No ifs, no buts: Gordon is here to stay – so let’s get on with it

31st December, 2009 12:47 pm

BrownBy Jack Scott / @Jack_Scott

I want to start this post with a confession sure to rile most (if not all): I actually quite like Charles Clarke. He is a good communicator and an able strategist who played a key role in modernising the Labour Party, firstly as Neil Kinnock’s Chief of Staff and then as Chair of the Party. By all accounts, he has also been a good MP for Norwich South. It is because I like him that I wince when I see him making such a fool out of himself, as he did yesterday.

Reading Clarke’s letter, it is striking how much of Clarke’s actual analysis is correct: we have missed key opportunities for Labour to set out a coherent and clear-cut vision; we haven’t taken the fight to the Tories sufficiently or exposed their economic illiteracy and the polls are not narrowing quickly, decisively or consistently enough to provide very much comfort. He is also right that many people are sitting still and keeping quiet, waiting to see what happens.

But Clarke’s poignant and challenging diagnosis prescribes a medicine worse than the malady. He is far too quick to attribute our problems to Gordon Brown when the reality is that the entire Government, PLP and Labour movement must shoulder portions of responsibility. “Gordon’s got to change or we’ve got to change Gordon” may be a catchy soundbite to smugly leak to a journalist, but it doesn’t actually help Labour move forward. The public do not forgive parties which spend more time talking to themselves than the voters: we cannot go into a general election opposing each other rather than the Tories.

Strikingly, there is still nothing in Clarke’s diatribe about actual policy at all. The letter does not nail a flag to anything whatsoever. Here, Clarke starts to sound dangerously like the Tories: blustering, outraged and personality-obsessed, lacking any sort of policy alternatives or radical thinking.

The reality is that, like 95% of the PLP, Clarke doesn’t have major problems with the steps that have been taken to rescue and rejuvenate the British economy. If Clarke had a problem with areas of policy he would set them out, as Tony Blair’s and Charles Clarke’s own critics would always do. So the fact that he doesn’t mention it at all suggests that this is more about Clarke’s vendetta against Gordon Brown than the starting gun for a serious or credible debate on the Party’s direction. His energy and skills would be much better spent identifying how Labour can engage the British public in a conversation about a new economic settlement.

Clarke is right when he says that “from the beginning of 2010 we need a renewed Labour Party which can offer the people of Britain a genuine and positive choice at the ballot box”. He is right because we are preparing for the fight of our movement’s life. The prize is absolutely immense, beyond our wildest dreams in 1997: a fourth term, with the Tories (the oldest and meanest political party in the world) vanquished as a political force in Britain, Cameron almost certainly dumped, a referendum on electoral reform, and the illusion of the Sun and Murdoch as kingmakers smashed forever.

To win this prize, we all need to talk positively, energetically and honestly about our past achievements and our plans for the future. Changing the leader doesn’t make it any easier to change our country.




Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment The Tories’ plan is letting older people down – Labour have a better one 

    The Tories’ plan is letting older people down – Labour have a better one 

    This article is written by Rachel Reeves MP and Andy Burnham MP Older people have been let down by the Tories’ failing plan. Pensioners’ living standards have been hit by the Tories’ refusal to act on rip-off energy fees and pension charges, and social care funding has been slashed. No one will forget George Osborne’s ‘granny tax’, which saw 3.6 million pensioners lose an average of £68 a year. And the Tories’ have failed to come clean about the fact […]

    Read more →
  • News 12 target seats Labour are worried they might not win because of the Greens

    12 target seats Labour are worried they might not win because of the Greens

    There are 12 target seats Labour are worried that they could lose in May because of the Greens, Buzzfeed have found. These are all on Labour’s target seat list – the 106 constituencies the party think it could win back – usually Tory/Labour marginals or Lib Dem-held constituencies. However, this doesn’t mean the Greens are on the right track to win them. In the cases where they aren’t, the worry is that the Greens will split the vote on the left, […]

    Read more →
  • News Tessa Jowell still ahead in mayoral race, poll shows

    Tessa Jowell still ahead in mayoral race, poll shows

    The Evening Standard have released the results of their latest Mayoral poll, to see who Londoners would most like to be Labour’s candidate. And it’s good news for Tessa Jowell. Since YouGov last did this poll for the Standard, Margaret Hodge and Andrew Adonis have dropped out the race (the former hasn’t formally backed anyone yet, while the latter has thrown his weight behind Jowell). YouGov asked 1,011 people who they thought the best candidate would be for mayor. They […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Scotland Scottish Labour are once again campaigning on things that matter to people

    Scottish Labour are once again campaigning on things that matter to people

    I admit that the recent Ashcroft Polls were yet another punch in the guts for the Scottish Labour Party. Based on these figures, the SNP are set to win 56 out of 59 seats in May, with even Gordon Brown’s seat falling to the Nationalists. And the reason is pretty clear – why would anyone who voted Yes in September vote for Labour now? And yet I can’t help thinking that there is a definite, detectable movement in public perception. […]

    Read more →
  • News Polling Labour 12 points ahead in London and 14 ahead with young people, polls show

    Labour 12 points ahead in London and 14 ahead with young people, polls show

    There’s two sets of polling out that signal good news for the Labour party. Both are produced by YouGov, one looks at London and the other at young people. Firstly, the London poll, which YouGov conducted on behalf of the Evening Standard has Labour 12 points ahead of the Tories, four points up from the last poll they did last week: Lab 44%, Con 32%, Ukip 10% ,Lib Dem 7%, Green 5% As the elections last May prove, Labour have […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit