A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Coded critiques

I'm confused by a letter in the Guardian today http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/story/0,,1814691,00.html from various Labour worthies, including a batch of TU general secretaries whom I'm sure practice what they preach about "accountable leadership" and consulted widely before putting pen to paper ;)

It says:

"Tony Blair's recent article was published under the heading "No more coded critiques - let's have an open debate on where we go next" (June 27). We welcome that and agree there should now be an open public debate on the future direction of our party and government. In particular, we believe there is now an urgent need to focus on the following issues: ending poverty and rising inequality; a government and party leadership which is accountable; an end to privatisation of public services; foreign policy; and employment rights and trade union law.
Following the initiative taken by the prime minister, we intend over the next few months to organise a public debate around these issues in order to point the way towards the change of direction in government policy that so many in the Labour movement now want to see.Frank Dobson MP, Angela Eagle MP, Billy Hayes (CWU), Paul Kenny (GMB), Michael Meacher MP, Dave Prentis (Unison), Tony Robinson (ex-NEC), Clare Short MP, Derek Simpson (Amicus), John Trickett MP, Tony Woodley (TGWU)."

Strangely for an attack on "coded critiques" it largely reads as ... a coded critique.

For instance the rather bland phrase "foreign policy" when what I assume is meant is "there is an urgent need to focus on ... Iraq ... and ... er ... Iraq".

Most of the other issues are, oddly, rather than those that there is a debate about within Labour - such as public service reform - the ones everyone from Blair to Diane Abbott agrees on and where the government actually has a pretty good record of delivery but knows it needs to do more - ending poverty and employment rights and union law (the latter of which a common position on was negotiated at Warwick only a couple of years ago). But maybe these are "coded critiques" that I'm too dim to understand.

As for "an end to privatisation of public services" can anyone name a "privatisation" under this Government. Yes, there's been a grand total of one: of defence laboratory QinetiQ which I'm not sure is what these guys would define as a public service - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_privatizations#United_Kingdom
Still, who cares about semantics when you can have a "coded critique" of the government and smear corporate donations to schools, contracting-out, ALMOs or anything else as "privatisation" as it's a nice buzzy word that makes people angry.

The authors of this dazzling work, will be organising a "public debate". Does this mean a debate through the democratic processes of the Labour Party? Or more letters to the papers? Or another turgid conference a la Compass with an overlapping cast of the usual suspects? Again who can tell as it's all a "coded critique".

They want "to point the way towards the change of direction in government policy that so many in the Labour movement now want to see" - oh go on spit it out, you mean you want to precipitate Blair's departure because he's either sacked you or not kowtowed to you don't you?

It all reads like what it is - a letter written by committee - with amendments moved here and there - hence the general secretaries get "union law", Baldrick gets a more accountable leadership, and Clare gets "foreign policy" (a coded critique for "I used to just hate Tony now I hate Gordon too").

The PM must be trembling in his boots as he contemplates how to respond to this devastating, and not at all "coded" critique.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is this also a somewhat strange combination of people?

I've been a member of Amicus for about three years. In that time, I've never managed to find out which branch I belong to or get invited to a meeting or find any other way of influencing their policy or actions. Don't get me wrong, I think they are a good union that's doing a lot for working people. And I don't disagree with everything they say policy wise. But they're not in the best position to talk about a more accountable leadership.

And Clare Short. I struggled through 'an honourable deception' recently, and found it vastly disappointing. There are some books where the prejudice of the writer shines through so strongly that you end up doubting everything they say, and to me this was one of those. As far as I could understand her position, everything good the Labour government has done comes from No. 11, and everything wrong is Tony's fault - wonder if that is still her position?

Is this the Michael Meacher leadership campaign team? Further developments are awaited with interest.

6:38 pm, July 07, 2006

Blogger El Tom said...

It would be really nice to debate it through the internal structures of the labour party. Trouble is that they only ask questions like 'do you believe the law is on your side?' and 'do you belive this country should be kept safe from terrorists?'. They should adress the issues above.

And Compass, with the very odd exception, are ffar from usual supects.

and on privatisations, you wanted one... outright, there is that train operating company in london (who's name escapes me). how about trust schools and city academies. And let's be honest, PFI and private outsourcing are part privatisations at least... privatisatilon being the process...

2:03 am, July 08, 2006

Anonymous Stuart Bruce said...

Good question about Amicus. I'm a longstanding trade union member coming to Amicus via MSF. I'm a member because I believe in the trade union movement, but quite frankly it does nothing for me personally. The only 'service' that I've used is cheap membership of Britannia Rescue! I did once try the legal helpline but the advice wasn't as good as that which I received from my professional institute legal helpline.

The last time I was told which branch I was in or invited to a meeting must have been more than five or even 10 years ago.

For many people union membership provides practical benefits but I do sometimes wonder if my personal £10 a month would be better going as a donation to the Labour Party which would do more for socialism than me giving it to Amicus.

12:39 pm, July 08, 2006

Anonymous Jess said...

I so agree with Stuart Bruce. I've been a member of the T&G for 13 years but haven't been to a meeting for at least 6. The only thing I get to do is vote for people I've never heard of in elections to bodies which I have only the faintest idea what they do. I don't even get a magazine any more to tell me what they are doing with my money for people who need a TU! I look on it as a charitable donation, but would welcome suggestions for a better destination for my cash... Mind you, when we finally get to this long-awaited leadership election, it'll mean I have 2 votes... Long live democracy!

1:15 pm, July 11, 2006


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