When the coalition hit their six month anniversary, we all had something to say. Some listed the cuts, some profiled prominent ministers or rising stars, others looked into policy, department by department.
Today marks the 6 month anniversary of Ed Miliband becoming Labour leader. Plus 17 days.
No-one commented, I don’t remember seeing a single profile anywhere. Perhaps no-one really cared.
When it comes to politics, it is indeed true that I’m so tribal, I’ve been known to carry a spear. If you remove the shirts of most Labour tribalists, you’ll find the word “Loyalty” tattooed underneath. Blair made this form of branding compulsory and the ghost-of-militant-past haunted us all into complying.
Perhaps that’s why we’ve all stayed quiet.
The Conservatives barely know he’s there. Like an irritating fly buzzing around their tough old hides, they flick him away with ease.
Labour members are delighted to see such a large scale consultation going on internally. “Fresh Ideas” and “Movement for Change” are exciting opportunities for Labour. If genuinely implemented, they could not only bring Labour back to her grass-roots, but invigorate the party as a fighting force fit to represent those it is charged with abandoning.
When it comes to looking outwards however, it won’t help my party one jot to pretend things are going well.
A nurse turned up to our CLP meeting last week. She’d never come along before, but had just one burning question she wanted to ask – “Where are Labour?”
Faced with the effective privatisation of our National Health Service, why weren’t they screaming from every rooftop? A quick straw poll showed that only two members knew the name of the shadow health minister. (John Healey, in case you too are struggling)
Whatever happens, don’t cling to the false hope of opinion polls. Six point leads are appalling faced with this scale of ideological Tory chaos. They are phantoms, gone with the wave of an Osborne-tax-cutting magic wand.
We over-opinionated scribblers get so caught up with focus groups and policy forums and strategy groups, we forget that most people “in the real world” can’t name more than two or three politicians. I’ll never forget the lady on the doorstep, just before the election, who told me she’d be voting for “that nice David Clegg”. If you spend more than a millisecond of your life canvassing you’ll be put very quickly and firmly in your place. Non-politicos spend all of 2 or 3 seconds a day thinking about politics (if that) and if they even have an opinion of Ed Miliband, I fear it is “geek”.
It pains me to say it. I can feel cold winds whistling around my laptop. I have been hypocritically quiet on the subject. Nonetheless, it is never a good idea to ignore things because they hurt.
I am delighted that Ed is focussing on restoring my party. It is one of the things I hoped for most.
At the same time though, he needs a few boxing lessons. He needs to land a few blows, chase that killer punch. Why for instance isn’t he finishing off Lansley? I could finish off Lansley with a wet kipper.
And the “Strategic” Defence Review? Tories are furious about it. Aircraft carriers with no aircraft? A war with no soldiers or airmen? It’s a big fat gift wrapped up with a bow.
The “squeezed middle” is starting to look very clever strategically. It will almost certainly win vital swing votes. However, a Labour Party who forgets the “pinched bottom” is fostering resentment amongst the very people keeping the party alive day in and day out. Blair knew it well. Winter Fuel Payments, free bus passes and TV licences, minimum wage and childcare all played to the core vote. Whatever free-market jiggery-pokery went on behind the scenes, policies sounded awfully Labour.
How about tuition fees? Should have been Ed’s glory hour surely? He ran for leader on a graduate tax. *tumbleweed*
Forests? NHS? Tax avoidance? *tumbleweed* one could be forgiven for thinking that the mighty 38 Degrees are currently leading Her Majesties Opposition.
Don’t even start me on the sick and disabled. I fear I would lose my comedy mojo. As the only policy on the table, completely abandoning us sickies has not gone down well.
With the coalition falling apart at the seams, with almost every department in total chaos, Labour should be riding high.
Ed has been conciliatory, reasonable and non-confrontational. All admirable traits, but how’s it working out for ya there Ed? I’m not sure your ordinary bloke at home feels very conciliatory, reasonable or non-confrontational when faced with lower wages, higher inflation, higher VAT, slashed police numbers, cuts to his childcare, soaring fuel prices, closing hospital wards, selling our blood service, closing our youth centres, sport centres and theatres, the threat of unemployment and no holiday this year or any year soon.
Throw in yet another dubious war, bankers sneering at their incredible good-fortune and Tory ministers making gaffes left, right and centre and, given a shot at opposition, your average crowd at the Dog and Duck could probably force a general election before Xmas.
No more Mr Nice Guy, Ed. It isn’t chiming with the public mood. We want an ally, a friend an advocate, but mostly, we want to see Cameron et all squirm. Preferably we want to see them gone. Cosying up to the top-tea-table isn’t going to speed things along.