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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Labour needs a McAuliffe or Dean

Coverage of the Democratic Convention - particularly Newsnight's interview with an extremely fired-up Terry McAuliffe (the previous Chair of the DNC), and extensive newspaper explanations of how Howard Dean (the current Chair) has been implementing his 50-state strategy to rebuild the Democrat grassroots - made me realise that one of the factors in Labour's current malaise is the lack of an equivalent to the Chair of the DNC to lead our campaigning.

We need someone whose job will be to fire up activists, lead the partisan attacks on the Tories, and be the point at which politics and governing are co-ordinated with organisation and campaigning.

The PM can't do that - it's not appropriate to the office.

The General Secretary can't do that - it needs to be a politician not a staffer.

And Harriet as Deputy Leader is over-loaded with other responsibilities, including Ministerial ones, and isn't really the right kind of personality for attack politics and tub-thumping calls to action.

If there is an Autumn reshuffle one priority should be to ensure we have a heavyweight politician unencumbered with departmental responsibilities and solely dedicated to campaigning, fundraising and regeneration of the party grassroots.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I nominate Jon Cruddas.

9:56 am, August 27, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Not necessarily a bad idea.

9:59 am, August 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would imagine however, that you have Hazel Blears in mind for this?

10:23 am, August 27, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I think she would say she's been there and done that already, wouldn't she?

I'd personally suggest John Reid but he's probably a bit busy with Celtic ...

10:39 am, August 27, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

I support Crudas being brought in to the cabinet. It be a genius political move by the PM. As it would scare the the Blairites into backing him over the possibility of Cruadas winning a leadership election. Plus it would allow someone who most party members are more closely aligned with in views to have in the cabinet.

11:07 am, August 27, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:25 am, August 27, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I've actually reached the stage where I don't care what people's politics are as long as they are motivated by good will and a desire to see Labour recover and win a fourth term. If Cruddas is up for playing a role in that he should be given one.

11:59 am, August 27, 2008

Anonymous Ian G said...

"I've actually reached the stage where I don't care what people's politics are as long as they are motivated by good will and a desire to see Labour recover and win a fourth term."

Shame, if people had reached that point a few years ago, we might not be in this mess!

I thought that was exactly the role that Jon Cruddas wanted. In fact I recall a number of comparisons were made with Howard Dean at the time of the DL election.

The proviso is of course that it's a two way street. There has to be a strong voice to represent the party rank and file to government, not just to dictate the government's line to the party.

I think Jon has the skill to perform such a role.

And yes, a 'fifty state strategy' is exactly what we need. The party needs to learn that relentless pinpoint targeting is only a short-term solution. To be successful in the long term we need to build our support base across all areas and all demographics.

3:40 pm, August 27, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

This is what Jon Cruddas stood for when the deputy leadership elections were on. Harriet was particularly piquant about the deputy having no cabinet portfolio; another reason to think she is useless.....

Luke, we could have all the Howard Deans in the world and it would make no difference to our predicament. Our problem is policy and ideology, until we rediscover what it means to be Labour we will face annihilation at the ballot box.

3:43 pm, August 27, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


the problem is that you and I fundamentally disagree on "what it means to be Labour".

3:49 pm, August 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that anyone given that role would carry out a cost/benefit analysis for all of 1 second and conclude that the party needs to remove the Dysfunctional One as a precondition of doing the job.

You're then stuck with Crappas.

He'd do the job because as a bog-standard strawberry-flavoured Trot he'd do anything and everything not understanding that there's no-one and nothing that can get Labour elected for a fourth term, if not prevent a complete collapse of the party altogether.

5:25 pm, August 27, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Luke you are a Labour man and so am I.

I am sure, like me you don't think the founders of the Labour Party made a terrible mistake and should have tried to change the Liberal Party, incidentally that is what Blair told Paddy Ashdown.

It was right a party that stood for the principles of democratic socialism was founded.

Sadly comrade the party has squeezed out a lot of our social democracy, and the public have sat up and taken notice.

Luke, time to realise our two wings of the party are simply not the majority.
I suspect most of our supporters (both former and current) are probably soft left, Crosland socialists or something in between.
If you want to see a rejuvenated party (as do I) we have to make policy that fits squarely with this caucus. Why? We are losing activists; we need a strong activist base for us to thrash the Tories.

As Mike has said on previous posts (and he is no rabid leftie) Middle England has shifted to the right, we should concentrate on getting our people out to vote for us. Do you think Crewe and Nantwich and Glasgow East were mere abstracts? They could be the sign of things to come.

As long as Brown is leader he has my support (and yours I presume), but the Captain has to realise the good ship Labour is heading for the rocks unless there is a change of direction, lets hope there is no officers mutiny......

5:34 pm, August 27, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Ravi, is correct. But Labour can only lesson the defeat now as it's too late for a victory. Lots of traditionally Labour voters will vote for the conservatives and the only way they will vote Labour again is after they have given the conservatives a go.

The vast majority of people upset with Labour are not coming back by the time we hold another election. Cameron is a soft left conservative and this appeals to many voters who didn't like the previous conservative government. The country has shifted to the right and people see this government as incompetent, corrupt, authoritarian and too soft in the wrong areas.

If Brown stays and you continue as before then your defeat will go into the history books as one of the worst. With so few seats it will be decades before you get a sniff of power and at worst the Labour party will be no longer.

Remember the Labour party was created to represent working class people. Why are so many of the working classes voting for conservatives and the BNP? There isn't a growth in neo nazi culture that is for sure but what is clear is that the working classes feel abandoned by the Labour party.

Roll on 2010.

6:28 pm, August 27, 2008

Anonymous David Floyd said...

It's a good idea.

I was watching the McAuliffe interview yesterday thinking 'he's good' having similar thoughts to Luke about Labour needing someone similar, which given that I know very well that McAuliffe's a third way headbanger and I'd hardly agree with him on any political issue suggests he must have been quite impressive.

I agree Cruddas could do this kind of role of Labour.

Dean's done very well. Particularly as most top Democrats started off predicting he'd be useless.

6:42 pm, August 27, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...


The shiny suits, too smart by half, as in well-wide.

The cocky cockney as in a stream of unionspeak that even the cursory reader of the Mail knows is full of duff, illiterate or illogical expressions of common-sense.

Middle England is appalled. The gobshite can't manage please or thank you and speaks with his mouth full.

It's working class hamming it up as C2 posh.

Sorry, we don't vote for your sort.

12:22 am, August 28, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

While I agree that there may well be a situation where people are juist fed up with labour and some - snough - will vote Tory to give them a go, there are a few points worth making.

First, that there are, have been, and always will be, a section of the working class which votes Tory.

Second, that the last three elections have essentially been decided because of sections of the electorate not turning out at all. 1997 did see some Tory voters switching to Labour, but the turnout was down on 1992. In 2001 Tory voters stayed away in droves, and by 2005, Labour had already lost the Middle England swing voters and only won because enough of them didn't go back to the Tories but still abstained.

The aim now should be simply to move as many of those who remain sympathetic to Labour as possible, but I do think that will mean some very basic policy changes towards some things which Labour voters want, and away from things which have alienated them. Labour cannot out-Tory the Tories. It won't wash. Neither should Middle England be pandered to any more. Stuff the british Gas shareholders. None of them are going to vote Labour anyway, so lets have a windfall tax. Health care workers still don't trust the Tories, but they do know PFI stinks and are fed up with the endless meaningless rile by targets and statistics. So get rid of PFI and remove the target culture. Housing is probably the cause of more frustration and anger than anything else. Compulsory purchase of all empty housing without compensation unless it is rented out within three months. It is utterly immoral to have perfectly decent housing standing empty.

12:35 am, August 28, 2008

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

If Anonymous 12.22 is representative, then in 100 years, Labour has changed precisely nothing.

1:21 am, August 28, 2008

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

These two quotes from above postings hit the nail right on the head:

"Remember the Labour party was created to represent working class people. Why are so many of the working classes voting for conservatives and the BNP? There isn't a growth in neo nazi culture that is for sure but what is clear is that the working classes feel abandoned by the Labour party."


"... the last three elections have essentially been decided because of sections of the electorate not turning out at all."

I’m not arguing for anything like let’s all go back to old labour and a union-led movement. The disaffection of working class voters with Labour has been shared by many other segments of voters – for one thing if you care about domestic civil liberties and international law you will not vote for the Blair-Brown Government.

But as I have several times pointed, the metro-London dominated Labour Government and Labour Party now seems unable, but more importantly unwilling, to listen, learn and adapt to what is being sought by those who should be their natural supporters.

9:34 am, August 28, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Ted said,

"I’m not arguing for anything like let’s all go back to old labour and a union-led movement."

I don't think many of us are, it’s funny though, the TU movement seems to be more in chime of what most of us to the left of New Labour (members or not) are proposing than the leadership.

You have said the party has to appeal to its core voters.

So what should the Labour Party be like? I don't think I could put it better than George Galloway,

"Britain like any modern developed country, needs a Labour Party; a party which speaks for those with nothing to sell but their work, for those who have become too old to work, and for their grandchildren; a party which not only speaks for, but legislates for, equality between the races, religions and genders, and for the most vulnerable, the marginalized and the despised."

We should outline our commitment to the mixed economy (as some things are too important to be in private hands) and value our public servants (a return to public minded service would be welcome). A commitment to universally free education and healthcare; scrapping tuition fees.

Stay true to our internationalist tendencies by showing our respect for institutions like the UN (no more illegal wars).

We should push for a democratic EU, where an elected body has the say and not a politburo of selectocrats, the balance is topsy turvy.

This might please Mike and MichaeC, I am being (slowly) persuaded to the benefits of PR and finally ensure the power of the state is never used to trample civil rights.

Let us be the champion of the underdog and stand for fairness for all, that’s Labour.

11:42 am, August 28, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ravi, surely, just a bleedin' few details you missed in the grand illusion.

How about: Run the economy wrecklessly so that more than a 1m crash into negative equity and poverty.

Or tax the rest of us if we dare to move on anything we choose to do so that you can spend it wrecklessly.

There's no turning back. You lot are marching over the cliff.

4:12 pm, August 28, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Yes, but that's clearly a view from a Tory. Labour should not be implementing Tory policies.

11:21 pm, August 28, 2008

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Hazel didn't actually do this task though did she Luke? Too busy central purchasing dodgy merchandise?

Labour need a bullock/cow in chief politician AND/OR a bullock/cow in chief as a worker cf Alistair Campbell. Exactly Alistair Campbell rather than modelled on if possible.

Meanwhile rumours from a constituency not unadjacent to Manchester and represented by a former Blair now Brown minister that there will be a November 2008 election has died the death ...

12:16 pm, August 29, 2008


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