What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the tag “Labour Leadership”


Much toss is being written and spoken about Maurice Glassman’s  “Blue Labour” witterings, and he seems to have Ed’s ear at the moment…

Clem is all for a bit of Labour nostalgia – how could I not be? Just look at the site name. But Glassman has made some pretty fundamental errors in his analisys of pre-1945 Labour, and has also made a very stupid error in political judgement…

Last year, it was all about the “Red Tory”- Philip Blond’s supposed re-jigging of One-Nation Toryism. I see very little of this in evidence as The Coalition rips the heart from the NHS, attacks minorities and pursues its Monetarist economic agenda with uncommon zeal.

Glassmans response – under the title “Blue Labour” looks for all the world like nothing so much as a pale imitation of failed Policy-Wonkage on the right – never a good move. In fact, it looks suspiciously similar to “The Project” launched in the early nineties by Mandleson, Blair and Brown, now thankfully over, or so we thought…

In truth, the “statism” that Glassman attributes to the 1945 Labour Government was far more complex and subtle than he portrays. And the “golden age” he finds before this date includes most of the major figures of Labours greatest Government. To whit:

” Given the choice between Liberty and Equality, I would choose Liberty every time.” – Ernest Bevin, a major figure in the TUC who pressed for support of the Spanish Republican Government, whilst fighting against stalinist influence withing the TGWU and wider Labour Movement.

Herbert Morrison – as Labour Leader of the London County Council, oversaw the great slum clearances of the 1930s improving Londoners lives for the better, working with Local Authorities, and often in the teeth of Central Government opposition. As a Labour minister, worked with Nye Bevan to create the NHS, which was initially modeled on  locally accountable provision for local needs – Bevan’s ideas for its growth envisaged the Health Centre at the heart of the community, and Community Health Councils – an extension of Municipal Socialism.

Major Attlees own brand of Socialism, rooted in his experiences in the East End and influenced by the Guild school of thought was also deeply patriotic – this man took  Turkish Bullet for goodness sake!  And was one of the two last men off the beach at Suvla Bay.The mainstream of Labour opinion has never, unlike the far Left, been unpatriotic – without Attlee in 1940, Churchill may never have become Leader. Without Bevin, there may very well have been no Attlee. Attlees own conservatism on constitutional issues may be decried now, but you cannot deny his love of Crown and Country, as unaffected and honest as Churchills.

To the end of his days, even an “inveterate peace monger” such as Micheal Foot remained intensely patriotic, and in 1982 his speech calling for war with fascist Argentina was declared the best in the debate – unsurprising from the author of “The Guilty Men” really…

In reality, the 1945 Government had to use the means at its disposal in very tough times to rebuild Britain. The war left us broke and devastated. The economy was already pretty much centrally controlled, and had been for six years, out of necessity. In most legislation in the social sphere, although centrally planned, services were planned to be locally administered and accountable. And it is difficult to question the patriotism of a Government that stood up to Stalin, developed a nuclear deterrent, helped form NATO, fought communism in Greece and Korea, whilst overseeing a massive retreat from Empire, with little help, if any, from our allies, the USA. 

Oh, and there was a Royal Wedding too…

So lets have no more jabber about “Blue Labour”, instead let us revive something that “informed opinion” has long derided – Red Patriotism.


Ahem… (Ed, Alan, Ed…)

In a previous post (http://clemthegem.wordpress/On-snobbery-and-shadow-cabinets), I defended Eds choice of Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor, and attacked the snobbish battalions of  media comentators.

Alan sadly underperformed in his front bench role, but now we have a very good reason why. I really do not want to dwell on what is a personal issue, especially as Johnson has never exhibited the common attribute of British politicians – double standards in personal life. I believe that Alan Johnson stands up as an example of a working class guy made good, through his own talents and good judgement. Those of us who support a Yes vote in the AV Referendum will miss his frontbench support. I wish him and his family well.

So… Balls got the job he wanted all along, hmm…

Well, in one sense, this has worked out very well for both Eds – Miliband gets a competent economist at the helm, who is also a formidable debater in The Commons. Balls gets the job he coveted, in a fashion that makes it hard for Coalition supporters to say it was a stitch-up. After all, who could have predicted this turn of events?

The timing is also good for Labour – as Coalition cuts have started to bite, and are proving ever more unpopular. The debate has moved on from the last Governments’ policies towards what is happening now. I look forward to watching Ed B pummeling Gideon, 14th Earl of Whypaytaxes…

And yet, I really do hope we haven’t heard the last Alan Johnson, a man who lived in the real world before he became a politician.

Ed talks human,Tessa writes nonsense.

Picked up my copy of The Independent on Tuesday, daring rebel that I am, and chanced to see the strangest thing…

Tessa Jowell giving advice to Ed Miliband…

Whilst simultaneously representing Dulwich and West Norwood ( one of the poorest constituencies in Britain), checking her husbands internet porn bill, and justifying the deregulation of gambling, Tessa has found time to ponder why we were defeated in May, coming to a startling conclusion.

Well, I say startling, but thats only if we dont remember her previous highly valued work as the bag lady for the shysters who form the gambling trade, her love affair with high finance, and her ultra-Blairite credentials. Few have ever been as “New” as Ms Jowell, and few could be so wrong.

Tessa takes the evidence from the latest voter survey by Peter Kellner, and the 2009 British Social Attitudes survey, and hey presto, she comes up with a solution thats bang up to date…if that date is sometime in 1996, and you are Tessa Jowell.

Reducing the findings of these two august surveys to bare bones, the findings are as follows:

  • The gap between self-identified class and voting intentions for Labour voters has narrowed dramatically since 1970.Back then, 54% of “Working Class” voters were Labour, and just 22% “Middle Class”. In 2010, it was 33% and 27% respectively.
  • In 2009, 75% of people considered themselves “somewhere in the middle” as regards their Class position.
  • As of today, a massive 70% of voters consider themselves to have no party affiliation.

Jowell’s response to these very salient points is a classic case of reductiam ad absurdio, in which she ignores not only any evidence to the contrary, but also any definition of class save self definition.

My first response was “I can declare myself King of Denmark, it doesn’t make it true”. This sounds silly, but think about it, objectively, Class is really all about power, control, social status and earnings. How much real power do you have at work? Who is your boss? Do you control your budget?Staffing? How much do you earn? How are you seen in your community? Patterns of work have changed enormously since 1970, for technological, social, political and economic reasons.

After much pressing, Ed Miliband defined the “squeezed Middle” as earning between £16,000 and £50,000 per annum – a ridiculously large number of people really, as I doubt that those on £16,000 have the same worries as those on £50,000 on a day to day basis. However, neither end of this spectrum would be considered rich by any standard today, and will often have more in common than those earning, say, over £200,000 a year.

One salient factor missed by La Jowell would be Labours’ retreat from issues of class, and its embracing of theories that see issues of gender, gender identity, race etc as more important. It was the young idealists of Tessas generation, disappointed with the working classes’ refusal top follow their student lead, that led the way to this New labour thinking. They moved from class adulation to marginalising anything to do with what they defined as the white, male working class – as they saw it, the seat of racism, homophobia, sexism etc. in Britain.

Successive defeats of organised Labour in the 1980s encouraged the view that the working class was dead – as if the working class had only ever been a homogenous group – all flat caps, flat vowels and Union membership…

This was never really the case, but in the over educated opinions of Mandy and others, the mantra developed “even if they exist, we despise the working class, unless we can pigeonhole them into a minority”. “They let us down, in 1983, in 1987, and surprisingly in 1992 – quite frankly, we dont care what happens to them – the middle class is where its at – they vote more often, and have grown exponentially since the founding of the Welfare State.”

On the face of it, this has some truth, as we already know that the vast majority of people in Britain today will readily profess membership of the middle class, and have what we would often refer to as middle class aspirations – self-betterment, home ownership, decent education for their kids, and more money.

Yet these aspirations were behind the formation of the Trades Unions during the latter Nineteenth Century, and of the Co-Operative movement. They are “Core values” ( sorry for the management speak) for us, except for the overwheening greed and individualism.

Yet as the working class became less homogenous, and more racially mixed, so the professional middle classes also saw a change. Few today would feel that everyone who works behind the counter at your local bank are automatically middle class, teachers have seen successive governments exert more and more control, whilst seeing their social status in communities plummet.  Social work, once a fairly middle class niche, is now a job where you can exert a substantial amount of control on others, but are constricted by local and central government as to what you can do – one size fits all. Pub Landlords, once upstanding independents, are now mostly waged Managers with little control and much responsibility, or Leaseholders for Pubcos, often earning as little as £75.00 per week.

Many jobs that were once safely middle class are now still white collar, but questionably much more working class in terms of status , hours, perks and control.

Having ditched the working class, Tessa and her ilk decided that it was the middle class for the. Progressively, as those who want power do, they identified the middle class as being a bunch of columnists in the media on £100,000 plus. These people, with much more power than your local GP, were taken to be “middle class’, as has Kate Middleton, a millionaires daughter, from a very (expensive and therefore) good school.

For Tessa, all that matters is an outdated view of class, and to pander to a mythical middle class, best represented as being somewhere between Terry and June and Tom and Barbara Good. This is as silly as expecting the massed ranks of the Trades Unions to suddenly re-appear and bring the country to a halt.

What she fails to understand are the shifts in class position of many white collar jobs, the shared interests of those who are nearer the bottom of the pile than the top.

Sadly, Ms Jowell wishes to repeat the mistake of ignoring those at the bottom, for fear of losing a tiny number of those at the top…

A reasonably bad idea…

Ed Milibands proposals for the reform of party funding warrant careful consideration, and not just by Labour members…

Now as I understand them, Ed is proposing that ALL donations to ALL parties should be capped at, say £500 per individual and organisation, thus ending at a stroke the vast sums of money that the Tories get from companies, and the reliance on Trades union funds for Labour. There is also the suggestion of increased State funding for parties who reach a certain threshold of votes.

This seems reasonable, and will play well with Lib Dems, but is this really a good idea? I am not so sure.

Firstly, I am deeply suspicious of State funding – why should Lady P pay for my party, and me for hers? What if the BNP or Respect cross the threshold? How could Mebbyon Kernow ever hope to do so? Parties should never be too enmeshed with the State, and the status quo, to challenge it effectively.

As for the cap, well on the face of it, fair enough, although as with taxes, we know that the rich and big business will simply get round this – probably through U.S. style Political Action Committees (PACs), “in support” of their favourites. WiddecomePAC anyone?

Now as to Trades Union political funding, here I believe that Ed has got it utterly, balls-achingly wrong.

His proposals fundamentally misconstrue the history and roots of our Party, and its birth. we were born as the political expression of the Unions, as well as various Socialist and reform-minded groups, throughout our history, this link has been beneficial to both the Party and the country – after all, Ernie Bevin , Nye Bevan and many others rose to prominence firstly through their Trades Union work. Without Bevin, my hero Clement Richard Attlee could have been deposed by Mandelsons’ Grandad – and you think he is insufferable now! Truth to tell, big business and the rich have two parties to play with, so now more than ever, we must preserve our links to organised Labour.

There should always be a link to the Trades unions, full stop. That this link should be democratically accountable on an annual basis at Union Conferences, with a vote of all the membership who pay the political levy would be an admirable point to make.

A similar measure for big business would see them publish yearly accounts of all moneys paid to parties and lobbyists, which would then be in the public eye, and voted on at annual shareholders meetings.

The last measure Ed has suggested is a further dilution of  the already weak power that ordinary members have – namely giving a 25% share in Leadership elections, and possibly candidate selections to a nebulous group of “registered Labour supporters”. Now this is hugely open to abuse at both national and local levels, and would encourage yet further U.S. style caucus politics, where the central Leadership all too often control candidate selection. Be warned, this is what lead to the Tea party…

So Ed, please, think again.

I suggest that the rest of us inundate his email with our opposition to this…

Clem’s Christmas Roundup

It was (almost) Christmas Eve  babe,

and in the drunk tank,

an old man said to me,

” I could go nuclear…”

So time to take stock of the year, and consider the good and bad that we’ve been through…

First of all, losing the election has been a massive blow, yet Gordon Brown managed to leave office with more dignity and in better grace than David Laws did less than a month later. A fundamentally good man made way for a shyster.

The coalition was initially heralded as a “New kind of politics”, yet has settled down into the most radically conservative Government  since 1983. Everyone agreed that Ham Face and Little Nicky looked jolly nice on the lawn, giving civil partnerships a boost.

The Government decided that you and I would be better off with 50 less MPs, as it cost too much for us to have adequate representation. We all agreed that 50 less Coalition MPs would have been a good thing. the Guardian felt silly, and The Daily Mail  was grumpy, possibly that UKIP didn’t win outright. The Daily Telegraph did its best to bring the Coalition down by chatting to Liberal Democrats.Sales of Werther’s Originals plummeted in Tory seats.

The BBC found the correct term for a Conservative Culture Secretary. Jeremy should go far…

Liberal Democrats have been apologising to their best friends after admitting they don’t really like them, and apologising to the rest of us for making such a rotten deal. they still held on to the Ministerial cars though…

It was decided that not only would tuition fees have to treble, but that funding for Higher Education would be cut by 80%. A well organised, fearsomely armed group took control of the streets around Westminster – The Metropolitan Police.

The Duchess of Cornwall was poked with a stick, and (oh, the irony) went on to a Royal variety performance featuring 25 minutes of Les Miserables – featuring student revolutionaries waving flags – ” Did she hear the people sing…?” don’t worry Camilla old girl, they were French.

Speaking of our allies, it was decided that the Royal Navy should specialise in becoming a landlord – renting out 50% of our carrier force to Les Bleus. Can’t see them defending the Falklands, but still, annoyed a few yanks…

Wikileaks told us what sensible people already knew, namely that diplomats don’t always like their hosts.

Julian Assange may or may not be someone that you would like your daughter to meet on a regular basis.

Once again, the world failed to find a collective answer to Global Warming, whilst we shivered a bit, and were given no credible answer as to why the country cannot deal with a little snow. Boris claimed to have bought the deserts of Araby, and then slunk off to cancel FIFAs bribe – sorry, all expenses paid stay at The Dorchester for the duration of The Olympics.

Gideon Osborne, The 14th Earl of Whyborn, sat on the Treasury Benches looking more and more like a pale evil toad. Dr Fox ( no, not that Dr Fox) let it be known that although he doesn’t like it, he was prepared to sell servicemen short. Again. The police warned that without constant pay rises and overtime payments, crime would rocket. Then proved themselves inadequate to their core task of keeping the Queens peace, thrice.

After a drawn out campaign, the much-vaunted David Miliband was done low by his supporters, notably Lord Mandy, who then wrote a rubbish book, and still has no inkling as to just how much everyone in the nation hates him. Tony Blair wrote nonsense, and we learned about both his sex life and his toilet regime. Lucky us. Mr G W Bush turned out the best book of all three, at least in terms of fiction and plot.

Ed M became our leader, and has scored a few telling points against Bullers Dave, yet the hardcore Blairites, after three years of disloyalty, have still to learn that unity cuts both ways. A few right wing placemen showed their true inclination was to power rather than principle.

Phil Woolas was finally ousted from both Parliament and from The Labour Party, after running a nasty smear campaign that really did us no good.

Charlie Kennedy proved top be correct when it came to the coalition, fat lot of good it will do him.

And the government Front Bench looked for all the world like the Thirteenth Earl of Whybourne from The Fast Show…”Me? With my hands on the public purse? With MY REPUTATION?”

The BBCs Nick Robinson, at last able to see his pals in power, looked on the verge of a massive orgasm every time
he reported for the News. Is he sponsored by Kleenex we wonder?

The Big Society turned out to be a big “fuck you” from Millionaires to the rest of us.

Pavement reformed and toured the USA and Britain, and The Pogues started a long fairwell tour – though Spider stacey hinted at this only being a break – please let it be so…

Panic on the streets of London…

Dundee, Dublin, Humberside to follow?

Not since The Poll Tax riots has central London seen such violent disorder – so the media tell us…

But what really happened yesterday? Were those scuffles, baton and horse charges, smashed windows etc all caused by the lunatic fringe of the British left? Were the Police entirely proportionate in their use of force and the charming tactic of kettling? Why were people so angry?

Other questions are being raised, notably about David Camerons’ performance at PMQs, and on the splits in Little Nicks’  little party between the Social Democrats and the Orange(book)men.

The Daily Mail is predictably in full flight, Sky News and the rest of the Murdoch empire following suit. the Cenotaph defaced by urine, a statue of Winston Churchill (not his grave) “desecrated” says BBC London – all in all, not a good day to defend our democratic right to protest, but  I think we need to look at the reasons behind both the clashes in particular and the protests in general.


Firstly, let me just say that as someone who has worked in the West End for a decade, and getting the night bus from Trafalgar Square, on almost any given night Whitehall is covered in streams of urine, more so in December, as the party season takes hold.

The Police tactic of holding fairly large groups in one place for a long period & only letting a few out does mean that on a practical level, protesters have nowhere to go to pee. It will also lead to greater frustration within a group of protesters – fuelled with the righteousness of their cause, and faced with a hostile Police force, tensions will inevitably boil over. People were surrounded in one area with no chance to leave for many hours. From what I can gather from the media, protesters were refused medical aid, and repeatedly baton and horse charged throughout the afternoon.

Faced with nowhere to go, with tension and anger still at a high point, chaos reigned in small groups, with a few people attempting to rip up the flags on the Cenotaph. Note that I find this indefensible, and had nothing to do with the issue at hand. I think that a few extremists were able to egg on a larger (though still small) number of protesters. Faced with an impenetrable barrier of riot Police, those few took out their anger on buildings – The Treasury being a close at hand target, and one that may have caused a few smiles amongst some current and ex-ministers.

As to dear old Winnie, well it looks like no damage done, and I wonder why there has been no outrage at the vandalism in Stepney that has led to Clement Attlees statue being moved – a double standard????


Of course the usual suspects were there in abundance; Socialist Worker, the myriad of grouplets that survive in London, Anarchists, and perhaps a few less politically motivated. of course these groups were set on confrontation with the Police, who they see as the enemy in all situations. however, these protests have been notable for the level of organisation that has come through non-traditional methods – social media playing a large part, and many of the organisers have had little or no experience of protest before. Over the course of the past four weeks, a new generation of students have been introduced not only to protests, but to Policing methods that have been used against anti Globalisation activists, Trades unionists, and many others. It changed attitudes on both sides radically.The Leadership of the NUS has been bypassed by many on each march, and sadly, The Labour Party has been absent at a National level, yes we voted against the Bill, but Ed refused to be drawn on reversing it.

Also bear in mind the argument that over 1 million peacefully marched against the Iraq war, and were ignored. (I was on that one, although I changed my mind.) This doesn’t make rioting right, but for some it would be a justification. Our politics is still broken and seen as disconnected from the majority of our people.

The Metropolitan Police leadership have been quick to put their spin on events, but i think we can all remember the briefings that claimed Jean Charles de Menenzes was a terrorist, that the Policeman who killed Mr Tomlinson is still  suspended on full pay, and not facing jail time. We residents of London also see the Police day after day signally not getting involved in basic issues of public order – to many in the force it is not “real” Policing anymore. Now a large demo on the other and, well thats “action”.

After the past few weeks, where the Police have been caught off guard ( how would the Tory HQ in an iconic building NOT be a target???), it seems that a fair few officers may have been looking forward to a showdown, which is what they got.


As the demonstrators were let out in dribs and drabs, some made their way along Oxford Street, many dispersing to go home. Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall, riding in a stately Rolls Royce became a target for a tiny number of by now very angry young people. From film witnessed, one young man shouted “Off with their heads” – NOT the “baying crowd” depicted in The Daily Mail. The car was attacked by this small group, and once again the Metropolitan Police had to run to keep up with one of its basic functions – keeping The Queens Peace.

The couple were unharmed, and Camilla managed a light quip on the way home. They had become, for a small group, a symbol of this Governments policy of making the poor pay for the recession.

Nick Robinson seemed almost jubilant as his former Uni chums pulled off a slim majority for this Bill – could the BBC have a word about impartiality? Others seem to manage it, why not him?

No doubt Boris will say something hyperbolic in the hours to come, that rather seems to be his job – light relief and cuts.

Ham – Face Cameron will put on his “serious” face, and promise to root out the troublemakers – may I suggest he look no further than his Bullingdon Club chums, who like nothing better than breaking restaurant windows and harassing low-paid staff.

Poor Little Nicky will look anguished, pained even. He will use that quiet voice to once again state that his utter capitulation of the one principled policy that most people in Britain agreed with him on has really been the right choice. The “New politics” will use the unelected House of Lords to nod this shabby Bill through. Poor old Vince, his face looking even more sad…

Is it any wonder people got angry? Who is to blame? My money would not be those living in bedsits…

Poll position and other puns…

The latest opinion polls by ComRes and YouGov for The independent and Sun newspapers seem to be confirming a trend.

The trend is for voters who previously backed the LibDems to switch to Labour, as a result of Coalition policies, which, of course, no voter actually voted for. In one sense, this is no surprise, as the ideological nature of many of the cuts so far has become clear, and for all the blather of “New Politics” by Pork Balls and Little Nicky, we have the most ideological government since the 1980s, thinly masked as “equality of sacrifice” and “national interest” (themes last used by the National Government in the thirties).

So, some good news for Labour, as various polls put them either a couple of points ahead, or just a couple of points behind the Conservatives, with the LibDems losing out in most cases. However, this is not enough – to win next time, after the effective Gerrymandering of boundaries we will see next year, we need to take a commanding lead.

So far Ed M and Alan Johnson have done well, and have reversed the bad results of the recent past, presenting a cautious, sensible front against both cuts and Coalition jibes. It is fair to say that whoever won the May election would have been in a little trouble by now anyway, so we need to hammer home the arguments that Gideon and his chums are not competent or willing to take on the Banks, that they are divorced from the lives of the vast majority of our fellow Britons, and that The Coalition is simply not correct in its solutions to the crisis.

This is hard work, and will take time. Here in London, we are not helped by the Bethnal Green affair, nor by the choice of Ken Livingstone once again as Mayoral Candidate, but these are by no means insurmountable problems.

Ed is the right leader, with the right approach. One of the remarkable features of New Labour was its ability to turn history on its head. The 1945 victory was possible for a whole range of factors, but not least was Attlees’ leadership – and public persona. Quite simply, his dry, dull exterior made many radical changes seem incredibly normal and well, dull. Tony Blair made a slight tweak in the status quo seem exciting and new. Guess which one I prefer…

Ed has to carry on being the calm quiet one at the Dispatch Box, as this very effectively puts Cameron into a spin, creating the image an air of panic within Downing Street.

We have a tough time ahead, as people will not forget or forgive the failures of the recent past (nor should they), but if we can truly pose alternatives to both the cuts and Government by Millionaire, then we can win, not just in 2015, but before then in the local elections next May.

Iraq, Ed, David and the rest of us…


For all that he said in his first leaders speech, few can doubt that the most important moment for many on the centre-left was Ed Miliband’s apology on Iraq. In very careful language, reminiscent of Robin Cook, he made the legal and diplomatic case for the thinking opposition. Big applause, or not, depending on your point of view. This was the moment that Labour finally started to reach out to many of those inside and outside the movement who deserted us in droves after 2001, finding a home for their votes in The Greens, or in the Liberal Democrats.

It was a move, however, fraught with difficulty, encapsulated not only by the recorded reactions of elder brother David, but followed up by pieces on the national press from pro and anti-war voices, such as todays article in The Times by David Aaronovitch.

A someone who started out as instinctively against the Iraq adventure, yet came to believe that although very flawed, it was the right thing to do (albeit awfully executed), I think I can add something here. Since 2001, the spectrum of centre-left opinion has been divided rancourously and dangerously over Iraq. The two sides have expended much bile and energy on each other, rather than on supporting arab Democrats and Trades Unionists across the middle east. The terms of debate have become increasingly extreme, the result being that many opportunities to challenge the real “neocons”,  “imperialists”, and “excusers of tyranny” have been ignored. Rational debate on Israel, Islamicism and attitudes to Human Rights has all but vanished.

There were honourable people on both sides of this clash, some, like Johan Hari and Nick Cohen, have changed sides over time, others, like David and Ed Miliband have not, but no matter, the point is that amongst ourselves we need recognise what this has meant to the hopes of the Left. My position would best be summed up by paraphrasing Nick Cohen in his book “Whats Left?” –

“OK, I didn’t initially support the War for a number of reasons – knee-jerk anti-americanism, a feeling of being rushed, the dodgy dossier and lack of a clear UN sanction, as well as suspicions as to the motives of GW Bush and his oil-rich friends. I marched, I shouted, and still we went to War, which in military terms was won quickly and with ease.

However, I could still see that deposing Ba’ath tyranny was a good thing for the people of Iraq, and that there was a chance to build a democratic, federal Iraq. The occupation, hamstrung by Washington’s obsession with doing things on the cheap and via private companies, has been a disaster, making mistakes detailed in books such as “State of Denial”. Nation building is still an honourable ideal, if done on an open, honest basis.

The trouble is that most of the hardcore anti-War campaigners have moved from opposing “Imperialism” to supporting an insurgency that is comprised of old Ba’athists, Clerical Fascists, and is in large part backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. It repeatedly targets intellectuals, women, and the most progressive parts of Iraqi society. Whatever the obscene death toll in Iraq post-war, the largest number of those killed by violent means have been killed by these people. Faced with a choice between some freedom and none, I have to choose some freedom under occupation.”

Thanks Nick, anyway, there is a real danger today that attitudes towards Iraq will become the touchstone for a division within our party, between those who wanted David, and those who didn’t. This would be the worst outcome for all concerned. It would also be against the stated wishes of a certain D. Miliband MP…


From the moment a couple of weeks ago that Ed emerged as a real contender for the Leadership, those closely linked to the New Labour “Project”  swung into action. Tony Blair very wisely mentioned no candidate by name, followed by Lord Mandelson, John Rentoul, Alistair Campbell and David Aaronovitch were much more specific, as were the Murdoch Press. Attacks on Ed as being “Red”, a geek, too young, too leftwing, too odd etc became increasingly heavy. This is all part and parcel of debate in an election, and is fair enough, however, from Sunday onwards, “New Labour” voices in the Media intensified their attacks.

In a breathtaking reversal of Labour history, it was now the rightwing, having lost a Leadership election, that seems to want us to commit political Hara-Kiri, just so its favoured son can pick up the pieces after 2015. It is very tempting to describe these voices as latter-day Bennites of the Right, if so many of them hadn’t been Bennites back in the early 1980s that is. A more accurate description of this situation would be the distrust between the pacifists and non-pacifists in the Labour movement post 1918. It is often glossed over, but throughout the inter-war left, divisions arose over attitudes to The Great War, and not everyone was able to re-unite immediately post November 11th. Clem Attlee is an outstanding example of someone willing to work with both sides, while himself being a wounded Gallipoli veteran. It took (pacifist) McDonalds treachery, and Bevins harsh 1935 speech attacking George Lansbury before the wounds were healed in general terms. In the meantime, other internal battles – with the ILP, The Socialist League and perpetually with Morrison expended valuable time and effort better spent combatting unemployment, The National Government and the BUF. (Shades of today?)

Another parallel would be the destructive and futile decade long battle between the Gaitskellites and Bevanites for the soul of labour in the 1950s. Remember, we lost in 1951, although polling one million more votes than the Tories, and the fratricidal warfare that Attlee tried so hard to prevent led to us losing those votes and every election until 1964 – thirteen wasted years indeed.


It seems that, having still not got used to losing grip on the levers of power, a tightly knit group of politically motivated individuals are hell-bent on sabotaging our chance to effectively renew, oppose, and defeat this Coalition.

It does not have to be like this – I doubt very much if electing Ed has ushered in a period when we embrace the 1983 manifesto like a long-cherished Bible. The vast majority of our new members (myself included) are eager to return to Government, with a new purpose, although we may be a little to the left of the “true” Blairite tendency. We want the power to save the NHS, create a fairer, more equal Britain, stop the atomisation of our education system along class lines, rebalance the economy and effectively regulate the city. We want to see fair voting system, and elect The House Of Lords amongst many other things.

Surely, we can have a rational debate about policy and outcomes, rather than harmful sniping that could become outright war if we don’t all grow up now. We owe it to our Party, to ourselves, and to our Nation.

D Mili quits the frontline…

Earlier today David Miliband put an end to speculation as to his political future. Now as a member of the left of Labour, I will go on record as saying I am sorry to see him go. David has had an extraordinary run at the top of Labour politics since 1997, both as an advisor and an MP. He was a competent Foreign Secretary, and can be an inspiring speaker. His relative youth means that his return to the frontline should not be a problem.

Unlike some of his supporters, he has decided that it is time to move on, and to give brother Ed his chance. I welcome his constructive attitude to the media pressure of the last few days, and wish him well.


Ed’s first speech…

OK – having just listened carefully to Eds first keynote speech, I suppose I must give y’all my first impressions…

As as performance, Ed built up a creditable head of steam, and obviously learnt early on that oratory is not necessarily shouting. As a relatively unknown new Leader, he also had to flesh out his backstory for the general public. On the whole, it was a carefully pitched effort, a speech to both unify the party and to reach out to those millions of voters we lost under Blair and Brown after 2001.

A number of points were raised, and although it was of course short on policy, it was heavy on aspiration – both for Labour, and for the country as a whole.


Starting with the back story of his family was a good move for someone that few outside of politics know much about – his parents flight from the Nazis, their (very) left wing credentials, and general human interest were all covered. Although much the same age as Cameron and Clegg, his background is radically different from either – no landed yeomanry in his past, thats for certain.

On the Unions, he steered a course succinctly between stressing the right and necessity of Unions defending ordinary people and the Bob Crow faction within the TUC, thus undermining Tory jibes (tired as they are) about “Union paymasters”.

The really interesting parts were to come…


Whilst staying reasonable in tone, and paying tribute to the positive legacy of our last thirteen years in government, he drew a line under New Labour.

On Civil Liberties, Equal Rights and Iraq, Ed was a breath of fresh air. Whether we agreed with the ousting of Saddam, or or had problems with dodgy dossiers, it was clear that this was a new page  – couched in the realism that between 2001 and 2010 we lost 5 million voters. olive branches were offered to those of a liberal persuasion, whether LDs or not.

Throughout his speech, Blair and Brown were bracketed together as “Tony & Gordon” – significantly placing blairites and brownites together, whilst also stressing the need to move on.

In fact, in the light of Nick Clegg’s vitriol aimed at Labour in Liverpool, Ed aimed all his attacks at the Tories, and David Cameron. We have a Leader who has grasped that we may need to form a coalition of our own, or maybe Ed is too well brought up to kick a man when he is down, either way, what was to follow was great news…


The Leader of The Labour Party, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, came out in full backing of a Yes vote in the AV referendum! He was unambiguous in his personal support for AV, and if we act quickly enough, we may be able to swing significant numbers of Labour supporters and activists behind the campaign. His support for an elected House of Lords was also not couched in the previous lukewarm terms of New Labour, but put centre stage, and both were well received within the hall. This is a major shift in both policy and attitude within Labour, and should not be underestimated.

The next steps were equally as important – Ed’s “Tamworth Manifesto” moment – he introduced the concept of constructive opposition, last used to great effect by the late John Smith. On the economy, he stressed a sensible level of deficit reduction, and wisely, given that we have yet to see detailed government plans, called for support for sensible economies, rather than blanket opposition. We have yet to know what Ed deems a “sensible” cut, or even to know exactly where the axe will fall, but this is a classic and useful position, given that we were advocating economies of our own in our last manifesto.

The call to social unity across the rich-poor divide – that we are happiest in societies that are less unequal, was a great foil for Cameron’s “Big Society”, and has already led to Sir Philip Blond to confusedly mark Ed out as a “red Tory” – it may be that Sir Philip is really a blue Social Democrat…


This speech was a good start, and showed that we have the ability to move on in a way that took the Conservatives ten years to do.

Action is needed, but the central theme that we need to move on from New Labour is perhaps a tacit acceptance that more than one viewpoint needs to be heard in policy discussions and development. Support for AV needs to be converted into action – Take Back Parliament needs Labour input. The studied lack of hostility towards the Liberal Democrats was both refreshing and may be useful for years to come.

This early in a period of opposition, what we need is less detailed policy, more a re-statement of principles. This speech was a good start. Lets move towards making the Good Society a reality.

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