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/
- 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/
- "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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don't panic!
- 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.