Compass breaks cover
Labour's pamphlet-writing tendency, Compass, has broken cover today with a statement in the Guardian by the two Jons (Cruddas and Trickett) which appears to be some kind of very politely phrased, coded even, critique of Brown.
It's in full here, with a wider list of signatures from the usual suspects: http://www.compassonline.org.uk/article.asp?n=981
I am struggling to understand after carefully reading it what, beyond sounding a bit more left, they want Gordon to do.
There are lots of warm words:
They want "an intellectually and morally coherent vision for his premiership". Great. I expect Gordon being both intellectual and moral, already has one. But what voters want to see more than a vision is good schools and hospitals, low crime, security, a strong economy and preferably not to have to pay too much tax for it. If they suffer from inequality they probably want to be have a fairer share of the cake. Most of them couldn't give a toss about the "moral and intellectual" coherence of the package as long as it makes life better for their families.
They want "change" - but of an unspecified nature. They welcome the policy changes that Brown has already made but don't seem to trust his judgement to deliver more of the same direction, yet at the same time don't tell him what they do want him to do.
They don't want a "big tent" - hang about I thought Neal Lawson et al were amongst the loudest proponents of pluralism, and "let's not be beastly to the Lib Dems". Later in the same statement they contradict themselves and call for Brown to look "beyond the Labour Party".
They are against "dry economism". Being professional politicians or chatterati, the Compassites are handily insulated from real world concerns like inflation, unemployment and high interest rates that happen every time you lose focus on "dry economism".
But I can't find any actual policies except for an attack on the reactive change of position on inheritance tax. I.e. Compass confronted by a new Tory policy that is so hugely popular it is the primary policy contributor to turning a 10% Labour lead into a 7% Tory one pick reacting to this as the one specific thing to mention that they don't think Brown should have done!
They pander to the refrain of saloon bar morons up and down the country: voters are being "refused a meaningful choice". A) this is rubbish - there are hundreds of meaningful choices on policy between Labour and the Tories; B) we had a bigger choice between the parties in the '80s and early '90s - unfortunately presented with it the voters chose Thatcherism. I really do pity Labour Party members who can't see the difference between a Brown government and a Cameron one.
They claim Labour has failed to "energise the progressive middle class". I.e. it has based its policy agenda on the bread-and-butter aspirations of working people rather than the hot topics at the Islington dinner parties attended by some of the statement's signatories. Because of course the role of the party founded to represent the working classes should be to "energise the progressive middle class" - a class consisting of perhaps a million at best people out of a population of 60 million - who already had their own party, the Liberals, before we got our act together, but would rather like to control our one too.
They state: " Our essential question is this: what is the Labour government for? We are still unsure." They speak for their own confused selves. As far as I can tell most Ministers, MPs, Councillors, activists, members and voters - and the PM - know exactly what a Labour Government is for: delivering a more equal and just society with high quality public services and a strong economy. We've been doing it for ten years, and we should all get on with contributing to delivering it - and generating the policy ideas to take it forward. I don't see any way in which the latest Compass threnody makes any practical contribution to that. What a pointless organisation.