picture it painted was horrible in an Edgar Allan Poe sort of way. The doctor said that when people try to commit suicide with paracetamol, they generally wake up a few hours later in hospital and find they are not dead. Most of them are pretty happy about that. But then the hospital has to tell them that they are going to die anyway. Paracetamol has destroyed their organs and in five long days they will be dead. There is nothing the hospital can do to save them. Usually they are distraught.
I have no idea if that is true or just the doctor’s way of improving my views on toothache management. But I certainly never forgot it. It led me to wonder whether today’s statement by Harriet Harman that the Labour Party will not oppose Tory benefit cuts is the equivalent of taking that last bit too much paracetamol. The frank admission that the purpose of the Labour Party is to discern what wins the election and then support that, should finally drive away anybody with any interest in principles from that party. I was not joking when I said that Osborne’s budget outflanked Labour to the left. That is true, even though it was the most unabashedly right wing budget of my lifetime.
The parliamentary opposition to the benefit cuts will come from the SNP, Plaid and Greens, but it will not be allowed much time or given much publicity. The great question remains where the great mass of the abandoned people, with their left wing views, find political expression in England. I should love to believe that horror at Harman’s position will bring a surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn. But you only have to read Guardian and Labour List comments columns to see that the majority of Labour members swallow the line that you have to be right wing to win a general election – a myth carefully fostered by the corporate media but which I comprehensively demolished here.
It was at least as unthinkable that Labour would lose Glasgow as that they could now lose Darlington or Liverpool or Newcastle. But, with Clegg having moved the Lib Dems a long way right, there is still no sign of a challenging party that can emerge other than UKIP and their racist panacea. I find it hard to see what will happen in English politics. But Labour are going to wake up shortly and find they are facing a rapid and inevitable demise.