Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Layer 314 . . . The New Politics and The Future of Labour

The New Politics?

I've just realised that nominations for the next leader of the Labour Party have to be in within 6 weeks. This might cause me some problems . . .

But seriously - it's ridiculous. This is guaranteed to favour those who have been around in the last government for some time, even if the leadership election itself isn't till the end of the summer.

John Cruddas has already counted himself out and says he won't stand. Can't say I blame him - he didn't make a very good fist of the deputy leader contest, in which Harriet H far outshone him.

Maybe Harriet will now be persuaded to get involved and fight to reshape Labour as a proper principled social democratic party.

There's lots of silly talk around about how the government coalition will be hoping to push the next reincarnation of Labour well over to the left, where they will be unelectable because they'll fail to appeal to the centrist floating voters. This stems from the fallacy that the opposition in Parliament must oppose everything the government proposes, and must stand on political ground that's distinctively and exclusively their own.

It's now time for grown up politics where issues and policies are debated on their merits, and time for Labour to make it clear they support the new government's proposals as and when they make good sense. In this way they don't need to vacate the centre ground - which is where you'd expect to find overlap between the rival camps.

If Clegg and Cameron are offering fairness and social justice, then Labour need to say so and to support their offer. If C & C propose policies that are unfair and unjust then they should be attacked, and better, democratic socialist, policies should be put forward.

And if the new government, following the example of the Macmillan government, manages to increase the real income of the majority of people and families, whilst holding back the salaries and capital gains of the fat cats, then more power to their elbow, since this was patently not the case under New Labour.


There's a very silly column on the Guardian website today, by Simon Tisdall, under the heading,

Obama's keenness to congratulate David Cameron suggests Washington feels less secure about British support

Oxzen posted this:

Why wouldn't Obama welcome a Cameron-led government into office? On a personal level Cameron has shown he shares some of Obama's intelligence, pragmatism, wit and unflappability, whilst the broader picture is that a liberal Democratic administration and a liberal Conservative-led administration occupy exactly the same political ground. This is in marked contrast to the Blair/Brown goverment that was over to the right - in Bush territory where Chicago-school (non) trickle-down economics, unregulated banking and growing inequality, together with an erosion of civil liberties, were the dominant schools of thought.


I somehow missed this Polly Toynbee column at the weekend. It's worth a read:

Don't rush for a new leader. Labour has to rethink it all

First, the party needs to shed a whole mindset of tribalism and caution – and take a long, hard look at where it went wrong

First, the autopsy and time for necessary blame and contrition. There can be no moving on until Labour people acknowledge so much that has been badly wrong. No "renewal", "fundamental rethink" or "revitalisation" comes from David Miliband getting in and out of his limo to create the "alternative government". If not sackcloth and ashes, this is a party that should be travelling by tube and not wearing the tie of office.

"We are a loyal party by nature," said one cabinet member. Loyal to what? That is a fundamental question. If political tribe comes first in a country that no longer feels tribal, only 65% voting for either old party, Labour will be lost in a future that is transformed, for much the better, into multi-party pluralism.

Look at the new government with open eyes or risk misjudging the moment. There will be plenty to criticise later, but these Conservatives are leapfrogging over Labour to do radical things that Labour never dared – from docking bank bonuses to raising capital gains tax back to 40%, and better green policies. Know the enemy: this is something new. Jon Cruddas gets it: "It's a good thing that we do not have an extreme right government. That helps the centre-left."

Everything moves on. The argument will be between those who think Labour must reclaim the mythical "centre ground" and those who see how far politics have just jumped in a social democratic direction. Will Labour get it on the new pluralism? Neither old party may be able to govern alone again: better government comes from coalitions. Labour's last 13 years would have been much improved by a Lib Dem alliance.

Here is the authenticated list of what Labour offered the Lib Dems: a new levy on banking, the mansion tax on high-priced property, raising personal allowances to the Lib Dems to £10,000 (at the same pace as the Tories offer), no ID cards, the DNA database cut, fixed-term parliaments, an alternative vote referendum Labour would campaign for (the Tories won't), the Wright plans for Commons reform and fair party funding, no third runway at Heathrow, new freedom of information laws, 13 of the 15 civil liberties reforms in the Lib Dems' freedom bill and the pupil premium for poor children. If all that had been policy long ago, Labour would have kept its good civil liberties reputation as the party that brought in the Human Rights Act. Why cling to the third runway, alienating green voters, if it was so unimportant?

New Labour always muffled its messages and triangulated away its strengths. By 1997, the country was ahead of it and expecting more – but Blair restrained radicalism. Even when the country seethed with fury at the greed of bankers and boardrooms – yes, even the Daily Mail – Labour did not dare to attempt radical redress. Fear born in the 1992 lost election trammelled all that they did and said. "Fairness" was meaningless without bold action against the unfairness of entrenched privilege. Markets had to be praised and public services castigated to prove their mastery of the mythical "centre ground". What if there is no such thing – and the winner is the one who best captures the public imagination? Cowardice costs votes.

Profound rethinking takes time: rushing the leadership election is a grave error. Some imagine Tory cuts and fury with Lib Dems will gift power back to Labour. Hard questions need new answers. What went wrong on inequality? Why did 18% of vital C2s defect, angry over their static incomes, housing and immigration? Face the facts: Labour lost badly and needs a jump start, a blood transfusion and every other metaphor for new life it can summon.

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