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.

Monday, August 02, 2010

In pity of John Kampfner

When John Kampfner announced he was supporting the Lib Dems five months ago, I was angry with him.

Now I just pity him.

He has managed to write one of the most muddled apologia for a political misjudgement I have ever read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/01/queasy-but-dont-regret-lib-dems

He dressed up his original defection by claiming he was being true to the political legacy of the late Robin Cook, whose biographer he was.

I can't claim to have known Robin as well as Mr Kampfner did, but I can imagine the disdain he would have felt for the Coalition government and its policies and horror he would have felt about anyone using his name as a justification for continuing to back the Lib Dems.

The nearest that John can come to criticising the Coalition or apologising for his own role in undermining Labour and making it possible is to say "a number of attributes and decisions of this coalition government have left me feeling queasy". "Feeling queasy"? "Feeling queasy"? Surely a slightly more profound reaction is required to the economic lunacy and sheer social barbarism of embarking on the fastest, deepest cuts to public services in post-war British history, bringing in regressive tax changes, and risking shutting down our fragile recovery. Surely the correct reaction of anyone from what Kampfner calls the "left-liberal" tradition in Britain is boiling fury and anger and a pledge never to forgive the Lib Dems for betraying their values, not "feeling queasy"?

I don't feel "queasy" about the schools that won't be built, or the jobs that will be lost, the lives ruined, the life chances rubbed out, the communities that will be destroyed by the Tories and their new Lib Dem sidekicks. I feel utter revulsion, contempt and a great desire for political revenge.

But wait... John has a list of things that he thinks balance out the minor quease-inducing matter of the total kicking being delivered to our economy and public services. Yup that's all worth it - a price partly worth paying - when you get fulfilment of a wish list that includes "the tone" being "more liberal" (when your kid's school doesn't get rebuilt or you lose your job, you will at least have the consolation of the announcement having had a "liberal hue"), "the abandonment of ID cards and the third runway at Heathrow" and the possibility that Trident, "this grandiose folly might over time wither away."

It must be really nice to live a life where your primary concerns about government policy are about airport runways, ID cards or nuclear deterrence, rather than the life most of us lead where not losing our jobs, and having local schools, hospitals, police and bin-collections that actually do the job they are supposed to are slightly higher priorities.

This may come as a surprise to John but there are lots of people in the Labour Party who share his views on the matters he cites. But they think the way to get those policy changes is by changing the Labour Party, not by getting into bed with the Tories. And they don't think that the destruction of jobs and public services is a price worth paying for their beliefs on other matters. And then there are some of us who can actually make a progressive, indeed a "left-liberal" case for knowing the identity of our citizens, deterring aggressors and boosting our economy through extra airport capacity. But that's another argument for another day...

John says Clegg "must have some battles and win them" with Cameron. But the ones he cites are limited to civil liberties and constitutional reform. Why won't Clegg fight inside the Coalition to reduce the cuts package or to protect social justice?

John asks is Labour "a tribe"? Yes. We have a tribal memory of what the Tories did in the 1930s and 1980s and that means that unlike the Lib Dems we would never acquiesce in a reenactment of those dreadful decades.

John concludes "so far, so bearable". He must be living in a different country under a different Coalition to me. So far for me, this is unbearable. I cannot bear the waste and senselessness of this government's policies. There are many millions of people who will have to bear the burden of John's conscience on "Iraq and banks" and its propulsion of him into the arms of the Lib Dems and via them the Tories through worse public services, unemployment, inequality, poverty, deprivation and possibly premature death.

He says he feels "comfortable, though not complacent" with the decision he took. He ought not to be able to sleep at night.


Anonymous Justin Hinchcliffe said...

Are you not going to even report the sad death of Cllr. Middleton? Can you not bring yourself to say a few nice word about her?

11:32 am, August 02, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


I wasn't going to report it because I didn't think this blog was the appropriate forum.

I wrote privately to the Conservative councillors in Hackney to express my condolences.

Cllr Middleton was very kind to me, as were all the Conservative Group, while I was ill last year.

We didn't agree on much but I respected her because she was an absolute stalwart fighter for New River Ward and her constituents.

I'm very sorry to hear of her death.


11:50 am, August 02, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps John Kampfner might reflect on the following words-

" That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were."

A virtual pint for those who can identify who, where, and when.
And the satisfaction of knowing how very relavent they are today.

Indeed substitute David Cameron for Lord Woolton and any remotly leftish blogger has a ready made text.


2:18 pm, August 02, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is, if I am not mistaken, Mr A Bevan, although I am afraid that mine is a glass of dry white.

9:22 pm, August 02, 2010

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

I don't like this lazy counterposing of the argument that says they're are only two types of people on this argument: those 'not living in the real world' who care deeply about trident, civil liberties, green issues etc; and 'people at the sharp end' who don't, because they're bearing the brunt of cuts and lowering living standards. It's a false dichotomy, intellectually lazy and just plain untrue.

That said, the LibDems are deploying it, in effect, more than anyone now. Who cares, they say, about shafting the people at the bottom, and buying discredited Tory economic orthodoxy wholesale, we did some nice things about ID cards (which the Tories would've done anyway). It's why, as Luke says, I'm in the Labour party and would never have owt to do with the LDs

All socialists and Labour people should care about all these issues. Fighting for one without the other limits us.

10:50 pm, August 02, 2010

Anonymous Rich said...

Well the latest poll puts the Lib Dems on just 12%. As soon as the lib dems start to fall apart Cameron will call an election and will probably win outright if current polls are to go by.

This is why Labour need to sort themselves out quick. The leadership contest is too boring and taking too long.

Also Labour lost the argument for spending during the election. You need to draw a clear line what the difference is between the conservatives and Labour when it comes to spending.

11:36 pm, August 02, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point about ID cards is that they were on their way out regardless of the election result. Brown's announcement at the last LP conference they would not be comulsory was effectively their death knell - even had Labour got back in, they would have been one of the first casualties of the cuts programme.......

JK also (of course) mentions Iraq - the very same war which the dominant coalition partner OVERWHELMINGLY supported!

Kampfner is a dickhead, nuff said :-(

12:55 am, August 03, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

Agree with all you say, Luke. It was actually quite pitiful to read, so threadbare were his justifications

1:29 am, August 03, 2010

Anonymous Ben said...

Good, tub thumping stuff. In my personal opinion Kampfner's cringeworthy slithering is doubly pathetic and disgusting because he quite frankly has diametrically the wrong view on all of the issues he cites, whether economic or civil libertarian/greeney, with the possible exception of ID cards, which I find positively yawn-inducing as an issue and impossible to get het up about one way or another.

1:53 am, August 03, 2010

Anonymous Nicky said...

Well said, Luke. Kampfner's article before the election was misguided, and his idiotic dismissal of everything Labour had achieved was an absolute travesty. Kinnock wrote a good letter to the Graun in response which demolished JK's argument. However, at least then Kampfner had some sort of excuse - naivety and going with the more lefty-than-thou herd. For him to now try and justify his decision is (as you say) frankly pitiful.

If he feels 'queasy' now (what a nimminy-pimminy choice of word!) - just imagine the Mr Creosote scale of vomiting once it finally sinks in what his beloved LibDems have let us all in for.

11:56 am, August 03, 2010

Anonymous Nicky said...

@ Anon: Aneurin Bevan, July 1948. He'd faced relentless opposition from the usual suspects regarding the setting up of the NHS, which accounts for the white-hot fury of his words.

Apparently Tory supporters responded to being called 'lower than vermin' by posting dog shit through his letterbox, amongst other things - which wasn't going to help him alter his opinion.

Thanks for the virtual pint

12:06 pm, August 03, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone else has said ,it's good tub thumping stuff,and they call you a right winger?.
Theres been a few articles over the last few days of why we should not be beastly and nasty to our friends and colleagues in the Lib Dems after all they are the 'progressives' in the Con Dem govt,well all Im going to do is point them over here to read your article ,there seems to be a range of opinion in the Labour Party that says we should unleash a six pack of whopp ass on the Lib dems,and none too soon in my opinion.

12:54 pm, August 03, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicky, anon and others

Nye Bevan his Speech on 3 July 1948 at the Bellevue Hotel, ~ on eve of the entry into force of the National Health Service.

Moderate White Wines, and pints, all round.

Yes and if Jenny Lee's biography is to be believed it was a race between her and Nye each morninmg to remove the more objectional objects from the doormat.

Looking at some of the coments on this site the Tories and thier followers do not change.


1:09 pm, August 03, 2010

Anonymous Ian Kingston said...

I met Robin Cook a couple of times very briefly and I cannot truly claim that I really knew him. I do however believe that he had differences with the Labour Party in the same way that I have had (as a party member for 19 years) but there is one one thing that I am sure of is that he would have rolled in his grave, if he saw the antics of our fair weather "friends" in The Guardian who urged the left to vote for the Lib Dems only to find out that the Lib Dems have have got into ministerial Jags Land have pulled dear pulled dear knows how many policy U turns. Until the day I die I wont but the The Guardian again.

10:41 pm, August 04, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Luke made very sincere comments regarding the late Cllr Middleton, I hope Mr Hinchliffe will note that Hackney Conservatives have not mentioned her passing on their website.

10:50 pm, August 04, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic post Luke.You have brilliantly skewered the chattering classes' hypocrisy about the Govt. I care not a jot about the third runway. I care desperately that my sons go to a school which was a temporary build 40 years ago and which will now thanks to Gove will not be rebuilt.

9:48 pm, August 11, 2010


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