Thursday, August 26, 2010

Labour leadership: four gambiteers and none worth an X

I'm quite depressed and pessimistic about the prospects for the Labour Party at the moment. As far as the leadership contest goes, I'm almost-but-not-quite adopting the Derby County v Leeds United approach (hoping they all lose). Mil perfectly encapsulates my view on this here. Likewise, I don't think that pyramids are a very sustainable management model for political parties any more, and I don't think the Labour will sustain one very successfully for very long.

I keep getting e-mails saying 'Join my campaign against....' this and that and I made a mental note early on not to vote for anyone who imagines themselves at the head of some parade with the rest of us just anonymously plodding on behind. This only leaves me with Diane Abbott to vote for as far as I can see and - with all due respect to her - I don't think she's ever been under any illusions about actually winning the contest.

None of these four boys have ever been in a fight in their lives. They were all parachuted into safe seats by a party leadership that prized compliance more highly than anything else. If anyone imagines that Labour can beat the Coalition in an election by using some clever fix that puffs up some Union General Secretary here, and ensures that some Regional Secretary will fix them there, then they are in for a very large disappointment.

And if anyone really imagines that Ed Milliband's pitch as 'the left candidate' is any more than a bit of short-term chessmanship, I hope they will have a stern word with themselves next time they look in the mirror. I've not seen any attempt to address the question of how Labour renews it's historic mission to promote collective action or to improve the participation of the widest section of the population in their own governance. The questions haven't even been broached. There's no politics on offer really. Politicking isn't the same thing. I've seen little evidence that any of them have any convictions that couldn't reasonably be described as a short-term gambit.

The nearest thing I've seen to an impressive statement was Ed Balls Bloomberg speech - admittedly, a good fine sweep over the issues of the day. He's a good columnist. But having met the bloke (admittedly, a long time ago) he's also an arrogant and charmless tosser who wouldn't be capable of any form of policymaking that doesn't involve some tablet of stone authored by himself and imposed by way old-fashioned arm-twisting. Expect years of bickering and backbiting if he gets anywhere near the new frontbench (as I'm sure he will).

I've not seen anything conversational in any of the candidates. I've not seen any pretense that the party itself may have more brains or experience as a whole than any of these Sonnenkind can draw upon from within their small circle of temporary allies.

We do need a leadership contest. We need the concept of leadership - as it is currently understood - to be contested and defeated. New Labour's approach to leadership was based upon a crude and self-serving notion of what was possible within the confines of a hostile media. It involved everybody conniving in the pretense that a single line that united the party could be pushed out to a credible media.

We are like every other party. We're not united. We never will be. We're a loose alliance of people who would object to each other being in government slightly less than we object to Cameron or Clegg. The other parties are identical in this respect - the only thing that changes is the identity of the hate-figures.

We need people in leadership positions who are prepared to do the dirty work of running towards arguments rather than away from them. The Tories didn't even win the election and they're acting as though they've got a 150-seat majority. Unfortunately, we've had a set of processes within our party for nearly 20 years that wrung anyone with this sort of backbone out of frontline politics.

That's why I'm pessimistic.
I suppose Ed Milliband's shallow and unconvincing pitch to renew party democracy (it was so flimsy I didn't get beyond the first para - can't even remember where now) should appeal most, but I really can't imagine I'll vote for any of them at the moment.

At this rate, Diane will probably get my X as I labour under the illusion that it will somehow send a message to someone somewhere.


James said...

It's an AV election so you lose nothing by putting Diane as 1st choice and then ranking the others by least worst preference ;-)

MatGB said...

This is the first party leadership contest that hasn't interested me at all since I started blogging. Even the Green leadership contest was more interesting, even though we knew the winner way in advance (can't even remember who the other candidates were now). The LD 2006 one got me to rejoin. The Labour deputy one where Harman won actually gave me hope your party wasn't dead.

I want to see a reason to want a Labour govt again. Hell, in a 3-way marginal, I want to see a reason to give Labour my 2nd preference again (if we count my tactical vote for Bradshaw in 2001 as a 2nd preference that makes sense, right?).

So far, MiliD has given an interesting speech on mutualism that gets a bit of interest, and MiliE has invited me to spam Clegg and Hughes then used the email address in a poorly targetted mailshotting campaign that clearly breaks the data protection act (and I ought to know about that one).

Diane's website is bloody good, but then, Jon did it, it ought to be. Balls has annoyed me regularly, and lied a bit as well, Burnham's a racist scumbag who nees to come last.

The more first pref votes Diane gets, the more hope people like me have. Sure, she's not a liberal in most respects, but all the stuff that Labour got wrong in office is the stuff she was in the opposition lobby for. She might not win, but a clear support base'll help.

Also? I still don't write her off, she's clearly a capable politician (although she can't answer the school choice question well, still), and smart, newer members and union members might vote vor her in larger numbers than we expect, especially with preference transfers being a bit random.

But yeah, if I had a vote, it'd be Diane, MilliE, MillieD, Balls, RON. Burnham needs to be thrown out on his ear with some of the immigration crap he's spouted.

Paul Garrard said...

Not a problem for me to vote Dianne Abbot 1, Ed Balls 2. I might bother to put the rest in some kind of orde.