This has been one of the weirdest 10 days or so in politics for some time, and pretty much all of the bad stuff has happened to the Tory led coalition government.
The Budget was always going to be a toughie for George Osborne – but because everyone knew that, to an extent the disharmony arising from it was likely to have been discounted by the spin doctors in advance. So the Tory press were at the ready, ready to tell us what a good job he’d done, protecting the most vulnerable in a time when nothing he did was going to please many people, but he’d done his best – blah blah …
It didn’t happen though.
He made a public relations catastrophe out of cutting the 50p tax rate (even though it’s deferred a year, even though it’s almost an article of faith for Tory rank & file, and even though it’s quite obviously been a hand grenade with a long fuse lobbed by Gordon Brown in the dying days of the Labour Government, designed to cause maximum embarrassment to the Tories).
Catastrophe number two – the Granny tax – minor adjustment leaving old people worse off – Most people didn’t really understand it – but the perception that the Tories value millionaires over poor pensioners (some pensioners are millionaires too by the way) did not go down well.
And of course Pasty-gate. A relatively minor alignment of an anomaly in VAT – should have been able to have been broken in gently, should have gained fairly little attention, but no – it again emphasises the crass prioritisation of the needs of people who lunch at the Savoy Grill, over those who grab a snack from Greggs in their 30 minute lunch break, and then goes viral – helped in no small part by the laughably pathetic attempts to justify all their moves by the Tory spokespeople who were wheeled out. The arguments about who ate which pasty where, only serving to make the whole thing – and the whole government look more and more ridiculous, and by inference totally incompetent and unable to manage their own public image. The fact that probably the biggest losers as well will not be pasty-munchers, but the entrepreneurial owners of fast food sellers such as Greggs, was again not lost on the Tory press.
Then there’s the Dosh for Dinner with Dave debacle. There we are with the Tory treasurer caught in the act, pretty much with his metaphorical pants down. He knows the jig is up, and he walks, but it doesn’t stop the rest of the senior Tories (minus the PM of course who’s too scared to show his face) frantically trying to defend an undefendable position by doing what ? Well by blaming Labour of course !
Oh yeah, this isn’t about selling your policies to the highest bidder, it’s about Labour getting all that money from the unions. Those big bad unions ruled by unaccountable despots who pay the Labour party to do what they want.
Well actually no it’s not, and the public for once aren’t falling for it, and to their credit neither are the normally sycophantic Tory press – Labour was formed by the Unions, donations to Labour are effectively the aggregation of the many thousands of large donations from working people which are passed to the party – and they still add up to only a fraction of the sums handed to the Tories by their wide boy spiv friends.
Then comes the biggest own goal – Francis Maude, who uses a strike ballot and an up-coming bank holiday as an excuse to panic the whole country into hoarding petrol. Despite the fact that there’s been no strike called, nothing to suggest an imminent strike, and it being very unlikely that one can be called before the holiday weekend.
Throw into that the fact that Unite are quietly and methodically inviting the employers to get in touch with Acas in order to mediate a settlement, and have published their ballot details – which are absolutely overwhelming and on a huge turn out, and the Government starts to look very foolish in deed.
So when in a hole, what do they do ?
Naturally they do what they’ve been trained to do : Blame the mess that Labour left.
Except this time it’s not being swallowed by anyone – even The Mail and The Telegraph are now openly criticising David Cameron and his chaotic management of what isn’t really any kind of crisis, but has turned into something that looks very much like one. The pantomime that’s ensued is reminiscent of the sleazy comic chaos of the worst parts of John Major’s government. A state of affairs that led in no small part to Labour’s landslide 1997 General Election victory under Tony Blair.
So a by-election in a safe North of England seat should be signed sealed and delivered at the end of all this stuff shouldn’t it ?
It was George Galloway that won it – the same creepy egotist that sucked up to Saddam Hussein and Rula Lenska’s outstretched hand.
So how did that happen then ?
A shift in the Muslim vote? a misunderstanding of the depth of feeling over Afghanistan ? George’s brilliant oratory skills (please – it’s just not true)
Well I don’t really know – but what I do know is that it could only happen if Labour hadn’t royally messed up.
What we have is a Government that is as unpopular as Thatcher’s ever was, as chaotic and sleazy as John Major’s government ever were. More than that though – where Margaret Thatcher’s unpopularity in some quarters was unbounded. It was matched by hero worhip in others. There’s no such mandate for David Cameron – he didn’t even manage an overall majority. Even the Tories don’t like him.
In contrast to Thatcher, The Cameron government sneaks in right wing ideological change in the guise of sorting out a fictitious “mess” left behind by Labour, or on a pretext of austerity. Margaret Thatcher didn’t do that – she said what she was going to do, and she went ahead and did it – to applause and boos in roughly equal measure.
In Dave Cameron’s pantomime though there are only boos – even his loyal Tory Press are now rounding on the Government incompetence.
Which makes it all the more worrying that Labour can’t hold on to a safe seat.
So at the end of this almost unprecedented period of British politics, I have unfortunately got to conclude that our leadership in the Labour Party is not delivering.
Ed Miliband – I will always be loyal to the party leader, and wish that the rest of the party would be too; but the Bradford West by election is one which Labour should and could have won. The conditions for victory could scarcely have been more favourable for the party.
So Ed, I think you really need to do something very dramatic now to inject momentum into the party’s fortunes. I don’t know what form that should take – but if we approach the General Election with the same kind of leadership that we approached the Bradford West by election , then we will probably lose it.
There are probably lots of lessons from the Bradford by-election – but one that is clear is this : However badly the Tories and Lib Dems mess up, and however un popular they are, it’s still no guarantee that Labour will benefit.
Please Ed. Get it sorted.
- Why conventional Westminster wisdom is wrong about Bradford (liberalconspiracy.org)
- Bradford West By-election (wmmbb.wordpress.com)
- Bradford West by-election: 5 initial thoughts on an astonishing result (libdemvoice.org)
- How Labour lost Bradford West (newstatesman.com)
- +++ Labour crashes to sensational Bradford West by-election defeat to George Galloway (libdemvoice.org)
- Pasties and a 250 G Sting (hopisen.com)
- We don’t need George: we have hope (burdzeyeview.wordpress.com)
- Why the odds are against a Tory majority (newstatesman.com)
- Galloway stuns Labour in Bradford West (newstatesman.com)
- George Galloway – The Bradford Spring (olivermeredithcox.wordpress.com)
There have been a flurry of rumours on Twitter and on the internet more generally that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died, or is about to.
All so far have proved to be false, but have already shown that there are many – particularly within the Labour fold, that will almost literally dance for joy when she finally does pop her clogs.
I’ve despised her for many years. I won’t be dancing on her grave though – displays of joy at the demise of other human beings only serve to upset people further, and such displays will only weaken the public opinion of Labour.
Many on the left see Margaret Thatcher as possibly the most despised figure in politics in recent memory. She’s certainly the one I despise the most.
We should beware of deluding ourselves though. The real reason why so many people dislike her, is actually because so many more people thought that she was the best thing since sliced bread.
It’s also common place amongst certain Labour supporters to decry Tony Blair as some kind of demon as well.
Perhaps some people think he is. Most do not.
You’ll often hear people say that “Everybody hates Manchester United”
Why ? It’s because they’ve been the most consistently well supported, and most successful club of recent years. It’s because they’re so popular with so many, that they are so unpopular with a few. (And I’m certainly no Manchester United supporter)
The most popular, and the most significant post-war Prime Ministers have without a doubt been Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.
Whether you like them or not, it is an inescapable truth that there are many millions who did – and probably still do.
So I’m just saying !
UPDATE : The morning after writing this, I get David Milliband’s latest leadership email https://www.taomail.co.uk/labour-emails/web/100586/2168/2168/4/157/138869/6c9f25fffc902659faad22345e2dc0f1/ which I have to say covers a lot of the same ground as my post. He’ll be in my top two – still pondering about Ed Balls though
A bit of a rant this but I need to get it off my chest : –
Back in the days between Margaret Thatcher being elected in 1979, and Tony Blair being elected in 1997, politics wasn’t a great deal of fun for anyone who wasn’t a Tory.
The Tories to me lacked all conviction. No ideology, no guiding principles, other than make as much money as you can, protect your own people and to hell with all the rest.
They did however have a strong grasp of tactics and PR, and as unpopular as they were with me and many like me – that’s how popular they were with those who did vote for them. For every one of us that thought Maggie Thatcher was the wicked witch of the west, there were a band wagon load of Tories who thought that the Sun shone out of her proverbial.
If Labour were the main party of opposition they did a poor job of showing it. What we were treated to was a party that seemed intent on tearing itself apart – and more or less did. With the likes of Degsy Hatton and Militant, with the Campaign for Social Democracy led by Shirley Williams and the Gang of Four – which of course led to the breakaway SDP – condemning Labour (and any non-Conservatives) to years in opposition wilderness. There wasn’t much need for the Tories to rip apart Labour – the Labour party did it for them, in-fighting & factionalism were the order of the day
Wind the clock forward a few years and we find the Labour Party about to elect a new leader during it’s first year in opposition, after 13 years in power.
And what do we find. We have arguments about whether to go back to Old Labour, whether to revive New Labour, whether each leadership candidate is Brownite or Blairite, or in favour of a Core Vote Strategy. We have countless pundits slagging former Prime Minister Tony Blair off, we have supporters of Tony Blair slagging Gordon Brown off. Throw in a few nasty comments from Peter Mandelson – and the predictable backlash – and it all starts to add up to an 80’s style Labour Hara-Kiri fest.
Can we all get a bit of perspective on this please ?
New Labour – it was new for the 1997 election – well over a decade ago – it’s not new anymore. Whether you love or hate New Labour – it’s time to move on
Tony Blair isn’t the leader anymore – neither is Gordon Brown. They both did good things, they both did things that weren’t so good – Get over them ! They are quite literally – history !
I will say this though – Labour has to be the party which represents all people. Not just the poor, not just the workers, not just the under privileged. Everyone. If not, then every time someone is helped out of poverty or disadvantage, then they’ll have no choice but to abandon the party.
For me the broad church nature of the Labour Party should enable us to ensure that we can be the party that works for all people, not just some, and that we can secure votes from all sections of the public in future.
So whoever you vote for in the Leadership ballot, please remember what it says on the back of your membership card : “by the strength of our common endeavours we achieve more than we achieve alone”
For me that means fighting the Tories, and not each other.
This morning I came across this image of the world, sent via Twitter. Yfrog – u6c – Uploaded by tjerubbaal
It intrigued me – it shows areas of the world scaled according to their overall Government debt, and coloured according to the debt as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product. It carried the caption from Twitter user @tjerubbaal “Truly disturbing image: are you paying attention @conservatives, @labour, @libdems? Tinkering won’t work.”
The poster is clearly not making a party political point – not between the three main parties anyway. Which is what intrigues me – because I feel quite strongly that the understanding of this issue, is at the heart of the difference between the Labour party and the Conservative party at the current time.
Forget about whether you understand the diagram or not – it’s not particularly easy to comprehend. Just know this – the debt which the country has taken on really is large – as @tjerubbaal points out – some might say disturbing. There’s no dispute amongst the political parties about that.
You could be forgiven though, if you’ve been reading the popular press, or listening to the Conservative election campaign, that this has come about from some bungling incompetence by Gordon Brown & his chancellor Alistair Darling. You would be wrong. the scale of the debt is intentional – and marks the dividing line between the philosophies of the two major UK parties.
The tradition in recent years among Conservatives has been in favour of light touch Government – ‘small government’ as it’s now being sold. The idea being that the key players in the world’s and the nation’s affairs will effectively manage things with least intervention (interference ?) from outsiders like Governments. The ‘market’ we are told will self regulate – it will have times of lean and times of plenty – in Labour-speak times of boom and of bust. The wise prepare for this, and put by in times of plenty/boom to see them through in the lean/bust years.
This approach carries a certain logical appeal. It has a simplistic fairness, but it is harsh because in lean times, the people who suffer the most are the people who are least able to put aside plenty in the boom years – not the entrepreneurs, landowners, and businessmen – but the workers who work for those people. This was the case in the early 1980’s when Margaret Thatcher argued “There is no alternative !” and allowed market forces to work through the hardship of a recession, meaning millions of people faced mid to long term unemployment.
It also has the disadvantage that, as we have seen recently, the market doesn’t always work well in regulating itself, and there are those operating within the market, who take reckless risks, which put the prosperity of whole nations at risk.
The new Labour approach, under the Blair & Brown government, embraced some aspects of the Conservative free market approach. Labour realised that the nation as whole tended to benefit from being a prosperous trader – but sought to smooth out the cyclical peaks and troughs of a totally free market approach, whilst allowing the market to benefit the economy. (It is a significant shift from a traditional socialist approach).
No return to boom and bust was Gordon Brown’s mantra as chancellor – one which is now often ridiculed.
It was however a highly successful approach – but it fell foul of a factor over which no chancellor can truly have control – the UK economy is not isolated from the World economy. We can dampen the effects of the outside world, we can ignore them for a time, but ultimately we are interdependent with the economies of every other nation, and we are prone to the booms and busts of their economies as well as our own.
As Gordon Brown yesterday acknowledged one of the errors which was made was to grant the financial institutions too much freedom, and provide too little intervention (interference ?) in their affairs. BBC News – Brown admits he made a mistake over bank regulation . The unfettered actions of those institutions then led in large part to the Global recession from which we are now slowly recovering.
For the Conservatives then to blame Gordon Brown for the recession is grossly unfair – in the first place the errors to which he admits, are ones which any Conservative chancellor would have been clamouring for – small Government, free market, and giving business the opportunity to manage its own affairs. These are actually the self same philosophies which the Conservatives wish to re-impose.
Secondly to blame Gordon Brown for the actions of banks, because he didn’t regulate them is akin to blaming householders, who didn’t have the right locks or alarm systems for having their house burgled. Sure they could have made things more difficult for the burglars – but the blame lies with the house breakers. Similarly, whether regulated or not, financial institutions in Britain and around the world, took irresponsible actions which have affected everyone.
Personally though I don’t feel it’s helpful to apportion blame – we are where we are. What is important is how we react to this. This brings us back to the debt which Gordon Brown has incurred.
Margaret Thatcher said “There is no alternative”. (There is no alternative – Wikipedia, )
She was wrong – Gordon Brown has shown this. His actions have been taken to dramatically reduce the impact of the recession, to prevent long term mass unemployment, to keep the economy active, and to put off the difficulties of repaying to a time when the nation will be more easily able to bear it.
The Conservatives still argue that this is wrong. That things should be left to take their course, and massive cuts in public spending should be imposed as soon as possible in order to hasten the economic recovery – but that this is the only way that recovery can happen. The mass unemployment and prolonged economic hard ship for many are seen as the price that has to be paid.
Whilst blaming Gordon Brown for the recession may be unfair, the Conservatives’ criticism of his borrowing to tackle the recession is not without logic. Their policy is philosophically defensible.
It is however a philosophy to which I do not subscribe, and which I feel is morally reprehensible.
So be in no doubt – that huge debt that is illustrated in the diagram in the link above is not there by accident. It’s there because there is an alternative, and that alternative has protected us from the worst ravages of the recession – which may well still come back to bite us if we are foolish enough to elect a Tory government on May 6th.
[ Just as a test I’ve got Labour’s Eddie Izzard election video – let me know if you can’t see it ]
Since posting my earlier blog Labour funded by trades unions ? I wonder why ? this evening I’ve spotted a few other things out there.
Notably this on Prodicus blog, Prodicus: Taxpayers gave £12 million to Unite who gave £11 million of it to the Labour Party. moaning about a supposed channelling of £12 Million pounds to Unite vie the Union Modernisation Fund.
Very interesting that Prodicus claims that £12M made it’s way to Unite, whilst Iain Dale claims, Iain Dale’s Diary: The Tories Must Abolish the Union Modernisation Fund that the figure is 4.4 Million. Still what’s £7.6 Million amongst Tory buddies when 50% of teenagers get pregnant ?
Interesting also to see this piece on the FT website Tories would not scrap the union modernisation fund? | Westminster Blog | FT.com which points out a rather different view from David Cameron’s envoy (and former Labour MEP) Richard Balfe – which is presumably shared by David Cameron.
“He played down the cost of the UMF, saying it costs around £12-16 million a year – a drop in the ocean with national debt on course for over £1 trillion.”
The original interview – for Tribune – can be seen here Labour gives taxpayers’ money to unions? Yes, and Tories too, probably… « René Lavanchy’s Blog I’d advise reading both articles – some very interesting points cropping up regarding the barriers that exist to channelling any of the UMF fund into political activity, Tory support for this, and the equal funding for Unions not affiliated to the Labour Party.
Lest we forget, Membership of a trades union is entirely voluntary – thanks (and I do mean that – closed shops are not something I approve of) to Margaret Thatcher, and members can opt out of political funds, and also put themselves up for election.
Other Links :
Left Foot Forward addresses this issue tonight at Stop press: Unions support Labour | Left Foot Forward ;
and the TUC has published information about the Union Modernisation Fund here Trades Union Congress – The Union Modernisation Fund: A Guide To Emerging Learning
I write this seeing news of the opinions polls to be published in the Sunday press being trailed on Saturday night – as has become traditional
There’s plenty of Tory triumphalism about – and who wouldn’t be ? 45% with a clear 19% between them and Labour 19% Tory lead in News of the World/ ICM poll would produce Commons majority of 170. And if the public were supposedly tired of the traditional 2 parties, then there’s no relief at all for the likely benefactors from that disillusionment – the Lib-Dems – who appear to have gone into meltdown.
This seems odd to me though. Last June, at the time of the European elections, it was difficult to find anyone outside the ranks of Labour diehards, to say they would vote Labour – the opinion polls as I recall (& I haven’t checked back – maybe someone would like to) reflected this, and the results at the ballot box did too.
It hasn’t been the same this last couple of weeks though – the conversations I hear on the train, in the staff room, just around and about – have been saying things like what a pillock Andrew Marr was asking Gordon Brown about pain killers.
Things like how much more inspired Gordon Brown was at the Labour party conference than they thought he was.
And when the Conservatives started their conference the floodgates opened and everybody – but everybody – I’ve talked to or overheard talking seems to be worrying about what the conservatives will do if they get elected, going on about how bad it was under Margaret Thatcher, and wondering how we could do anything to avoid it. I really have sensed a big change in the general mood.
The polls though don’t seem to show this – exactly the opposite in fact. Which bewilders me. So much in fact that I really don’t believe them.
OK – I’m a Labour supporter, and I admit that it’s hard to stomach bad news, I concede also that there’s always an element of wishful thinking in judging the political mood of the nation. It just doesn’t feel right though – I’ve been around a while and seen polls and governments come and go. The latest poll results feel very out of kilter with what’s happening.
But could Poll results be rigged ? Is it feasible ? Despite my low opinion of some of the news outlets – particularly the Murdoch empire, and the Mail – I’ve always more or less had trust in them not to fake opinion polls.
I just wonder that’s all.
To come back though to those staff room conversations worrying about the Tories, I’ve found it very interesting to hear what people have to say. Particularly as they’ve not been politics geeks like me – or like the people who are likely to read this (sorry but that’s what we are !). Most people have precious little interest in politics until they have to be interested – but those people are the ones whose votes will determine the next Government.
These people seem to be saying that they don’t want the Tories back. They don’t necessarily want Labour either though – although a commonly held opinion seems to be “better the devil you know” . It seems rather that people are instead saying – we want something new and different.
My school site manager put it best I felt (a little paraphrasing here – I can’t remember it verbatim) :
“The government system we have now is the same one we had when Disraeli and all them geezers were around. We’re all walking round with iPhones & lap tops, and they’re calling each other names sitting in an old building. We’ve got all this technology, and we stick with a system that’s hundreds of years old, and involves folding up pieces of paper and sticking it in a tin. The only time I ever use a pencil is when I vote. I don’t want to do this anymore – I want something new and better”
I think there are lessons to be learned from that. I think Labour would do well to heed them. Actually I think all the parties would – I just hope that Labour does it first.
When I was at school I was very into politics. Or I thought I was !
My views were a bit odd. I considered myself Liberal (this was in the late 70’s long before the Lib-Dems). In some ways I was, but my views were stridently left wing. All in all a good mix for an aspiring politician finding his feet in life.
At the West Yorkshire grammar school I attended, there were few others in my 6th Form fired up about politics. There were several people into Rock Against Racism, and proudly wearing Anti Nazi League and “Who Seh ?” and “Go Deh !” badges, but to be honest the badges were the extent of it. People were as likely to wear Anarchist or Red Army Faction badges – with no understanding of what it meant. Neither had we yet twigged that the Socialist Worker Party was not really the benign opponent of the National Front we thought.
No – there were just 3 others : Firstly Yasin – the only Asian in school. He and I were active in promoting Anti Nazi League agendas, including unfair accusations against teachers which got us into trouble, he persuaded me to join the Young Liberals (seriously underwhelming) – before defecting to Labour when he got a chance to appear in a photo-shoot with Shirley Williams as a representative of the Asian Youth Movement ( I suspect another entryist group). I believe he’s now a wealthy city trader, with no political affiliation.
Next up – Adam : The son of a local Tory councillor and well known grumpy old git shop keeper, he distributed leaflets from nutcase far right groups. Despite generally being a very personable lad, he was racist, and blamed the world’s problems on “Paki’s” .
If I’m to cut him any slack, his home (above the shop) was on a street more or less cleared under slum clearance, then re-occupied by large numbers of poorly educated, and generally poverty stricken Asian families. This affected his Dad’s business – more so when the same people set up their own shops offering competition which had never previously existed.
Last I heard he lived in a large converted farmhouse in the South Midlands, no interest in politics, and his Dad’s shop is long since demolished.
Finally there was Andrew who didn’t appear to be political. didn’t distribute leaflets, campaign for anything or wear badges. He listened to Santana records because his friends did – he wasn’t fussed really. He looked smart in his Grammar School blazer, and smiled alot. People liked him. Me too.
As we approached the 1979 election though my opinion changed. I saw the election as my chance to start being a politician (yes I was that naive !) a rehearsal for my forthcoming days at University, when I would inevitably lead the vanguard of the revolution (for the Liberals – are you catching the inconsistencies ?). I campaigned vigorously amongst my fellow A-Level students who would all be voting for the first time. I liked to think that I had the better of the arguments.
Andrew was a funny one though. He was never swayed by my arguments, nor did he just ignore me, nor did he just take the p*** – he calmly countered with what I felt were totally unreasonable arguments, and a hurt look on his face.
Why should my taxes pay for people who can’t be bothered to work ?
Why should someone hardworking like me, have to pay higher taxes than someone who can’t be bothered to do anything but work in a factory ?
Some things were very odd : Why should I carry a Kidney Donor Card ? If I was in an accident the doctors would use my kidney to save someone who probably didn’t deserve it
He made my blood boil – but never lost his cool. Just looked wounded and hurt, like I was being unreasonable.
His clincher was this – He told everyone in the 6th Form that they should vote Conservative. Why ? because we are the elite who will get the elite jobs – it’s in our best interests to vote for our party.
On the 4th May 1979 I woke up to Margaret Thatcher as PM. The Liberals were wiped out, Labour decimated. This time there was a big majority – the see-saw politics of the 70’s was quite clearly over. Some 4 years later I spoke with a friend from school, now an unemployed graduate who told me “I voted Conservative because Andrew told me to. So did everybody else, I just liked him, and he seemed pretty intelligent. “. Of course he now seriously regretted it.
For my part I never really got over the disappointment of that year, and the subsequent collapse of left wing opposition which didn’t really recover until Labour’s 1997 victory – and it’s only in the last couple of months – 30 years later, that I’ve once again had the courage of my convictions to once again join a political party – The Labour Party.
Along the way I did make contact with Andrew, now living in a pleasant part of North Yorkshire, a member of the Conservatives, and married to a teacher working in a private school. As I was at the time the Head of an independent (charity run) special school, I couldn’t resist firing a few barbed comments about the teachers in private schools being largely unqualified, and under paid in relation to the state sector – not that those in my school were. I presumed my acid drops hit the mark, as I received no further comment.
Until a couple of weeks since. Out of the blue another friend from school got in touch via Facebook. We reminisced a little – and I was flattered that he expressed surprise that I hadn’t pursued a career in politics – since I was always so much into the Labour Party (which I wasn’t actually – but that’s how he remembered it). Inevitably we got to talking about Andrew.
Oh yes I see his wife about twice a year –
Why don’t you see him.
Didn’t you know – he died of leukaemia about two years ago !
Once again my adversary had defeated me, but this time I felt no bitterness. Only sadness.
Andrew inadvertently taught me lots of things.
He taught me that I was naive and confused in 1979. He taught me that although all people get a vote, not all people care about how they use it – but all their votes count. He taught me that people don’t always go for the strongest argument. Sometimes they go for the nicest smile or the smartest blazer. He taught me that politics needs principles, but also needs the support of the unprincipled.
Most importantly of all he reminded me that we all have only one life – so we’d better do our best to make a good go of it first time round.
I’m sorry I was unkind to Andrew, he didn’t deserve it and I will miss him. He was a very worthy adversary.
I’ll still be voting Labour though !
If you’ve been watching the political twittersphere since the Norwich North by-election, and probably before, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the next general election is in the bag for the Tories and a lost cause for Labour.
But is it ?
Well no it’s not. There are some fairly recent precedents for saying that. Seasoned hacks may will recall Margaret Thatcher being extremely unpopular at a time when the newly formed Social Democratic Party – headed by the Gang of Four, were streets ahead in the polls. We just couldn’t wait for the election.
But what happened ? Well General Galtieri invaded the Falkland Islands, and Margaret Thatcher invoked the blitz spirit in order to get them back and secure a Conservative government until 1997. Hell it seems had perhaps not quite frozen over – but it was pretty chilly.
Wind forward to 1992, and Thatcher’s successor as both Tory leader and PM – John Major did not it seemed have a cat in hell’s chance against the slick camapaign run by Neil Kinnock. At the time I had a friend working in Conservative Central Office, who even as the votes were half counted was still under the impression that the Conservatives had lost – but they hadn’t. What went wrong ? Who knows – with hindisght we can see that there was a gradual swing over several elections and that the victory which never happened wasn’t quite the potential walk over it seemed.
So what of Brown’s chances. Well while it’s fair to say that a hell of a lot could happen to change the way things look between now and next May. But it is clutching at straws a bit. Short of ending the recession by October, getting the world cup brought forward to April and England winning, and the entire shadow cabinet being convicted of armed robbery – it’s difficult to see what random act of political astonishment will save his bacon.
No – it will have to come from hard slog and convincing people not to vote for the opposition.
How will he do it ? Well it beats me – but one thing I’m certain of, is that it won’t be by lurching to the left.
There are plenty of voices out there amongst the labour bloggerati ready to denounce the Blairite tendency, and speaking of New Labour as the spawn of the devil.
But let’s face facts – to be electable – and to be fair and equitable – Labour must be supportable by all sections of society – not narrowly defined sections such as the “poor” or the “working class” – but everyone who believes in fairness and a just society.
New Labour is no longer new – it’s just a not so old version of old Labour, and for voters who’ll be voting for the first time in the next General Election, there’s no Brownite or Blairite either – there’s just Labour (oh and don’t forget the other parties – these voters have no brand loyalty to our party).
If you exclude what some would call the “middle classes” then you exclude all those people who’ve spent the years since 1997 prospering and becoming part of those classes.
Contrary to what the Tories would have you believe there are quite a lot. I’m one of them – I was brought up in a council house in the heavy woollen district and am now living in the leafy home counties, commuting every day to London where I earn what I’m told is one of the top 5% of salaries in the country. Should make a good story for a Tory supporter I guess, maybe I should vote for them.
Like hell I will – I’ve succeeded because of the measures put in place by Labour Governments – the NHS, access to education, Universities – and so on and so forth. And I’d probably have done better if it hadn’t been for the Tories making me spend a year on the dole in the early 80’s.
So I’m not turning my back on Labour – but I can’t pretend that I’m working class anymore – and I don’t want Labour turning it’s back on me. I’d go so far as to say that even using expressions like “working class” and “middle class” is so counterproductive now as to be inadvisable. Such language pitches us into ground where Tories can accuse us of the politics of envy – and they have some degree of justification for that.
I don’t want to stop other people doing well for themselves – I just want everyone to have the same opportunity to do so, and to make sure that other people don’t suffer because of the prosperity of a small group of privileged individuals.
So somehow Gordon Brown, and his government has to get that across – Labour is for everyone – and everyone can be for Labour. Maybe I’ll blog later about how he might give it a go.
In the mean time I wish him luck – and hope that I can help !