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, February 18, 2009

Philip Collins in the Times

Today's piece in the Times by Philip Collins claiming that Labour's "positioning has left it left of sensible" is really pretty tragic stuff - opening with a rather silly personal attack on the PM's motives for supporting greater equality.

Bizarrely, it accuses of lack of radicalism and reforming zeal a string of departments that include many - DCLG, Home Office, DWP - which are run by former Blairites.

I'm agnostic on public service reform issues. When I hear about a public service reform policy that will really deliver better services for ordinary citizens, like city academies, I back it. But when I hear about schemes that appear to offer little improved service delivery at a price of deliberately picking a fight with the unions or our own core supporters, or to be predicated on the basis that every existing public service is the wrong way of doing things, I don't.

Collins seems to have elevated public service reform to an end in itself, not a means to delivering Labour's objectives of equality and social justice.

He has misread a Tory Party that is moving to the monetarist right as having "moved gingerly across the spectrum" to the centre.

The reality is that voters really don't get as excited about the public service reform agenda as policy wonks do. They are interested in the end results - better or worse services - but not the positioning war over who is the more radical reformer.

Collins doesn't seem to get that we only have one Prime Minister and he is a bit busy dealing with the greatest world economic crisis since WW2 to focus on whizzy new reforms that will bring no electoral benefit and probably just cause a fight in our own ranks.

Similarly DWP Secretary James Purnell has been rather too busy making sure Job Centre Plus can deal with the dole queues to keep David Freud on side by pushing the welfare reform agenda.

Public Service Reform is a debate we can come back to when the economy recovers. Or one that departments and ministers not in the economic frontline should just get on with with the minimum of fuss.

In the mean time there's a more urgent task and voters would see any distraction from it into a "my reform is more radical than your reform, I've slain more sacred cows that you have" as frivolous and disconnected from reality.

Labour's focus on finding Keynesian solutions to the economic crisis isn't "left of sensible", it's the only sensible response to a crisis of this magnitude. Collins' obsession with the minutiae of a policy agenda that isn't where the debate or the reality in the country is at, and with point-scoring attacks on Brown based on yesterday's battles, is miles from "sensible" positioning. Someone needs to tell him that he is acting like the ultra New Labour equivalent of Japanese soldiers found in the jungle in the 1970s refusing to accept the Emperor had surrendered. Describing a Government with Peter Mandelson in it and Alastair Campbell advising it as "left of sensible" is evidence of Philip having lost the plot.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with this. Collins lives in a fantasy world - along with demos colleague richard reeves among others - in which voters are sat there every morning thinking about the mechanisms of public service delivery. in all my years of canvassing no one has ever said to me 'i would vote labour but i just dont think you're offering us enough co-production/choice/voice/blah blah'. One of TB's great errors was to think that PS reform would become an emblematic issue that would define his premiership - instead it became an ideological distraction that upset natural labour supporters without winning any additional traction with the electorate. Phil collins should put us all out of our misery and join the 'progressive conservative party' - they are welcome to him.

10:50 pm, February 18, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

Agree with that. I actually think it would make sense to just shelve the welfare reform bill - it does us no favours and its unenforceable in any case under present circumstances

1:00 am, February 19, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Common sense is required so the WRB should be scrapped ASAP!

Labour need to be careful as for years and years the party has taken for granted the trade union links and membership. The green party has quite a strong trade union section which is growing, as they are the party for nationalisation and have a similar policy to Labours lost cluase 4 (a big mistke to abolish clause 4?)

2:34 am, February 19, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A similar kind of line from Jon Cruddas in today's independent.


10:48 am, February 19, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"David Cameron steps in. He says that he wants to give people the power to instigate referendums on, for example, council tax increases. He wants to change the assumption that local authorities should have to beg Whitehall for permission to act. He wants a referendum on elected mayors in the big cities. An imaginative Labour party should be exploring all these ideas."

Correct me if I'm wrong but if the Tories in Birmingham, for example, wanted to hold a referendum on a directly-elected mayor, aren't the already able to do so under the existing laws brought in by Labour?

11:39 am, February 19, 2009

Blogger anonymous said...

If Cruddas is so concerned about what is going on, then why didn't he accept a place in Gordon Brown's new government in 2007 in order to influence events?

2:15 pm, February 19, 2009

Blogger Tom said...

Probably because he thought accepting a place in Gordon Brownn's government would remove any influence he had on events.

2:37 pm, February 19, 2009

Blogger anonymous said...

Well you can hardly make things to what you see as better if you can't be bothered with the responsibilities of power. Perhaps he is just scared of real responsibility. It's not so easy when you have to make real decisions.

4:41 pm, February 19, 2009

Blogger Tom Ogg said...

According to what you say you're a pragmatist, not an agnostic, Luke....

5:43 pm, February 19, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Collins clearly lives in his world of mainstream myopia-driven by his own careerism. The Labour Party, Tories and Lib Dems aren't interested in anything 'radical'. They continue to insult the intelligence of those who buy into this charade/theatre show called Politics.Corporations and the rich elite dictate what these puppets do.

6:38 pm, March 24, 2012


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