Friday, 12 June 2009

The party I no longer love

MY friend Ira stunned me this week.
Not when he said even he now wanted Gordon Brown to quit as PM and Labour leader. Surely nobody outside the Westminster village and Brown’s close associates actually wants him to stay.
No, it was when he used the phrase “the party I love”, meaning the Labour Party. Without irony.
The truth is, I once loved the party. Not in the way you fall in love with a new person, a new idea – but the way you love your family. Right or wrong, they are your people. You grew up with them. You belong.
Ira, clearly, still feels he belongs. It’s been so long since I felt that, I’d almost forgotten it was possible.
I fell out of love with Labour a long time ago. Round about the time a new leader called Blair set about demolishing everything that had kept it in touch with its roots and true to its principles.
There are still principled people in the Labour Party. My sister is one, Ira is another.
They may even still make up a majority of the party. But they certainly don’t form a majority of those in Parliament – still less in government.
I once thought Brown was one of the few at the top who still had principles. It seems now that his only principle is clinging on to power. For the little time that’s left him. And for all the good it can do anyone.
Of course, those of us who wish he’d go now – or that he’d already gone – do so in the hope that under another leader Labour might suddenly transform itself back into what it once was. Some hope.
It would, in truth, be a miracle. Even if the new leader was one of the good guys – Alan Johnson, say, or one of the Miliband brothers.
It would be a still greater miracle if the reborn party were to win the next election.
Which may be why nobody seems prepared to stand against Brown for the leadership right now.
Because all the conceivable candidates know that whoever leads Labour into the election will be a loser, their future chances blighted forever.
Perhaps they are all hoping for a one-term David Cameron government. A short, sharp disaster after which a re-fashioned Labour Party can ride back triumphantly to pick up the pieces.
The trouble with that long game is that it fails to take account of what Cameron and his crew might do. And how long they might stick around.
There must also be a question-mark over whether Labour can recover at all from the depths they are now in.
When they trail in behind UKIP in the European poll, and even the British Nasty Party gets a couple of members in to Strasbourg, you know things have got pretty dire. (Although you can blame the relative success of those parties on the fact none of the others seemed to take the Euro poll as seriously as they should.)
I heard the Lib Dems’ Simon Hughes at the weekend describing Labour as a party which no longer had a reason for being. And in a way he’s right.
Not for the reason he gave, which was frankly bonkers. There was, he claimed, no place for a working-class party any more because there was no longer a working class.
On the contrary, as capitalism hits the buffers hard, ordinary folk worldwide are facing hard times. The need for an old-fashioned party of labour is as great as ever.
That party should be Labour. But that was the party Blair and his confederates killed.
It’s hard to say just what the Labour Party, at parliamentary level, stands for now. Almost as hard as it is to spot a principle, or a real policy, on the Tory side of the House.

AS the leaflet flopped onto the doormat its message looked like a case of mistaken identity – or maybe libel.
“People like you,” it said, “voting BNP.”
People like me don’t vote BNP. Never have. Never will.
Then after their relative success in getting two MEPs elected – the same number as the Green Party and the Scottish Nationalists – BNP leader Nick Griffin tried again to play that “people like us” card.
And again got it utterly, nastily, wrong.
The vote for him, he said, showed that people were sick of discrimination.
There is, he claimed, racism “against people who look like me”.
By which, presumably, he meant paunchy middle-class white males.
A group so discriminated against they run the government, occupy most seats in Parliament and in company boardrooms, take home most pay and drive most of the big cars. Poor souls.

IT’S long been remarked that big international companies – like AIG, for instance, or General Motors – are as powerful as many countries.
Twenty years ago the world watched stunned as big countries collapsed and flew apart, their rulers shamed and discarded.
As the Soviet Union, Poland and Romania in 1989, so perhaps GM, LDV and Setanta in 2009.
As Communism then, capitalism now?

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