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.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Catching up rant

Back from holiday, and a week of supressed rage to get out of my system as I've watched the continued self-destruction of the Labour Party. Cameron & co must be having trouble containing their mirth as they watch our team try their best to increase the Tory 9% lead.

First off, last week's good guys:

  • Ed Balls MP - for this calm and sensible piece in the Observer (except the dig at Byers) - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/
  • 0,,1863996,00.html
  • Siobhain McDonagh MP for going on the BBC and basically telling the headless chicken wing of the PLP to shut up
  • David Winnick MP for saying "I think it would be useful if some of my colleagues calmed down a bit. It's quite obvious that for the prime minister to give a departure date is totally unrealistic."
  • Dennis Macshane MP for speaking for the silent majority of Labour loyalists: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,,1863883,00.html

Now the "please, please let's make a catastrophe out of a crisis" wing of the British left:

  • Glenda Jackson MP for yet another televised call for Blair to go. Why is that newsworthy? Am I the only Labour supporter who wants to puke every time I see her? - there's something about the sneering, personalised tone that just sets my gag reflex going. When was the last time she said anything actually supportive of her own government?
  • Ken Livingstone for proving why he should never have been readmitted to the Labour Party with his remarks about Trevor Phillips: http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/
  • 0,,1862591,00.html
  • "It's grim up North London" Neal Lawson for recycling the same piece yet again in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1861459,00.html - from the man whose switch from uber-moderniser LCC leader to Compass ranter is up there with Anakin Skywalker's transformation into Darth Vader as an example of consistency and loyalty, though at least Vader was motivated by trying to save his wife and kids rather than having a huff about losing the Bridgend selection contest.
  • Peter Wilby of the New Statesman for saying Labour needs to lose the next election: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1859576,00.html I'll remember that next time I meet someone in my council ward who is getting their flat improved under Decent Homes, or whose kid's school is improving, or has a job when they didn't in the '90s, or benefits from the mimimum wage or tax credits: Peter Wilby thinks you really need 4 years of the Tories. What a jerk.
  • And Charles Clarke for attacking Blair and Brown for actually being straightforward and showing leadership about Trident and civil nuclear power - http://www.newstatesman.com/200609040029 - and saying what we really need is a debate about both them and a whole bunch of issues largely of interest to Labour Party activists rather than the general public. He lists as key issues for debate: the boundary between local and national government, relations with business, the environment, constitutional reform and foreign policy. All very worthy and of great interest to Guardian reading Stoke Newingtonites who work in politics like me, but I doubt that they are top of the list of concerns in the places that will decide the outcome of the next election like Basildon, Harlow and the Medway towns. Strangely he doesn't list the 3 issues the opinion polls say the public are most concerned about: crime, terrorism and immigration. Possibly because these were issues he was supposed to be sorting out at the Home Office and er... didn't in spectacular fashion in April, largely causing Cameron's recovery from a dip in the polls and Labour's flop in the local elections. Memo to all Labour MPs defending marginal seats: next time someone asks you to help sort out an ASBO for the local youths causing mayhem on mini-motos, invite them to a "debate", preferably with Polly Toynbee, Neal Lawson and any care-in-the-community types from your CLP, about biodiversity, the proposed method of election for the House of Lords and why George W is so nasty.

I'm with the Brownites on this (shock, horror!). We need a prolonged period of navel-gazing on policy like we need a hole in the head.

My prescription for the next few years:

  1. Everyone needs to get a grip and stop thinking the exact timing of a change of leader is going to affect the outcome of the next election. In fact Brown has an interest in Blair absorbing the flak for a year or so more and taking some of the tough decisions so he doesn't have to. A "regicide" when the PM is going to step down sometime soon anyway will lead the public to think Labour has reverted to the worst divisions and habits of the 1980s.
  2. Trident replacement, a broadly pro-US foreign policy and civil nuclear power are non-negotiable core policies for "moderate Labour". If you don't like them, vote for Michael Meacher or John McDonnell.
  3. The divisions between Brownites and Blairites, modernisers and traditionalists are mainly false, obscure or irrelevant. The real divide in the Labour Party is between right and left. Those of us on the right of the Party don't have the luxury of numbers of being able to engage in internecine warfare about the number of angels that can fit on the end of a pinhead.
  4. The Brownites need to make it clear to Reid, Byers, Milburn etc. that they have a political future in a Brown administration otherwise it isn't going to be surprising if they cut up rough.
  5. The debate about policy for the future SHOULD be carried out in the leadership and deputy leadership election where participation will be widest, not as some separate debate.
  6. In the mean time we have a perfectly good manifesto that won us a third term. Ministers should get on with implementing it and MPs should get on with telling their constituents what a great government we have.
  7. Don't panic!
  8. Every now and again let's remind ourselves what is was like to live under the Tories and how much we worked to get this Labour Government and what it will feel like if we lose it.


Anonymous Andrea said...

"When was the last time she said anything actually supportive of her own government?"

I think it was when she popped up on the BBC screen to defend Prescott saying he has done a great job for Labour Party.

Naturally Glenda wasn't alone....not sure if you've seen them, but last weekend Sky also had Frank Dobson (tieless with the fist button of his shirt unbuttoned...pretty scaring sight) and Clare Short (naturally with a scarf...she would probably wear it on a beach in mid-August) telling Blair to go.

Actutally this time there were some MPs outside the Glenda/Dobbo/Clare/Campaign Group* circle demanding an exit date.

* to be fair I haven't seen many Campaign Groupers on TV and newspapers this time.

9:50 am, September 04, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

The difference between Glenda and Frank is that when Frank calls for TB to step down it is not delivered in such a tone of personal hatred. Probably because he is a nice person who understands what "comradely" means and Glenda doesn't.

9:53 am, September 04, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

I think it's her natural tone for TV appearances. She tends to have it even when she isn't attacking someone. She always looks aggressive

Never been a fan of Dobson. I don't dislike him either though.

10:33 am, September 04, 2006

Anonymous Tim Swift said...

Luke, thank you for wording so well what I have been thinking. The fact is that the Tory recovery in the polls is entirely down to us - they have almost no clear policies, and those that Cameron is putting forward are either classic traditional Tory right-wing (restore fox hunting and cut the tax on share sales) or are making his own hard core supporters suffer apoplexy (e.g. latest inconsistencies on green policies).

We need to be very clear in focussing on core Labour achievements that have delivered for working people, all of which will be at risk if a Cameron-led government is elected. The PLP appear to have worked themselves into a state of collective panic which is letting down party members.

10:40 am, September 04, 2006

Blogger donpaskini said...

Two things I don't quite agree, speaking as someone who wants to maximise the chances of Labour winning the next election:

1. Why is a pro-American foreign policy non-negotiable, given that it is extremely unpopular, not just with Hampstead liberals, but with people who we need to get to vote for us next time? It's not their top issue, but swing voters absolutely loathe Bush and don't like us seeming to care more about what he thinks than what is right for Britain.

2. If it is bad for ex-ministers to undermine us and have a whinge in public, that goes for Byers and Milburn as much as for Dobson or Clarke. If none of them have a political career after Brown takes over, that is no loss to anyone except for them, and if they 'cut up rough' all they are doing is helping the Tories.

11:08 am, September 04, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I didn't mean that foreign policy is non-negotiable for the Labour Party - obviously the Party can elect a Leader who takes a different line if they want. However, it's non-negotiable for me and others who share my politics - I would not vote for any leadership candidate who was not an Atlanticist.

12:18 pm, September 04, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

The problem is when Atlanticism/Non atlantism becomes something dogmatic.
There're people who support the US line "no matter what" even when said line is rubbish. At the other side there're people who always say that America is bad even when the USA have a point on a particular matter.

2:03 pm, September 04, 2006

Blogger Peter Kenyon said...

Help is at hand.

You missed a model resolution penned by Save the Labour Party on the subject of the Leadership.

Go to:


If there is a clear majority of CLPs in favour, we have a vacancy.

If not, some might say we have a problem, other might say its a blessing. What will be without doubt is that members will have had their opportunity to have a say.

3:06 pm, September 04, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help is at hand. hahahahaha. Help for the Tories from the looney tunes of STLP.

Luke, I think you are wrong about the debate issue.It's about time we dropped the prentence that everyone around Gordon Brown supports the government's policies on public service reform. They don't and they should be more honest about that.

4:46 pm, September 04, 2006

Blogger Robert Jackman said...

Luke, I enjoyed reading your entry.
However until Blair takes responsibility and sets a clear date for the transition of power we will be politically paralysed. Until the leadership issue is confined to a clear timetable, it will continue to pollute any serious political discussion. Labour has won three elections having being perceived as a progressive outward-looking party. Until we tackle the leadership issue, Labour will appear more inward-looking, power obsessed and narcissistic.
It would be great if you'd take the time to read my thoughts on the matter in my blog and perhaps leave a comment.
Robert Jackman

4:59 pm, September 04, 2006

Blogger kris said...

Tony Blair was a labour abberation; that's why people trusted him.

Now, that real-labour is rearing its' head and, inexplicably, baying for Blair's head, the whole thing will come a cropper and eton boy Dave Cameron only has to stnd back and watch while you all rip each other to shreds...

No one likes a smart-alec- but I told you so...

If I were an ambitious young man- I consider a switch to conservatives- their stock is on the up.

6:12 pm, September 04, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Kris - I disagree. For me Blair represents the "real Labour" tradition of Morrison, Bevin, Dalton, Gaitskell, Healey, Kinnock, Smith. The aberation were the middle class entryists who came in when the party membership was at a low ebb in the late '60s and reached their high point in the early 1980s.

7:03 pm, September 04, 2006

Anonymous observer said...

"The difference between Glenda and Frank is that when Frank calls for TB to step down it is not delivered in such a tone of personal hatred. Probably because he is a nice person who understands what "comradely" means and Glenda doesn't."

Tut, tut, Luke. Sometimes you can be such a bitch!

8:00 am, September 05, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

I agree Luke. Vote John McDonnell!!


10:46 pm, September 05, 2006

Blogger Harry Perkins said...

You asked re Glenda Jackson, "When was the last time she said anything actually supportive of her own government?"

Strangely enough she was quite conciliatory yesterday, as the Guardian noted:
"Glenda Jackson, the former transport minister, said in a statement that she felt reassured by the Sun's front page naming May 31 next year as the day Mr Blair would stand down as party leader."

11:51 am, September 07, 2006


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