Why John Prescott is putting me to shame, and why Labour are still the changemakers

February 10, 2009 6:58 pm

By Peter MandelsonMandelson and Brown

John Prescott is putting me to shame. I met him on my way to the PLP meeting last night and he was chiding me for my lack of posts. Quite right too.

He is setting a pace with his blogging exploits that some of us are finding it hard to keep up with.

It was my first time speaking to the PLP since Gordon decided to re-nationalise me last year.

And I enjoyed it very much. I have to say I am receiving a warmer welcome from party gatherings now than in my previous Cabinet incarnations.

It wasn’t quite the showdown on Royal Mail it was being billed as in some parts of the press. I think the general mood was that we weren’t going to fall into the rather obvious trap the Tories have set in their Opposition day motion this week.

There will be plenty of opportunity to debate the Royal Mail when we bring the legislation forward and our party’s policy and timetable is not going to be dictated by the opportunism of the Tories.

What no-one can doubt is the scale of the financial challenge Royal Mail faces. It is being hit by a triple whammy at the moment. It has a huge pensions deficit which is draining its resources. The volumes of letters being sent is falling year on year. And, like every company in the land, it is not immune to the downturn which is accelerating the change to the letters business. So the status quo is not an option and action to meet these challenges is needed.

As you would expect, the bulk of the meeting was concentrated on what we need to do to provide real help for people and businesses now, across the economy.

But what really struck me was how much people had their sights on the future and what we need to do to prepare for the upturn when it comes.

This is where I think the new Labour opportunity lies. For all the talk of change, the Tories are nowhere on this.

David Cameron’s announcement yesterday of an ‘economic recovery committee’ effectively to shadow the work of the National Economic Council is just the latest example of the Conservatives belatedly following in an area where Labour has shown itself to be first movers.

We must continue to be so. Our task is clear. Remain resolute in providing real help now, confident that the action we are taking will make the recession shorter and less painful than it would otherwise be. And, at the same time, show that we have the plans for the future and continue to be the changemakers in British politics.

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