Gordon’s fretful hour on the stage is almost over (we hope)
The world must seem a dismal place for Gordon Brown right now – the vultures are very obviously circling. Even what he wears and where he goes on holiday are now the subject of political speculation from the vapid morons who populate various corners of the media. Yet even the more respectable corners of the political world are obviously in ferment. Gordon Prentice has called for Brown’s resignation and the very state of Labour’s disintegration in office is calling into question whether or not the Party itself can be saved.
I find the Prentice call for Brown’s resignation to be relevant because far from being just another backbench idiot seeking his fifteen minutes in the spotlight, Prentice serves on the Public Accounts Committee. This means that Prentice has been in the front line of government oversight, whether listening to the disingenuous answers of Dawn Primarolo or watching millions of wasted pounds walk out the door to consultants. Not for nothing has this chap voted against foundation schools and hospitals.
It’s very easy for the chairman of the Party, Tony Lloyd, to dismiss Prentice as unrepresentative of the rest of the parliamentary Labour Party. Doesn’t anyone stop to think that self-same PLP was basically hand-picked by the leadership precisely for their excellent quality of following in a docile fashion to their own slaughter?
The result within the Labour Party is pretty evident; a ‘leadership’ candidate to replace Brown has apparently emerged in the figure of Jack Straw. More than likely this is only a candidate in the sense that John Redwood was a threat to John Major. Much more promising is the re-emergent candidacy of John McDonnell, and the John4Leader 2008 campaign. Owen Jones and Marsha-Jane Thompson have been circulating different emails via Facebook and email lists.
John McDonnell himself has made a new run for leader conditional (though I say that almost ironically) on the outcome of the Warwick University negotiations of the National Policy Forum, and whether or not they adopt a radical departure from current New Labour doctrine. John has said that “Warwick 2 may contain some very limited advances in the preparation of a policy agenda that could limit the damage to our party at the next election but it is equally clear that it does not go anywhere near enough.”
On the other hand, anything remotely like an advance will be balanced by acceptance of the government’s agenda in things like welfare reform. For the record we really need a new way to describe what goes on when the government makes inroads into welfare; it’s no more ‘reform’ than using a wrecking ball to knock down the Houses of Parliament is ‘reform.’ I’m still of the opinion that we’re going to get screwed at the next election but Warwick throws up some difficult issues.
As in 1983, when by the time of the election, the Party heirarchy was once again firmly in control, whatever people say about it being a left wing manifesto, Warwick 2 will present the hacks of New Labour with an opportunity to spin our oncoming electoral annihilation as the result of selling out to ‘unelected trade union barons’ as Nigel Willmott describes them in the article linked to at the end of my opening paragraph. Not a heartening thought, to be sure – but no doubt the Nick Cohens of the world wouldn’t object too much.
In short, my patience with the Labour Party is rapidly becoming exhausted. As a machine for electoral victory it can still pull off some surprise results – but the very fact that our greatest electoral success over the last year was Oxford City Council, heartland of political hackery, worries me. John McDonnell’s campaign for a 2008 victory as Labour leader seems like the last gasp of a left-wing which is rapidly running out of options as the supposedly ‘social-democratic’ Brown moves further right than Blair
The general trend of abandonment of the Labour Party will eventually kill the soul of the Party, bent and battered as that may be. The only way to reverse that trend is to start giving power back to members – and not in the formless OMOV manner so beloved by the leadership: but through a democratic and binding conference, where delegates are chosen by constituencies and aren’t hounded by leadership lickspittles and confronted with the representatives of world capitalism.
Warwick 2, whatever it might achieve, isn’t going to deliver that – so as far as I’m concerned, game on.