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

December 31, 2009 12:47 pm

Author:

Share this Article

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

  • News Scotland Miliband tells Scottish Labour: “We face a tough fight but no tougher than the fights we have faced in the past.”

    Miliband tells Scottish Labour: “We face a tough fight but no tougher than the fights we have faced in the past.”

    Ed Miliband is at the Scottish Labour Gala Dinner this evening. The atmosphere in the Scottish party is understandably tense following the resignation of Johann Lamont this week, and a poll today which shows the party are 29 points behind the SNP.  Miliband was speaking after Anas Sarwar – who used this evening’s Gala Dinner to announce that he’s standing down as Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour, triggering a Deputy Leadership election. The Labour leader was seeking to rally the […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland Anas Sarwar steps down as Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour

    Anas Sarwar steps down as Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour

    Anas Sarwar has announced he’ll be stepping down as Scottish Labour leader. Speaking at Scottish Labour’s Gala Dinner, Sarwar – who had previously refused to be drawn on whether he’d resign from his post – told attendees at tonight’s dinner that he was triggering a Deputy Leadership contest that will run alongside the leadership contest, but would stay on as interim leader until December 13th. Before tonight’s dinner, he told the Daily Record: “After thinking about it long and hard over […]

    Read more →
  • News Double defection – Two councillors quit Tories and join Labour

    Double defection – Two councillors quit Tories and join Labour

    Two councillors have defected from the Tories to Labour in Dudley this evening. Glenis Simms and Cheryl Billingham have resigned from the Conservative Party and joined majority Labour Party on Dudley Council, and were welcomed into the party by Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh as well as local MP Ian Austin. Simms told the Express and Star: “People are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet under this Government. Labour seems to be the only party to have a […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Only by working together that we will be able to defeat nationalism

    Only by working together that we will be able to defeat nationalism

    Since before the Independence Referendum the Scottish Nationalists have tried to drape themselves in Labour’s clothing, pretending they are the party of social justice, promising a socialist utopia if only people voted for independence, all the while passing on cuts and austerity from a Tory Government in Westminster. They even suggested that voters would get ‘a better’ Labour Party if only they voted for independence. What a ruddy cheek! Since the vote they’ve done a pretty good job at trying […]

    Read more →
  • News Miliband dismisses Lamont’s “branch office” claims in Daily Record interview

    Miliband dismisses Lamont’s “branch office” claims in Daily Record interview

    Ed Miliband has broken his silence over Johann Lamont’s resignation – and specifically allegations that Scottish Labour was treated like a “branch office” – in an interview with the Daily Record. Miliband told the paper: “I was proud to work with Johann in the referendum campaign. I see it differently from the way it’s been described. I think we changed in terms of the 2011 review (of the Scottish Labour Party), with a new Scottish leader, redrawing Scottish constituency parties to […]

    Read more →