Labour wins when it is the future

2011 must be the year Labour realises the scale of its electoral, political, and philosophical defeat and finally articulates a different future.

This year has been a year of displacement activity for Labour. 2011 must be the year that it realises the scale of its electoral, political, and philosophical defeat and finally articulates a different future. Let’s recap briefly. The year started off with a botched attempt to make amends for failing to hold a leadership election the previous Summer. It was too late and so failed.

Within a few short breaths the election campaign was underway. It never got off the starting blocks. That Labour staffers were celebrating a paltry 29 per cent – the party’s second worst showing in living memory – on the morning of Friday May 7th shows how utterly hopeless the cause had become.

Labour was then- mistakenly- thrust into a leadership election before it had any time for reflection. This was the third displacement activity. Ed Miliband had a bit more verve and freshness than his rivals and deservedly won. The contest itself had no context. There was no analysis of Labour’s predicament or the challenges that it faced. Those things were left unsaid.

No sooner had the leadership contest finished but the final displacement activity set in. The Spending Review and the cuts- most particularly those that affecting higher education and students – became the final diversion of 2010.

And so the campaign goes on. Is this what people mean by perpetual campaigning? Rather like a grieving widow, the Labour party is keeping itself occupied. Surely at some point it will have to face its loss?

Meanwhile, the coalition (Tory-led!) has defined Labour’s recent past for it. In this framing Labour was profligate, economically incompetent, and authoritarian. Just saying ‘no we weren’t’ mixed with frenetic and exhausting activity won’t be enough. And if Labour thinks a Republican opposition strategy of ignoring the past while digging your heels in will work then it will have another thing coming.

There is no UK equivalent of the Senate super-majority and the left has no Glenn Beck etc backed by a multi-million dollar message machine. In fact, the reverse is the case.

Labour is not going to stop the coalition in the short term. They may grab the odd straggling gazelle- Vince Cable looks fair game- and provoke the odd u-turn and that will feel good. Civil society might slow it- and the likes of False Economy are more than capable of mobilising dissent. The politics of reform may weigh too heavily as all sorts of unintended consequences take hold- keep a close eye on the NHS.

The harsh truth, however, is that no matter how uncomfortable they are with many of the coalition’s policies, as things stand people want David Cameron as their Prime Minister. If there were an election tomorrow, he would become leader of a majority Government. The fact that the Liberal Democrats would be wiped off the electoral map is scant consolation.

Labour needs a policy review for sure and it has one. What it doesn’t have is a vision in which the review can sit. What this means is that there is a risk that the party will end up with spring freshly washed clothes without a washing line to hang them on. They will remain damp and become musty in time.

The greatest dramas turn on events that shift everything from one state to another. Politics is a dramatic pursuit where the weakest players pretend it is a rational enterprise. Cameron is prime minister because he a sense of the dramatic and the bold. His play changing event happened on May 7th; Labour became mere extras at that precise moment. Leadership sprang from apparent defeat.

Ed Miliband must, in time, respond with a similar sense of drama. He has so far sought to reconnect the Labour party to the lost leadership of John Smith. It was a noble and moral leadership and would have almost certainly still have returned Labour to power in 1997.

However, it was Tony Blair who was the first leader since Harold Wilson (Mark I) to make Labour a party of the future once more. Three Labour leaders have won majorities in the party’s history. Each of these majorities was secured on the basis of Labour cast as the party of a bright and optimistic future (not the party of being nice and fair!)

So this is less a prediction than a plea but 2011 must be the year when Labour ceases the restless displacement activity. It should have stopped in 2010. It didn’t. It should have stopped in 2009. It didn’t. Quickly though, it must then spring forward with a different vision: of an economy that provides good jobs in new creative services and industry; that re-defines public value and values for the post-austerity age; and makes real the promise of the Big Society as a new citizenship that tangibly improves communities and lives.

Do not under-value the decency of John Smith. Equally, do not forget that Labour wins when it is the future. 2011 must become the year when Labour is finally honest about its recent past and then with a sense of drama and panache, it imagines and articulates the different future that it can create and turns it into a poetic conviction. The alternative is a third year of frenetic displacement activity. Surely now is the time to move on?

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57 Responses to “Labour wins when it is the future”

  1. Chris

    @Boring tory party troll mouse

    Yawn, why bother re-posting tory press releases? Its boring.

    “Read my lips. INDIVIDUALS you moron, not votes.”

    It cuts both ways shithead. Ed got 119,405 individual votes in the affiliates section, the number of people with more than one vote is tiny compared with that as those people were mainly MPs.

    “And so do you Chrissy boy and that’s what’s annoying you.”

    No, what is annoying me is that paid tory party trolls, who have been caught red handed copy and pasting directly from tory party press releases, are polluting this blog with propaganda.


    “Chris, please calm down.”

    Anybody who replies to your strange and rambling comments you tell to calm down – are you Micheal Winner?

    “Anon E Mouse does have some points”

    Yeh, he does have some points but they’re always the same points repeated ad nauseum usually bearing no relation to the article he is commenting on.

    “First,the party is bust, and could not finance a general election.Second, even the non political John Ward at the Slog reminds everybody of EM’s electoral score.Third,that rather intelligent piece on Labour Uncut is actually the mirror image of Conservative HQ in 1975, and we all know what happened later, after a complete rethink by our opponents.”

    Nope, you’re talking in riddles again. But you seem to have at least taken my advice to use the space bar occasionally, try it after full stops and your comments will seem, syntactically at least, less retarded.

  2. Anon E Mouse

    Chris – Will you please calm down. You are getting upset about a party that won’t have a sniff of power for at least ten years.

    The public in this country are not going to forget Gordon Brown in a hurry – especially with the constant reminder that is Ed Miliband.

    The man is a useless dud and you and all the readers know it. As with the last Labour leader, who people on this blog are still excusing, the fact is he has no chance if being PM – especially now he has employed a multi millionaire coke head smear merchant as a spin master.

    New Labour is dead. Long live New Labour. Long time in opposition ahead…

  3. Chris

    @boring tory troll mousey

    Yawn, don’t you get bored re-posting the same thing over and over again? Repeating the same lines then saying your always right is hardly constructing a coherent argument. Still if you are really a middle aged computer repair man barely earning the NMW I suppose it figures you’d have some sort of retardation.

  4. Anon E Mouse

    Chris – Regardless of how often I post the same thing doesn’t make it untrue.

    (When did I say I was a computer repair man? I said I put software on machines on a 13 minute cycle. I work with embedded controllers)

    Anyway so far you have failed to show how many (watch the next word now) Individuals voted for the lame duck. NOT votes Chrissy boy. We know they’re rigged.

    Well Bugger Lugs?

  5. William Campbell

    This ia bang on. I worked in govt as a SpAd, and my name here is a nom de plume. Most of the current ‘campaigns’ are Potemkin villages anyway – bit of Twitter, bit of media coverage, and a bit of pointing to self-inflicted coalition errors. The shadow cabinet elections played a big part in this – Shadow Ministers had to go straight into campaign mode again to impress their colleagues.

    We need a new message, new policies and a new means of reaching and engaging with voters, all based on an understanding of what went right and wrong. Maybe we need an amnesty, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where senior figures can confess their ‘sins’? Instead of this, every other ex-Minister and SpAd has poured his or her guts out to Anthony Seldon, Steve Richards and the other authors who have written books on the Brown period, which is fine for beltway chat but not for the wider task.

  6. Richard

    On a one man one vote basis, Ed Miliband won by a country mile of 30 000. Tough shit mickey mouse.

  7. Anon E Mouse

    Richard – The only thing that’s Mickey Mouse is Ed Miliband’s leadership. That’s why the Labour MP’s voted for his brother and it’s why he has a snowball in hell’s chance of ever being Prime Minister. He’s just too weird.

    Anyway where did you get the figure of 30000 from?

    Previously you have invented wars this country never had and now you’re inventing votes that dithering dud never got…

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