Sunday, March 13, 2011

today : a rant of sorts

I'm frustrated. Indeed by having a government whose policies i entirely disagree with in almost every way you could think of. but also by the seeming inevitability of it all.

but what makes me really frustrated is that the conduit of our grievances - the opposition, are apparently so lily-livered and meek. they appear to have no fight.

i wonder if the general election of last year financially cleaned out the labour party completely. these things tend to happen, and it takes time to rebuild the war chest. but what frustrates me more and more is that it looks like the labour party wanted to be in opposition. were happy and relieved to go back to policy reviews and standing in the background.

i was sceptical from the start with their strategy leading up the election. from moment one of brown's tenure they just got it wrong. they tried selling brown as blair pt2. it was a bit like they only knew one template for success so thought they'd repeat it. only brown wasn't blair and was clearly never comfortable being the friendly pm. but they didn't have the guts to alter the strategy. brown clearly didn't have the tv charisma of blair. what's more, cameron had moved onto blair's ground.

the whole 'bigoted woman' thing during the election sprang from the notion that they should truck brown round the country meeting voters in a effort to cuddlify his image. what they should have done is let him come across as tough, impatient and brusque but talked up his competence, especially during the financial collapse when cameron and the tories stood on the sidelines dithering.

they also played perfectly into the hands of the press, who embarked on a two year long character assassination of brown. each time he attempted an uncomfortable tv smile or tried and failed to come across as soft and approachable it shored up the press's version of him as some kind of incompetent by giving them things to point and laugh at.

then they made it worse by apologising for him. the so called spin gurus, mandelson and campbell, came off as if they didn't actually believe in what they were selling, or only had one strategy that was outdated and tailored for another time. in fact it looks as if they were desperate to get it finished with so they could write their memoirs and become pundits rather than players.

at the same time labour resignedly marshalled themselves for opposition. the milibands set up for a leadership contest and some excellent senior figures began organising their political retirement into documentary making and non-executive directorships. they shrugged and accepted that their generational tranche of ministers were finished. darling, for example, should still be at the top. he'd make mincemeat out of osborne.

even after all this surrendering, they still managed not to lose outright. even with all the press backing and the momentum the country was still unsure about the tories.

but labour were resigned to losing and this meant leadership changes, policy reviews, public soul-searching and self-flagellation. following the model the tories set after 1997. too many good experienced people got out. what's more the wrong guy was elected leader. this is david miliband's fault. he bottled it at the last minute. but maybe he wasn't the right guy after all, because rather than face defeat with some backbone he took his bat home.

so when the coalition turned out to be a nightmarish blend of ultra-right wing ideology and blundering incompetence labour was this morass of jelly-spined mewling apology addicts.

last week i heard mandelson give an interview and, whilst praising cameron, he continued apologising. also last week i watched miliband give a speech in which he was still self-flagellating and positing a re-appraisal of values and policy initiatives. what happened to the ones that were already there? are these things so moveable that an election reverse can undermine them completely?

in short, a year on, they are still stuck on the back foot. word of advice: counterpunching can work, being Audley Harrison can never work.

nothing could illustrate their stance more than when miliband appointed alan johnson as shadow chancellor. johnson was a nice guy, but as lightweight as they come. he proved when in the cabinet that he was intellectually incapable of being a real threat. what Miliband needed was what he ended up with by default, someone with heft. but even ed balls seems to be being kept on a leesh. the strategy seems to be to wait until the cuts really bite and then cash in on the tory unpopularity.

but what kind of strategy is that? like waiting for AC milan to score an own goal. my only conclusion is that the labour party has convinced itself that it can no longer exist on principals - defending the poor, standing up for workers. it can now only play the game along with the others. -changing policy and presentation to try and cynically woo the few who swing elections. if you don't move forward then there is no chance of momentum, if you don't have a solid stance you will only be knocked over.

so where do we turn? for example, it seems that labour supports the alternative vote and will be generally supporting clegg and co in the referendum. but if you are going to play the game, voting against the alternative vote is the thing to do. there's a big chunk of libdems who are holding their noses in order to get to electoral reform. in fact, this is their only mission; the only reason they went into coalition. vote it down and they have no reason to shore up tory policies. the basis for coalition begins to crumble.

surely the thing about a coalition is that it is fundamentally weak. why aren't opposition politicians chipping away at vince cable, why aren't they driving every wedge they can to bring the government down?

is it that the labour party is actually culturally embarrassed about being in charge and (the current crop of senior figures at least) unable to break out of a long held habit: that the tories are the natural party of government and the best labour can do is be an intermittent interloper?

if this is the case, where do we go to register our protest and dissatisfaction? if the referendum succeeds then it will potentially be a nightmare. get ready for ukip and other bonkers idiots to put people in parliament.

but if you're a labour politician, don't come complaining to me about it. it will be your own fault for lacking the cojones to fight.

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