The Thick of It


Friday, August 29, 2008

Lammy on the money

Writing in the latest Progress magazine, David Lammy admits the obvious, that the Tories' language under Cameron has wooed the public. There is nothing startling about that to anyone who has lived in the UK for the last year. There is if you are The Daily Mail. The Mail has triumphantly dubbed Lammy's article "Labour minister publicly admits David Cameron has 'touched a nerve" like it is a revelation that someone in the Labour Party has admitted that Cameron's Tories are leading in the opinion polls. Lammy's glasses must be good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

No such thing as a broken society

In his Telegraph column yesterday, Mayor Boris Johnson dubbed Tory leader David Cameron's claim that British society is broken, "piffle." Conservative Home rightly pointed out that this high level disagreement was overshadowed by Tim Parker's resignation yesterday. Some other titles picked up on this (Daily Mail, Paul Waugh at the Evening Standard).

Cameron wants to denigrate today's society and is positioning himself as best placed to fix it. Aside from my view that the Cameron/Osbourne proposals (supporting marriage, being tough on crime, fewer tax credits) to fix the breaks are likely to make things worse not better, I think we really need to highlight how this analysis is wrong in the first place. Therefore BJ's intervention is most helpful. Of course there are social problems in Britain, but to claim that Britain is socially broken is both cynical and wrong.

Cameron needs to tar British society with the brush of failure because governments lose elections and for Labour to lose they need to be shown to have failed. However, aside from political necessity I think this analysis is more dangerous. In the same way that talking of a looming economic recession can damage business and consumer confidence leading to lower spending and investment and recession, talk of a broken society can make people feel less safe, more cynical and negative about their neighbourhood.

I don't always agree with him, but on this occasion Jack Straw is exactly right:

Boris Johnson has exposed David Cameron's mantra that Britain is broken for what it is: Piffle.

'Only this week, the Tory leader was again saying our country is broken. Yet today the mayor has been frank in his opposition to his leader's claim, which has always been the most cynical nonsense.

'Whatever David Cameron might say, Britain is a decent, compassionate and vibrant nation, and on almost every measure it has got better in the past decade. No one has broken Britain and no one ever will.'

Our country is not broken like Cameron wants to claim, far from it. We should not write off our young people otherwise we may get the response we deserve. Hopefully our mayor can show the leadership where he has so far failed and ensure London's young are not written off.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another of Boris Johnson's deputy mayors quits

BBC London radio and others are reporting that another of Boris Johnson's fabled deputy mayors has quit. This really is getting a little careless. Latest one is union buster Tim Parker, a canny double for BJ's sports commissioner, Kate Hoey. And yes, I do think she should be kicked out of the Labour Party.

Parker has apprently resigned as he thought it inappropriate for an unelected official to hold the positions of First Depurty Mayor and Chair of Transport for London. I couldn't agree more. London may have elected Jonson, they elected him to lead London, not a team of co-opted Tory cronies.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Do we need a new captain?

Does Labour need a "captain" in charge to arrest the slide in the polls as most media comment suggests, or do we need to back the one we already have?

Writing at Labourhome, John Prescott claims that "it wasn’t the Captain that sank the Titanic – a ship they claimed was unsinkable - it was the iceberg. The best way to avoid disaster is to manage your way around the problem...For me, it’s all about setting the right course. That’s why I’ve always favoured policy over personality and why I believe Gordon’s the right captain."

Favouring policy over personality is a virtuous ideal but politics isn't ideal. New Labour's success was based on pushing a slick, well branded personality politics onto the country when politics had become tired after the Major years. In London recently Boris Johnson won a battle of personality politics over Ken Livingstone. This is the battleground on which political fights are won. Without the personality the policy doesn't matter.

Gordon Brown has become a victim of this. Media commentators have decided that the Tories are credible for the first time in a generation and that Brown is not. Once momentum is lost and is running against you it is impossible to regain. However, a new leader might not be the answer, as last week's polls showed that Labour would be just as unpopular with David Milliband at the helm. Labour cannot afford a leadership election financially, let alone a general election that would become impossible to resist if a new leader were elected.

Labour is faced with Hobson's choice. It would be far simpler if the party showed discipline. To backed a Brown leadership the party and country needs to see him offering strong leadership and fresh ideas. At the moment that isn't the case. I fear that the party could end up in the worst of all positions, new leader, new elections and yet the same result than if Brown stays = defeat.

This is likely because Labour feels rudderless with the party and country reacting to the media fervour for blood. Following the media rather than leading it, new Labour was once famed for doing the latter, is exactly what put Labour in this mess in the first place. The nonsense over the election that never was permanently damaged Brown's leadership credentials and he has never recovered. At the time I thought a general election unnecessary yet the speculation was only nipped in the bud when the damage was already done.