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

  • Comment I’m on the frontline against UKIP and the Tories

    I’m on the frontline against UKIP and the Tories

    Hello! My name is Naushabah Khan. I’m a keen kickboxer, and I’m on the frontline against UKIP and the Tories. Will you join me? I’m the Labour candidate in Rochester and Strood. Mark Reckless defected to UKIP — now we’re in a three-way fight with two right-wing parties and the by-election is on 20th November. I really need you in my corner in the next five weeks. Support has started to flood in already. We’re trying to do something different […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Labour need to go further on the National Minimum Wage, say LabourList readers

    Labour need to go further on the National Minimum Wage, say LabourList readers

    At the start of the week, Alan Milburn the former Labour minister who now chairs the commission on social mobility and child poverty said that Labour’s plan for the National Minimum Wage wasn’t ambitious enough. The party leadership – who have said that they would ensure the minimum wage would be £8 by 2020 – responded to this criticism by deeming it “plainly absurd” and defending their proposed policy as more ambitious than the Tories’. But we wanted to know […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Britain needs to renegotiate its relationship with the real world

    Britain needs to renegotiate its relationship with the real world

    British politics is peculiarly dominated by the relationship between this country and the rest of the world. Margaret Thatcher’s politics were led by the effort to restore Britain’s global prestige. Since then the EU and foreign wars have divided opinion, and hastened the downfall of two Prime Ministers. They may very well undermine third. The political storm of our day comes from the rise of a party interested– it seems –in little other than severing our relationship to Europe. Every […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Europe McFadden’s appointment comes at a time of big opportunity for Labour on Europe

    McFadden’s appointment comes at a time of big opportunity for Labour on Europe

    Pat McFadden is taking over the Europe brief just at the time when the issue can work in Labour’s favour. Provided we hold to Ed Miliband’s decision not to cave in to the calls to offer an in-out referendum. Europe is again becoming toxic for the Tories. How Cameron must be looking back wistfully to that time when he told his party to stop banging on about Europe. That’s exactly what it is now doing. And it’s largely his own […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Next Portillo Moment

    The Next Portillo Moment

    Undoubtedly the highlight of election night ‘97 was seeing Labour record the unlikeliest of victories where I live in Enfield Southgate. We did it through hard work, at the time all three Enfield seats were blue and though the Labour swing meant that Edmonton and Enfield North were going red regardless it took a special campaign lead by an extraordinarily good candidate in Stephen Twigg to record what was an iconic victory in the Party’s history. We held the seat […]

    Read more →