The Wrong Kind of Seats
My old comrade from the Labour Coordinating Committee Executive, Neal Lawson, reveals in today's Guardian that his disillusion with New Labour set in even earlier than I had realised:
"My first doubts crept in as early as election day in May 1997. I was crunching up long gravel drives in Enfield Southgate, where rumours abounded that no-hoper Stephen Twigg might oust Michael Portillo. After passing BMWs and Mercs I was met by enthusiastic upper-middle-class families who were "all for Tony Blair here". We were going to win, but what did we have to sacrifice to have these people in our tent?"
Of course, the kind of Guardianista chatterati demographic that backs Compass-style left politics are actually quite often "upper-middle-class" themselves. But they would never do anything as crass or nouveau riche as having crunchy "long gravel drives", driving BMWs or Mercs, or living in the kind of places like Enfield Southgate that only go Labour when we win elections.
No, no, no. "Good" upper-middle-class people whose votes Compass wants because Labour got them before 1997 have far too much taste for that. They live in town houses in Kentish Town, or Barnsbury, or Hampstead, or Highgate Village, or maybe if they are a bit younger and have only just sold their shares in LLM Communications, they might make do with somewhere a bit edgier in the inner city. They drive people carriers or Volvos and buy their foccacia at Fresh & Wild. Their drives are definitely not crunchy.
The funny thing is, the 1997 manifesto and campaign were never intended to appeal to Enfield Southgate. They weren't even targeted at Enfield North. They were very carefully calibrated to appeal to swing voters in the 70 key seats that Labour needed to form a majority - Edmonton, Mitcham & Morden, Hayes & Harlington, Brentford & Isleworth, those kind of places. Gritty places with lots of Sun readers concerned about tax, crime and defence - and not many crunchy long gravel drives. That that 1997 programme turned out to be wildly popular with all demographics, from the crunchy drive set to people in council flats, was accident, not fiendish Blairite design.
Where would Neal draw the line? He must be relieved we don't hold Putney, Wimbledon and Enfield Southgate now, but why stop there? Shall we get Compass to tell the voters in Dorset South, or Hastings & Rye, or Hove that Labour doesn't want their votes either? And as for Basildon, Harlow or Crawley ... I doubt they have branches of Fresh & Wild ... and I expect they do have a lot of people who aspire to own BMWs.
Can anyone imagine that a Tory - any Tory even the most Heathite Wet or most extreme rightwinger - writing the counterpoint to Lawson's words:
"But first a confession. I was a Thatcherite. Back in 1975, I believed she was serious about new politics, communities and Europe. More fool me. My first doubts crept in as early as election day in 1983. I was staggering up tower block staircases in Edmonton, where rumours abounded that no-hoper Ian Twinn might oust Ted Graham. After passing graffiti and piss on the staircase I was met by enthusiastic working class families who were "all for Maggie here", having done right-to-buy on their council flats. We were going to win, but what did we have to sacrifice to have these people in our tent?"
No they wouldn't. Because unlike Lawson and Compass the Tories at that time knew that if you don't seek to win the votes of every possible voter, sooner or later you are out of power and can do nothing for your core vote or anyone else. They forgot that lesson and are only just relearning it.
Lawson wants Labour to make the same mistake. But he won't get his way because Brown wants to win, not lose, the next election. Neal knows that, hence his squeals of betrayal before Brown has even got into No10. Game over, Neal.