Links of the week
I have been snowed under (with work rather than snow) this week so not able to blog.
So here's something I've read and found interesting:
BBC Newsnight's Economics Editor Paul Mason has an interesting take on the different strands of opinion in the Labour Party: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2010/01/the_biggest_split_in_the.html
Mason thinks the new generation of Cruddas, Ed Miliband and Purnell have a shared agenda for saving the Party. I hope this is true and that we get a kind of coming together of everyone of talent and good will to find common ground, rather than the personality divisions between people of 95% shared politics which have marred the current generation of Labour in power.
Mason also in an earlier post - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2010/01/labours_coup_nonevents_dear_bo.html defines three strands of opinion in Labour: "There's the Blairite old-guard centre-right, which most decisively shot its bolt yesterday; there's the government - an alliance of Blairites for Brown and Brownites; and there's the centre left, which on all recent votes - at the 2009 conference and the deputy leadership campaign - commands a majority because the remaining affiliated unions are centre-left run." I think this is pretty accurate except that the unions are only allied to the centre left on industrial and economic questions - otherwise they rightly see Compass etc. as middle-class hippies with about as much connection with the realities of union members' lives as, well polite metaphors fail me.
He highlights the importance of the election for Unite General Secretary later this year for the future of the Party - we will be in a very odd place if the ex-SWPer Gerry Hicks wins.
Correctly I think Mason points to the disconnect between the bright young Labour high-ups and any grassroots movement. For me it's almost like Labour's "aristocracy" got so excited by the trappings of Government - the glittering path from think tank to Special Adviser to MP to Minister, often achieved in record time - that they forgot about the poor bloody infantry of the Labour movement who sustain it through bad and good electoral times. Or never knew about the hull (the bit that keeps the whole ship floating) as opposed to the superstructure of the party anyway. I can't help thinking they all would have benefited from going a bit slower and being councillors or union officials dealing with workplace campaigns and issues for a while (NB I know which ones did do a stint at the grassroots so this is not a blanket accusation).
I hope Mason is wrong when he says that last week's coup attempt resulted in some senior Ministers (some of whom have a track record of presenting themselves as faux left in internal party elections - no names, no pack drill) keeping the PM in office in return for a pledge to pursue "realistic" cuts and privatisation.
I find myself in the odd positioning of proudly self-defining as on the right of the Labour Party and being defined by most people as some kind of Blairite ultra, yet in the current climate my sympathies are very definitely with what Mason calls the "centre left" on the key issues of public services and economic growth. For me, modernisation and triangulation means making sure Labour is aligned with the values of ordinary working class voters in supporting strong policies on defence, crime and immigration (though I accept I am by instinct way to the left of most of the electorate on migration issues), keeping taxation as low as possible for ordinary working people and being pro-business in the sense of the state providing a supportive environment for businesses to grow and particularly boosting manufacturing industry, not in the sense of allowing business to exploit workers or consumers. It doesn't mean seeing the private sector as the solution to everything (it's the solution to some things but my experience of outsourcing during five months in hospital last year and in Hackney before Labour won back control of the council teaches me it can be a lot worse at delivering some services than municipal solutions can be) - it doesn't mean making cuts to intrinsically valuable public services just when the economy needs continued pump-priming - it doesn't mean avoiding putting trade union demands for workplace rights for agency workers into our manifesto - it doesn't mean being shy about saying the country should be a meritocracy, with people from ordinary backgrounds who have earned their way to the top by effort and talent running it, not the scions of the landed gentry. Triangulation is about moving towards the enemy position on the weak points they have been able to attack you on, not abandoning the aspects of your party's identity that are inspiring and popular and define why it exists as a separate political force. It's about making sure everyone who because of class and economic self interest should vote Labour does not feel alienated from us and vote against their economic self-interest because we are soft on crime, allow our defence policy to be written by CND, or are punitively taxing their hard earned wages.
I think I know how Roy Hattersley feels i.e. standing still in a traditional social democratic position and watching others accelerate past me to positions that don't seem to have any ideological roots in Labour - be that Labour right, left or centre.
Apologies for the rambling nature of this post and its weak punctuation. Sometimes only a stream of consciousness will do.