« | Home | »

Labour’s Bourbons

Tags: | |

There is no inherent harm in the opposition defence spokesman accepting ministerial defence cuts. From a party committed to Trident replacement, it might be a faint, late virtue. There is every possible objection to coupling it with talk of rejecting populism (whatever that means here) and hinting at readier general acquiesence.

The effect (and presumably the intention) of Jim Murphy’s comments is a nasty little slash at the arm of his leader. David Miliband’s former campaign manager says one, innocuous thing, conveying to an eager media another, consciously injurious one. The same media stress ‘concern’ at Labour’s modest showing in opinion polls and the need to abandon ‘left’ policies.

As for being ‘left’, one would hope so. There are liberal Conservatives to the left of the authoritarian Blair record. In respect of polls, the coalition was elected 18 months ago. It enjoys the tolerance usually afforded new governments and is sustained politically by the economic crisis that burdens it economically. Conservatives may benefit from falling inflation and suffer from prolonged unemployment. Intelligent argument should address that interesting future. Labour’s modest poll figues, like their good performances in by-elections, are irrelevant to the elections of 2015.

But Blairthink is sunk in the shining and finished past. In the 1990s, New Labour embraced Tory essentials, preoccupied themselves with presentation and won the huge victory of 1997. Charm and anaemic policies were minor factors in that victory. The Conservatives had spent four and half years after the ERM exit in open, self-destructive war between Thatcherites and non-Thatcherites, pro and anti-Europeans. The Tory Party was slit from the nave to the chops. Yet today, chattering voices, columnists, backbenchers and loyal colleagues contemplate a similar slicing of the Labour Party.

Blairites can’t understand why they lost the leadership. Their trouble is an affinity with exiled royalty; Ed Miliband’s succesful candidacy has been treated as a sort of Orléanist family treason. The reason is different. David Miliband, starting as heir presumptive, was rejected as Blair-compliant, a sparrow on the wrist. He embodied everything Jim Murphy seems to want for his party: assent to what a Conservative government does and yearning to do it oneself. Without discernible point, it is careerism transformed into Clause Four, yet a cause for which people are whispering and arming. David Cameron looks on.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • mideastzebra on Swedish-Israeli Tensions: Avigdor Liberman was not foreign minister November 2015.
    • lars hakanson on Exit Cameron: Europe will for good reason rejoice when the UK elects to leave. The country has over the years provided nothing but obstacles to European integration...
    • Michael Schuller on Immigration Scandals: The Home Office is keen to be seen to be acting tough on immigration, although I'm not sure that the wider project has anything to do with real number...
    • Geoff Roberts on What happened in Cologne?: The most surprising thing about the events in Cologne (and the most disturbing) is that some 600 incidents of theft, harrasment and rape were reported...
    • EmilyEmily on What happened in Cologne?: The author's argument is straightforward: Sexual violence is one beast; fears about migrants is another - let's not confuse the two. Alfalfa's poin...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement