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.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I've decided to run Alan Milburn's speech on Thursday through my patent outrider-ometer. If an idea is sooooo right wing that even I am offended by it then it very definitely constitutes outriding (coming up with ideas for the sake of it to wind up Gordon Brown and get publicity). As some of Alan's speech was actually constitutional reform stuff that could have been spouted by Clare Short or Neal Lawson it's likely to be a mixed bag:

  • "state subsidies that would allow parents to move children from a failing school" - yep, out-riding nonsense - surely we should be putting the money into turning round the failing schools? What about the kids without pushy parents left behind?
  • "tax breaks designed to spread asset ownership in housing and shares as the best vehicle to tackle inequality" - yes, more outriding, I can't quite figure how the first half of the sentance leads to the second half - in what sense would tax breaks - only payable to people that pay tax - deal with inequality?
  • "local income tax" - not out-riding but Lib Dem policy that we spent the last election fighting against. Changes balance of funding councils from home owners with assets to younger voters at the time in their lives when they are already under most financial pressure.
  • "communities determining the tax rates through referendums" - a recipe for the selfish to vote to spend less on schools, child protection, sheltered housing, libraries etc.
  • "Community-run mutual organisations, he suggested, could take over the running of children's centres, estates and parks" - i.e. self appointed middle class activists rather than accountable elected members get to run local services. Already proving a disaster in foundation hospitals where the elections are mainly contested by people so unqualified for public office that they have either been rejected in council elections or were not allowed to stand by their party.
  • "Local police and health services could be made directly accountable through elections." Nice idea - but depends on whether Alan means real elections or the Mickey Mouse ones run for existing foundation hospital boards where the electorate is about 0.1% of the actual local population.
  • " voting reform for the Commons" - a good idea.
  • "a directly elected Lords" - a good idea
  • "power for parliament to vote on wars" bonkers Bennite as opposed to Blairite out-riding.
  • "Incentives and sanctions should be increased to reduce the number of lone parents without work" - fine depending on what the sanctions are and there being some recognition that some lone parents might quite legitimately want to stay at home raising their child and that this is probably a good thing for both the parent and the child.

So one my outrider-ometer Alan scored:

40% pure outriding

10% bonkers lefty

10% Lib Dem

20% agreed with by Luke (and bizarrely Compass)

20% worth considering but with the devil in the detail

The Guardian concluded that "the breadth and depth of Mr Milburn's speech suggest that the most active Blair supporter outside the cabinet has not ruled out standing for the party leadership." If that's the case it is an unusual strategy - trying to irritate as many of the electorate as possible. My hunch is that Brown will be quite pleased if the alternative candidate from the Blair camp ends up being Milburn.


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