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."