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.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Memo from Jiminy Cricket

Good to know Paul Richards reads his Labour First bulletins, which he describes here as "like getting regular memos from Jiminy Cricket": http://www.progressonline.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=274

The full text of the Labour First newsletter he quotes is:

"Conference – Labour’s last chance for a historic fourth term

The 2009 Annual Conference represents Labour’s last chance to demonstrate the unity and sense of purpose needed to win a historic fourth term.

True to form, both the Bennite hard left and the Compass soft left are focussed not on the threat of a Tory government but on talking down Labour’s achievements in government. Sounding like the Monty Python “what have the Romans done for us?” sketch they are creating a pernicious myth of leadership betrayal of the grassroots which is calculated to depress and alienate Labour’s core vote and our activists.

Bizarrely, the main thing the left can come up with to debate at Conference this year is not a raft of visions of a socialist future, but a proposal to tinker with conference procedures to reintroduce the divisive Contemporary Resolutions abolished in 2007. Comrades who enjoy passing resolutions may find they have many years to debate them – in the complete impotence of opposition while the Tories ravage our communities – if they focus on looking for ways to bash the leadership rather than explaining our achievements to the voters.

Ideologically, the left’s cupboard is bare. A recent high-brow speech by Jon Cruddas, the Benn de nos jours, name-dropped multiple philosophers, not one of whom is likely to be a household name in his marginal Dagenham constituency, but failed to come up with any policy prescription more original than “abolish Trident”, a golden oldie from the 1980s. Unilateral nuclear disarmament is as wrong a proposal now as it was when it lost Labour the 1983 and 1987 elections.

Equally depressingly, some Ministers seem more excited about the prospect of a future Labour leadership election in opposition than they do about avoiding going into opposition in the first place; whilst others deserted the fight for Labour’s re-election entirely when they resigned in the last reshuffle. A lot more focus is needed from our top team on the General Election and communicating with the electorate, and a lot less on refighting the last leadership election or positioning for the next one for the benefit of an internal party audience.

Those of us on the common-sense wing of Labour need to keep our heads amidst all this panicking and manoeuvring and concentrate on the job in hand – defending Labour’s record in government, attacking the opposition, and developing popular policies for a fourth term that resonate with ordinary voters.

We have a lot to be proud of about our Government. The minimum wage; tax credits; massive investment in schools and hospitals; reduced crime; urban regeneration; a society more at ease with diversity; a sure-footed response to the global recession that saw off a potentially devastating crisis and is already producing tentative signs of a recovery.

And we have everything to warn voters about the Tories. Beneath Cameron’s PR gloss lies an unreconstructed Thatcherite economic policy of slash and burn that would see recession turn into depression and our public services decimated. These Tories are the blithering idiots who wanted to cut public spending in response to the financial crisis and opposed every measure Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling took to respond to the collapse of the banks. They are the top public school-educated elite whose first ideas for spending cuts are the Sure Start programme and Building Schools for the Future that are giving working class children fresh hope. They prioritise re-legalising fox-hunting, and in Europe they are forming alliances with a hotchpotch of racists, homophobes and climate change deniers. Cameron has so little control over his own rightwing and is so afraid of offending them – not least because it is the wing of the party he came from before recasting himself as voter-friendly – that he did nothing to discipline Daniel Hannan MEP for attacking the NHS. In fact Hannan, far from being on the fringes of the Tory Party, was invited by Cameron to be the keynote speaker at their 2009 spring conference! Hannan represents many in the Tory ranks who are in thrall to the small state ideology of the US Republicans – they see an economic downturn not as a problem but as an opportunity to slash public spending.

As for the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg appears to be little more than Cameron’s mini-me – appalling his own activists by calling for “savage cuts” to public services.

So the dividing lines are clear between a Labour Party that should, to quote our sister party in Sweden, be “proud but not satisfied” of everything we have achieved, and a Tory Party that would devastate everything we have worked so hard for.

We must use Conference to communicate those differences to the public.

And we need a manifesto that sets out responsible and common-sense policies to tackle the things voters consider a priority: crime, immigration, security, continued improvement in our schools and NHS, and above all a return to economic stability and prosperity.

If instead Labour retreats into leadership speculation, navel-gazing and self-criticism, we will have only ourselves to blame if the voters decide we are not addressing their concerns."


Anonymous ToynbeePoly said...

Translated from the Book of Luke.

We have a lot to be proud of about our Government.

[= Labour has fucked this country so hard that it makes 1979 look like a walk in the park];

The minimum wage

[= a tax on employment];

tax credits

[= insane bureaucratic nightmare];

massive investment in schools and hospitals

[pissing money up the wall];

reduced crime

[= blatant lies];

urban regeneration

[= massive splurge on Labour heartlands];

a society more at ease with diversity

[untrammelled immigration]

a sure-footed response to the global recession that saw off a potentially devastating crisis and is already producing tentative signs of a recovery.

[Gordon's less popular than a cock-flavoured lollipop, but it's the global economy wot did it, alright guv'nor?]

Fixed that for you.

2:16 am, September 26, 2009

Blogger karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on leadership. It should be very much helpfull.

Karim - Mind Power

6:24 am, September 26, 2009

Blogger Luke Bruce said...

How do I sign up?

10:10 am, September 26, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

true Labour have been a real disappointment and very Tory!

But it was much worse between 79-97

7:38 pm, September 26, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lord Mandelson lets it be known in the Sunday Times that he would be quite willing to work the Tories "for the good of the country".

Could Private Akehurst report for duty, bend down, spread his buttocks and prepare to take eight inches of luvin' feeling up his arse.

10:50 pm, September 26, 2009

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

The problem Luke (both Lukes I guess) is that a desire for 'common sense and responsible' policies in the areas listed in the Labour First memo is shared across everybody. I was going to say everybody in the party, but I imagine most Tories and Lib Dems could sign up to such a vague credo as well. The problem, presumably is that we disagree on what those policies should be. We presumably think that some of those that each other would progress are not senseless and irresponsible. If people attempt to prevent all debate about this - as the Labour First memo appears to propose - then, instead of a healthy policy debate designed to unite around such an agenda, we create a scenario where the only thing people think they can change (and by people I mostly mean right-wing Labour parliamentarians and senior members of Compass) is the leadership. That, in turn, precipiates naval-gazing, speculation and division.

The party has missed a trick twice now. We could have had a proper leadership election when Tony Blair stood down which would have allowed all voices in the party a chance to advance their preferred policy agenda, and given party members and activists a chance to participate in an open debate. Or we could have had a big policy debate and consultation last Autumn.

Instead we stumble from one embarrassing coup attempt to the next and nobody is talking about policy. Even Labour First are using a vagueness of language that would embarrass even a Compass pamphleteer.

As such, I have to conclude that this sort of intervention is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

11:07 pm, September 26, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

I have to admit I was wrong. If we had David Cameron now things would be a lot worse. Their policy of slashing public spending and letting the economy running its course would have been disastrous for us all.

Labour have wasted a golden opportunity though. They wasted the chance to deliver a real change. Lots of things that could and should have been done now look like they may not be done in my lifetime.

I find it very amusing that David Cameron no longer talks about the environment or his commitment to the NHS. His focus is spending cuts and we all remember what the NHS was like under Mrs Thatcher. I can remember fighting in the Falklands war and our ships not even being battle ready. 100s of men were lost because our ships could not defend themselves against enemy fighters. This is a war we should have won easily but almost lost. This was Thatchers doing and I fear Cameron will drag us back there if he cuts the defence budget even more.

Cutting public spending will devastate the UK. It will mean adding at least two million to the unemployment figures and falling wages for those working in the private sector. What you gain in tax cuts you will lose in falling pay.

Labours biggest failure was not supporting British industry and paying too much attention to the banking sector.

12:56 pm, September 27, 2009

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

What Duncan says is spot on. I'm really tired of reading articles by Labour party - be it Compass or Labour First - which essentially don't say anything. This vapid blandness insults the public and our own supporters.

2:38 pm, September 27, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

The housing market could have been regulated by Labour so there was no more hyper inflation-instead of doing this the PM at the time was more interested in building a property portfolio and bragged of making loads of money on the sale of his Islington home! Labour have been incompetent and lost opportunities in a building a no more boom and bust economy!

But what awaits us next year under the Tories will be worse under these future Tory spending cuts and will drag all the good work backwards!

We need a radical Labour party distinct from all the others!

7:57 pm, September 27, 2009

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

Bizarrely, the main thing the left can come up with to debate at Conference this year is not a raft of visions of a socialist future, but a proposal to tinker with conference procedures to reintroduce the divisive Contemporary Resolutions abolished in 2007.

Wonderful piece of double think here.

How can anyone debate a raft of visions of a socialist future, or anything else, now that resolutions have been abolished?

10:16 am, September 28, 2009

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

I like the description of contemporary resolutions as 'divisive'. Presumably Labour First believes democracy in general is also 'divisive'. Perhaps we should ban parliamentary bills, as they too are 'divisive', as are motions at trade union conferences.

The idea of Cruddas as a Benn of our times is also hilarious.

"Common sense wing" of the party, or dogmatic sectarian idiots? You decide.

12:13 pm, September 28, 2009

Anonymous T_i_B said...

Is this what it's come to,reposting Labour press releases??????????????

No wonder Labour blogs are so crap!

12:41 pm, September 28, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

Yes, there are some things to be proud of, but others which disappointed.

And we can't afford Trident and need to trim back involvement in foreigh escapades. That is clearly popular now in a way it wasn't in the 80's

1:37 am, September 29, 2009


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