Tuesday, May 09, 2006

It's time for the Left to stand up again


Well, perhaps Mr A. C. L. Blair does read this blog, for he has all but announced that the clock is ticking. Following last night's meeting with backbenchers, in which they are believed to have demanded a timetable, he has apparently pretty much indicated that he'll stand down next year. That same Guardian report claims that only four MPs spoke in Blair's favour, while seventeen spoke against him. Which I would say matches the mood of the public pretty well.

Poor Tony. No eclipsing of Thatcher. No triumphal exit from Downing Street, his popularity intact, hordes of wellwishers crying: "Don't go, Tony, we love you, we need you!" (although no doubt some activists will be hired on the day for precisely that purpose, just as they were when he first came to power).

And today a Populus poll puts Labour down at 30%, their lowest showing since 1992 (what's interesting is that Cameron still can't break 40% even with the government on the ropes - and even the bookies are not writing off Labour's chances in 2009 - but let's save that for another time).

What's interesting is all the talk of the 'hand-over' of power to Brown. Didn't the Tories partly run into trouble last year precisely because Howard was made leader unopposed (and therefore unelected)? Didn't it give the impression that the Tory leadership was a poisoned chalice - or, on the other hand, that no one else was up to the job? Brown may enjoy a glorious coronation (although there's no evidence that he'll really be given enough time to hit the ground running as Prime Minister) but won't the voters feel that their national leader has been imposed on them? At least Major came to power by way of an election. His popularity must have been boosted not only because he was not the hated Thatcher but because he suddenly acquired the air of a winner (and how quickly that rubbed off).

Should there be a leadership contest? On the one hand, it will make Labour look divided. It will also run the risk of a Blairite candidate emerging, to spoil the fun for Wee Gordie. On the other hand, it means the possibility of a candidate emerging from the Left, a genuine Old Labour candidate, someone to represent the party I joined in 1992, not the one I left in disgust in 2000. Who that could be I don't know, and I invite speculation.

Brown's premiership will be no different from Blair's - it will just lack the charisma. We will still have PFI projects, we will still have the anti-terrorism laws, we will still have British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will still have CIA rendition flights using British airspace, we will probably still have ID cards (although I'm hopeful that they'll be quietly ditched, given that Brown knows exactly how much they're really going to cost). Can the Left really not organise someone at least to put forward a true socialist vision, in which public investment means money going to the people and places that really need it and not to management consultants, in which personal freedom and privacy is respected and not interfered with in the name of 'security', in which American and British international interests are not automatically regarded as synonymous? That candidate may not win the election, but at least he or she would give an opportunity to those who share those ideals but who haven't yet torn up their membership cards (if such people still exist)? The Left seems to be convinced that Brown is some sort of socialist saviour, where in fact he's just Not-Blair. Just as Prodi's coalition in Italy is held together by virtue of being Not-Berlusconi, so the Left risks being snared up with disgruntled Blairites, economic eggheads, besuited policy advisers and dour Scots who are all united by being Not-Blair but who nevertheless share many of New Labour's ideologies.

Get someone to stand. It doesn't matter who he or she is, as long as s/he can articulate a true left-wing direction for the party. It would remind Brown that not everyone he is claiming to lead works in the securities industry or privately-run energy companies. Hell, even if the candidate loses (and s/he probably will) at least there'll have been a platform. At least there'll be an extra name on the ballot paper. Drop me a hint now, please, so I can rejoin the party now and qualify for the vote in a year's time.

(I see the undermining of Brown has begun. Is Blair really so full of himself that he's prepared to sink the whole boat just because they won't let him wear the captain's hat any more? Possibly.)


Blogger Philip said...

Your html brackets are the wrong shape. Mnnyahahahahahahahaaah. That is what comes of being a herbivore.

6:35 pm  
Blogger Oscar Wildebeest said...

That's what comes of frequenting messageboards which use a different code from HTML.

Anyway, by the time people read this I will have corrected the error, so no one will know what you're talking about. Who's got the last laugh now, Challinor, eh?

11:35 am  
Blogger Philip said...

(Gazes across the veldt)

People? What people?

9:38 pm  
Blogger Oscar Wildebeest said...

Hey, you wanna stay on my blogroll? I can play nasty, too, y'know...

9:52 am  

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