The electoral argument for the deselection of Frank Field
‘What we’ve go to do here is get people to understand it’s not a referendum it’s a choice and as a choice it has consequences,’ says Sean Woodward MP at the Labour party conference.
And the fast emerging electoral strategy, as reflected by Labour Matters, is all about ensuring that the voters see the clear blue water between Labour and the Tories.
The focus, say the electoral strategists and the PR people, should be on the way Labour is dealing with the economy, and the 1937-style disaster that may well ensue if the Tories get into power.
And as election strategies go, it’s pretty good one, especially as it’s starting to be sharpened up by a concentration on how the Tories will ‘target investment on a tax giveaway of £200,000 to the 3,000 wealthiest estates’; in general the focus is on reminding people that, in the end, it is the Labour party that is wedded to the interests of the working class, not the Tories.
Leave aside the small matter of the actual record of New Labour on commitment to the interests of the working class for just a moment, and we get an electoral pitch which is, on the doorstep at least, starting to gain some traction. The slight narrowing of the opinion polls since the party conference is not all about the Tories failure to ‘seal the deal’, or about their indecisiveness over Europe; there is the start of a real move back to Labour, and the message is starting to get through in places where it is being well sent.
Time then, for Labour members, you’d think, to get behind the message.
If you’re on the so-called moderate wing of Labour, it’s all about the best way of winning a new term; if you’re on the Left, at least the broad narrative is swinging in your favour, and it’s something to hang on to till the real opportunity to organize anew starts in May 2010. The main thing for now is to defeat the Tories, because their winning really will be a disaster for everyone but the privileged few.
Unless you’re Frank Field, that is.
Our loveable old maverick Frank has been thinking the unthinkable again, decided he doesn’t care for any of this ‘spending our way out of recession stuff’, and has come over all biblical
In his Comment is Free article, Frank warning of an impending economic apocalypse, and says that the only way this country can possibly survive is to cut savagely, and cut now.
The fact that he is utterly, utterly wrong, and wouldn’t recognize a considered leftist economic argument if it struck him on the head from a very great height, need not detain us long.
Briefly, his fear of massive inflation is simply nonsense, when the by far the biggest threat is Japanese-style deflation if the economy is kick-started.
Likewise, his argument that we run an imminent risk of losing our AAA+ credit status if we don’t cut now (no mention of other ways of reducing the deficit, note) is simply scare-mongering, and only likely to come true if he and his right wing friends keep the scare-mongering up.
As Martin Wolf has pointed out, cutting the UK’s credit rating would mean that logically, the US’s credit rating would also need to be cut, and can anyone really see that happening (especially given the rapid flight to ‘safe’ US government bonds in the light of the Dubai crisis)? Logically, even if the US rating were to be cut, the AA+ rate would simply become, in the case of the biggest world economy, the new AAA+, because for the medium term at least a stable US economy cannot simply be dispensed with. The market, with their servants in the credit rating agencies, is not going to cut off its capitalist nose to spite its capitalist face.
Such real world thinking is, in any event, of little concern to Frank Field. What is important to him, it seems, is that he should be out of step with mainstream Labour thinking, and be seen to be. That’s our Frank, the loveable maverick.
So long as it was a vicious disregard for the real lives of the poor, in his ‘unthinkable’ welfare reforms, it was all ok, because it was only one step beyond where New Labour and Purnell were headed anyway.
This time, though, it’s different. In setting out a line on economic policy which is absolutely out of the Tory mismanagement manual, Field is setting his face directly against the government’s electoral strategy, which is to create an ‘investment vs. cuts’ distance between themselves and Tories.
As such, the only reasonable assessment of Frank Field is that, given his high media profile, he has become an electoral liability.
And what does the Labour party do with people that it considers make it unelectable? It expels them. Ask Terry Fields (well he’s dead, but you know what I mean), another Merseyside MP.
If there’s any consistency in the way the Labour PLP deals with rebels that are damaging its electoral chances, Field should be given his marching orders, and a more compliant PPC put in place in time for the election.
Yes, there’s a small chance that it might backfire and the seat be lost, but there is any event no guarantee that Field isn’t simply biding his time in a fairly safe Labour seat before switching sides after the election, and that might mean the difference for Labour between loss and hung parliament, or hung parliament and victory.
Better, I contend, to take the bull by the horns now and get rid of Field.
In so doing, Brown would send out a message not just of new found strength and authority as PM safe from Compass-led plots, but – more importantly – send out a stronger message than any second hand party political broadcast can ever get over that Labour is serious about having a distinctive economic policy, one which really does defend Labour ‘hard working families’ in the tough times.
Will it happen? Well, if the idea gets taken up by @bevaniteellie on twitter, it might just.
Of course, if the Labour grassroots builds a head of steam on this, and gets rid of Frank Field, then Tom Harris MP (who had the same virulently ’anti-Gordon’ banner advert as Iain Dale on his blog all weekend), would surely be next in line.
But business before pleasure.