Good times never felt so good

25th November, 2013 9:21 am

I don’t think I realised, during 1992, how much people would still be going on about 1992 20 years later. But they are. General elections that year on both sides of the Atlantic proved to be turning points in a number of ways, and continue to influence how politics is done today. In 1992 we learned that “speed kills”, and that smears can kill, too. We learned about “war rooms”, and staying “on message”. We were reminded that “it’s the economy, stupid”, while voters here were told on election day that if Neil Kinnock became prime minister the last person to leave the country should turn out the lights.

A lot of Westminster watchers have been thinking about 1992 a lot – me included (here and here). The Prime Minister admitted on his recent trip to India and Sri Lanka that he was dusting off the 1992 attack plans to aim them at Labour again. That thought hardly raises the spirits. The character assassination of Neil Kinnock was one of the grubbiest moments in post-war British politics. The assault had in fact been going on for many years in the run-up to the April ’92 election. But it is almost impossible to connect the warm, generous and charismatic Lord Kinnock we know today with the grotesque caricature of him that was disseminated back then. And that is one of the lessons of that period which has to be relearned. If you play that popular game of “what if?” for a moment, and consider how Labour might have performed under a less buttoned up and more spontaneous Neil Kinnock in 1992, I doubt the result would have been worse. (The – greatly exaggerated – “shock” of the Sheffield rally 10 days before the election was that the hitherto highly restrained Labour leader finally decided to enjoy himself in public for a bit.)

Ed Miliband has made the mature and sensible decision to be himself, as was apparent in his Desert Island Discs broadcast yesterday. As a strategy, being yourself has a lot going for it. You have a lot less to remember for a start. It also makes it harder for smears to stick if you have already revealed your true self to the country. Miliband and the leadership team seem also to have learned another lesson from 1992, about the need to combat smears energetically, if Miliband’s clear and forceful Independent on Sunday column is anything to go by.

His disdain for the Prime Minister’s tactics was apparent when he described last Monday’s proceedings in the House of Commons: “David Cameron used a parliamentary statement about human rights in Sri Lanka to talk about trade unions in Britain.” Miliband wrote of Cameron’s “new low”, and of a Tory descent into gutter politics. If, next year, voters join the dots between gutter journalism and gutter politics the consequences for Cameron and the Conservatives could be grim indeed.

But there is something much more positive and uplifting to remember from 1992 as well. I am referring, of course, to the Fleetwood Mac hit “Don’t stop”, which became the campaign song for Bill Clinton on his way to winning back the White House. It is an upbeat, optimistic number, jaunty enough to help ward off the scares stories (“Watch your wallet!”) that George H Bush and his campaign team were trying to spread about his opponent.

images

While I was listening to Desert Islands Discs yesterday it struck me that one of Miliband’s choices – Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” – shares many of the same qualities of the Fleetwood Mac number. Inspired by JFK’s daughter Caroline, the song is a warm, unashamed feelgood singalong anthem. “Sweet Caroline, good times never felt so good”, Diamond sings. All is warmth and compassion. It could be a sunny and powerful antidote to the darkness and cynicism of Crosbyland. (And, it might be added, not quite such a hostage to fortune as the claim that “things can only get better”).

So, who’s for a bit of Neil Diamond then as the election campaign cranks up for real? The leader has made his choice. And anything’s got to be better than A-Ha, hasn’t it?

  • treborc

    What can one say Desert Island Disc. what next cameron

  • guidofawkes

    You lost me at the “charismatic Lord Kinnock”.

    • MrSauce

      It lost me at “how much people would still be going on about 1992 20 years later”.
      As far as I was aware, no-one is.
      Apart from Stefan.

  • Redshift1

    I’d definitely prefer Don’t Stop to be honest.

  • Danny

    GuidoFawkes is still posting here. The right-wing are worried.

Latest

  • Featured News Another new name enters deputy leadership race – Rushanara Ali announces she will run

    Another new name enters deputy leadership race – Rushanara Ali announces she will run

    Bethan Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali has today announced she will be running to become Labour’s next deputy leader. Ali, who has been an MP since 2010, told the BBC’s John Pienaar that she already had support within the Parliamentary Labour Party, including from Keith Vaz and Tristram Hunt. She says that she wants to focus on voters who left Labour to support UKIP, and feels she can connect with them as a political outsider. She said: “I’m going […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Featured News Harman reverses Labour’s opposition to an EU referendum

    Harman reverses Labour’s opposition to an EU referendum

    Labour will support and vote for an in/out EU referendum when it is brought to the House of Commons, acting leader Harriet Harman has announced today. Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show this morning, Harman said that the Tories will be able to pass a referendum bill with their majority regardless of what Labour do, and that it is more important not to get hung up on the argument around the process and start discussing the substance. She says that the […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Cooper puts focus on families with promise to invest in early years

    Cooper puts focus on families with promise to invest in early years

    Yvette Cooper today makes helping families the focus of her leadership offer today – and says that Labour need to win back support with women. She argues Labour must become the ‘party of early years and party of families’ in order to succeed. Cooper lambasts the decision by the Government to sideline children and families in their reforms to the Department for Education, which was renamed from the Department for Children, Schools and Families after the 2010 election. The Shadow Home Secretary […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News John Prescott announces he’s backing Burnham

    John Prescott announces he’s backing Burnham

    In the coming weeks, leadership candidates aren’t just hoping to get endorsement from their fellow MPs, the four potential leaders will surely welcome the backing of high profile names to help them along with their campaigns. John Prescott is latest person to give his support to one of the candidates. In his  column for the Mirror he has announced that he is backing Andy Burnham. The former Deputy Prime Minister draws comparisons between Tony Blair and Burnham, while also highlighting Burnham’s […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News How Labour figures reacted to the Irish referendum result

    How Labour figures reacted to the Irish referendum result

    We now know the result of yesterday’s referendum in Ireland about equal marriage – and it is a landslide in favour of equal rights for the LGBT community: Ireland says #YesToEquality by a huge 62.1%. Yes: 1,201,607 – No: 734,300. Only one area says no. #landslide pic.twitter.com/wvWE30rI1F — LGBT Labour (@LGBTLabour) May 23, 2015 As Labour peer and veteran LGBT activist Michael Cashman points out, it is days like today where you can reflect on how far we’ve come: Think […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit