I had this on Labour Uncut in April.
When was the last time a Labour leader uncompromisingly made the pro-EU case in a head-to-head dual with Nigel Farage? Or floated licensing “head shops” for the sale of drugs? Or offered free sex to everyone in the former Yugoslavia?
According to the Guardian’s summary of today’s PMQs, David Cameron asked at 12.09pm what Labour’s plans are, implying that we don’t have any, and at 12.12pm he claimed that Labour’s cuts weren’t going to be that much different to those of the coalition.
Which is it? Does Labour not have a plan (as per Cameron’s question at 12.09pm) or does Labour have a plan containing cuts comparable to those of the government (as per his argument three minutes later)?
Labour, of course, returned to opposition after being in government for 13 years in May. At this time, however, Labour also regained control of 8 London boroughs, including Southwark. This means that Labour now controls 17 London boroughs, as compared with the Tories who control 11 and the Liberal Democrats who control 2.
How this strength in local government can be a springboard to Labour regaining power nationally was a recurring theme at yesterday’s Southwark Labour Party conference. The conference was well attended and brought together both seasoned and new activists, who, while still visibly delighted to have returned to power in Southwark, are fearful of what the Tory-Lib Dem coalition cuts will mean for their communities and the borough.
I wrote for Labour Uncut today on the challenge for the new shadow chancellor.
The Labour leadership election will, finally, end on 25 September. But the identity of the shadow chancellor will be unknown until 7 October, when the results of the shadow cabinet election are announced. 13 days after this the new leader and shadow chancellor will lead our response to the comprehensive spending review. “It is”, as a leadership contender has said, “an incredibly tight timetable for the new leader and their shadow chancellor to map out a policy that might yet determine how we are viewed for the rest of the parliament.”
Good overview of the polls since the PBR from Danny Finkelstein:
“Before the PBR, You Gov gave the Tories a 5 per cent lead, now it is 6 per cent; Populus gave the Tories a 6 per cent lead before and a 4 per cent lead now; Mori gave the Tories a 3 per cent lead before and a 6 per cent lead now; ICM gave the Tories an 11 per cent lead before the PBR and a 15 per cent lead in their last poll.
Craig Brown’s re-imagining of the first meeting between a Labour Prime Minister and the monarch captures something of the relationship between Labour and the establishment. “The King was desperate to keep Ronald MacDonald on side, so he hired a labourer’s uniform to welcome him to the Palace. Carrying a chimney brush and a whippet, clad in grubby overalls, a flat cap and clogs, his face blackened with soot, King George was taken aback to find Ronald MacDonald on bended knee, dressed up to the nines in top hat, white tie and tails. The King breathed a sigh of relief. He suggested that he and MacDonald might feel more comfortable switching uniforms. Within seconds, revolution was averted and social order was restored”.
Not only under MacDonald has Labour’s threat to the established order quickly given way to an affirmation of it after being gently fettered and feathered. The claim that Tony Blair’s premiership embraced this tendency was epitomized by the tag Tony MacBlair (in reference to Ramsey, not Ronald). Denis MacShane recently bemoaned the lack of a great novel for the New Labour era. He perhaps did so in ignorance of Blake Morrison’s South of the River, which is for the Blair years what Martin Amis’ Money is for the Thatcher years. Here the terror that MacBlair once instilled in the establishment is illustrated by a character exclaiming on the 2nd of May 1997: “He can do what he likes, with that majority. Nationalise the banks. Cream off profits. Tax us all to ruin”.
30 September 2008, Consultation Response to: “From public sector to public service: Putting citizens in control, A Green Paper from the Progress Policy Group on Public Service Reform”
Amongst the most striking and impressive of the sentences contained in From public sector to public service: Putting citizens in control are the following:
It is not passive consumers but active citizens who can contribute a new dimension to improving public services. What we propose is not some sort of crude pandering to consumerism. Instead we believe the principal objective of reform should be to empower the individual citizen.
My contribution to this Progress consultation will be some considerations on this statement.
The statement is defensive in that it seems to anticipate the criticisms which the authors suspect will be leveled at them. These anticipated criticisms appear, most particularly, to be concerned with an excessive reverence for market mechanisms or quasi market mechanisms. It would take a particularly jaundiced interpretation of the paper to conclude that the authors see such mechanisms as ends, rather than means. However, the most vitriolic reactions to From public sector to public service: Putting citizens in control will doubtless come from those who interpret the policy means advocated as ends themselves. Thus, the paper and the statement pitch into a recurring debate on the left. Fifty years after Eduard Bernstein first did so, Tony Crosland urged the proper distinction between ends and means. “The only ends of socialism”, argued the Crosland-ite Roy Hattersley in the 1980s, “are justice and equality. Everything else is means”.
Saturday 20 September, Labour Party Conference Diary
Train heave on to Euston”, once sang one of Manchester’s favourite sons. My reverse journey began with a blizzard of Cabinet Ministers: Hilary Benn, suited and booted, and seemingly fretting about his ticket; John Hutton, relaxed in both dress and in his ability to emerge from a long queue at W. H. Smith’s with a newspaper in time for his train. He may have read the Mirror editorial proclaiming that Labour faces “one of the most important conferences in its proud history”. Many of the pivotal moments in Labour’s history have been forged in the fiery furnace of conference. So the journey north was charged with anticipation and occasion.
“Kill the body and the head will follow”, says old boxing wisdom. The struggles of Gordon Brown and the grumbles of all sections of the Labour Party might seem a portent of the reverse: that the blows inflicted upon Brown will not just produce his demise but expose bitter wounds within the Party. Sadly, this would not be the first time that Labour has so acquainted itself with the political canvass.