Listening to Douglas Alexander’s evasive shuffling to James Naughtie a realisation dawned. New Labour’s internalised belief in themselves and delusion that there is still an ideological umbilical cord between Labour’s Old & New will be Gordon’s death-knell. Yesterday the Twitterati speculated that ‘the general election would be announced today’, crediting Labour with more chutzpah than they could possibly muster. Instead wee Doogie Alexander revealed Labour’s campaign slogan: ‘A future fair for all’.
As James Purnell’s departure resembles more and more rodents departing a listing vessel, Alexander has also revealed that Labour has been in discussion with the Obama team and that they would be utilising word of mouth: “What we are offering is not a one-way communication, but one-to-one communication”.
There are so many things wrong with this plan I read it with more glee than the news that that sordid little racist Rod Liddle had been diverted by a social media campaign to stop him taking over the editorship of the Independent.
The idea of ‘grassroots campaigning’ is not new and no doubt this is more about positioning Labour as underdog to Lord Ashcrofts millionaires and Druggy Daves Eton Rifles. Fine and good. But the idea that Labour with Gordon Brown at the helm can mimic the sort of energy and activism of ordinary members in the way that Obama and the Democrats did is point- blank-hilarious. One of the things that Obama did was inspire millions of people who had never voted before with soaring oratory, a historical opportunity to put a black man in the White House and a message of unbridled (if hopelessly and marvellously simplistic) hope. Brown’s Labour has none of these attributes, and rather than being capable of motivating new voters it has struggled to motivate it’s own members who have left the party in their hundreds of of thousands.†
The idea of a one to one communication is rarely achieved by a centralised control team. Obama’s Democrats achieved this by devolution and delegation, concepts Messrs Brown and Mandelson of ‘Control’ Freaks Inc’ will struggle with. Anyway, the opposition of Middle Ingerlund with its sweeping coalition of Torygraph and Daily (Hate) Mail readers, Home Counties malcontents, UKIPistas, EVoEL enthusiasts, people who think Guido Fawkes is a rebel and Jeremy Clarkson the closest England will get to their own Che Guevera, are much more likely to create a potent rag-tag army of a grassroots opposition than Douglas Alexander.
Like it or not Labour are the incumbent, lumbered with a leader who is a Scot, widely hated within his own party, and who’s incapable of shedding the reality that his party has presided over a period of growing and massive social inequality. The reality is that income inequality in Britain is as great now as it was under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives at the end of the 1980s. And Britain remains among the most unequal developed economies in the world, according to the government-sponsored report from the National Equality Panel.
“Labour lacks a sustained record on preventing poverty and inequality. Whilst the Government should attract praise for bringing the subject of poverty back to the top of the political agenda, making significant inroads into child and pensioner poverty up to 2005, instead of facing up to the difficult choices required to implement sustainable results they fudged the most important socio-economic challenges in favour of the mythical electoral bounty of ‘middle-England’ – a point, sadly to say, the recent publication of the National Equality Panel report An anatomy of economic inequality in the UK vividly displays.” These are not the words of the left or of SNP critics, they are the words of Labours own people, impotent to change the direction of the party.
“As the rich escape scrutiny through tax havens, the rhetoric of ‘wealth-creation’ and the ‘trickledown’ effect, taxation became more regressive, marginal tax rates on Tax Credits penalised the poor seeking work as a route out of poverty, social security benefits remained below the poverty-line for those suffering economic hardship, and education became more marketised and selective. New Labour thus chose an inherently biased notion of ‘rights and responsibilities’. The poor are demonised for their welfare dependency, benefit fraud and anti-social behaviour.” So says Labours own people.
So Alexanders big announcement is an announcement of defeat, a strategy for failure in the coming election and an exercise in self-denial. If Labour want to fight a battle on ‘a future fair for all’ they will have to reflect on their own legacy of failing the poor. As ‘English Socialist’ remarks on Labour List: ‘Sadly while the Barnett Formula remains in place the slogan translates to: “A future fair for all – unless you happen to live in England”.
The tabloid-stoked feeling of bitterness and lack of expression for England reflects not the ‘submerged optimism’ of Alexanders fevered mind but the submerged nationalism of discontented England. The Conservatives and their cousins in a million UKIP/English Democrats/Defence Leagues of St George splinters are the only groups who can benefit as Labour try desperately to prop up their version of Britain and Britishness at the end of the tenure during which they have dismantled all of the cohesive institutions that woud make the concept have any meaning.
† The collapse in Labour’s grassroots membership numbers has contributed to its precarious financial position, with the party still £18 million in debt despite slashing its staff and spending.In an official submission to the Electoral Commission, Labour admitted that its membership at the end of 2007 was 176,891. That is scarcely 40 per cent of the 405,000 peak reached in 1997 when Tony Blair took office, and thought to be the lowest total since Labour was founded in 1900. Total Labour membership fell by nearly 6,000 during 2007, the year Gordon Brown replaced Mr Blair as leader. It is believed to have gone on falling during the first half of this year too.