Friday, 5 December 2008

ABNORMAL SERVICE

Apologies for the economic downturn in blog productivity.

I've noticed this before over the last 25 years, but comedians and comedy writers are often at their busiest during economic downturns. You're never far from my thoughts blog reader, but at this moment there is no space in my head or timetable to do you justice properly. I'll try and come back as soon as possible.

Happy early December...

Monday, 1 December 2008

THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL

On 20 Nov, after finally making e-mail contact with the local party, I received this e-mail:

Hi Dave,
Thanks for getting back. I'm interested in what you said about building up an on-line presence. Our election candidate has a website which has not been updated for about a year and I'd be very interested to hear your views on what we could do.
Best wishes
CELP

Here was my response, sent on the same day. Still awaiting a reply...

Dear Crouch End Labour Party,

Thanks for getting back to me.

I think what the local party has to do is look at what the Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone has managed to achieve in the five or so years she has been active in Crouch End. Now I know she has unlimited funds and a fantastic aptitude for self-publicity, but what she has aside from all that is passion, and belief in her cause.

My feeling is that Labour dropped off the radar in places like Crouch End because local voters and activists had the passion and belief knocked out of them by three key New Labour policies - hostility to public service workers and the unions, flirtatious courtship of the right-wing press, and the Iraq war. All these helped to overshadow the many achievements under Tony Blair.

When Gordon took over there was a groundswell of goodwill waiting to happen and rejuvenate the party - and we all know what happened next. Now the landscape has changed again.

I get a sense, and it may just be my own prejudices and instincts, that for all the problems everyone in the country is facing, there is a feeling that people are looking to Labour, and Gordon Brown, for solutions. In other words, the passion and belief is back.

So this brings me to our prospective candidate, and her lack of website. I can only speak for the area I live in, but there are so many things going on round here, so many things that could be addressed, things that should be natural Labour territory but which we are leaving to the Lib Dems to deal with. How is Crouch End going to deal with the recession? How many more local shops of value will have to close? How can we help the local traders? Can we at least join in on their local debates? Do we have any influence over landlords charging excessive rents? How green is Crouch End? Are we doing anything collectively to improve it? Are we happy with the community police?

And while we're at it, why don't we show Haringey a little support? Show off the Library, and Park Road Pools, and the new wing at Coleridge, all the good stuff that Haringey does that gets drowned under the bad publicity. It's all very well for Lynne Featherstone to sound off calling for heads to roll over baby P, we should be making sure the other side is heard, the huge support for the head of Haringey social services, the problems with reports and recommendations.

There are so many questions, issues that our candidate should be adressing even if she doesn't yet have an answer to any of them. We should be building up a massive e-mail address list, starting with members who pass their e-mails on to other local people, getting the local shops, schools etc involved.

Sorry to ramble on, hope it all makes sense

Best wishes

Dave

Monday, 24 November 2008

DEAR DAVE...

Well finally, contact has been officially made. Six weeks after joining the Labour Party, I received this letter from my neighbouring ward. After informing me of the sad passing away of the local councillor, the letter got down to business.

“Sadly our attentions now have to turn to electing a new councillor… I’m writing to all Labour members in Haringey to invite you to seek selection to be Labour’s candidate in this by-election…if you are interested in standing, you must complete and return the enclosed form by 5pm on Monday 24 November.”

In other words, welcome back to the Labour Party, do you fancy becoming a candidate? Now I realise that I'm registered in Haringey, so everyone remotely involved with the Labour Party here is deemed to be in possession of two horns and a tail, but do you think there might perhaps be the tiniest sort of vetting process at work? No one has ever been so forward to me on a first date.

I'm thinking of filling in the form anyway, just to see whether I get chosen or not. After asking for the usual personal details, the form continues as follows:
Gender: Male (sorry!)
Ethnic Origin: White (sorry again)
Details of Disability if applicable: Ha ha! I've got a hearing aid! Result!

Labour Party Experience: Hardly any. I went out canvassing in 1983. Once. And in 1997 I drove some old people to the Polling Station.

Other Life Experience: Wife and three kids ('family man'). No previous convictions. Stand-up comedian. (far too self-aware to spout a party line in public).

Relevant Knowledge of Seven Sisters Ward and local government: Been to the planning office a couple of times. It's very nice.

Communication skills: Marginally better than Crouch End Labour Party. (Still waiting to hear)

Campaigning Skills and Experience: See Labour Party Experience.

I wonder if that would get me a place on the short list? I'd send the form off only I'm worried that no one else will apply and I'll end up becoming Councillor Dave of Seven Sisters. In which case maybe it's best that they know about the Cayman Island account and the second wife in Thailand...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

NO COMMENT

Oh well, it's all clear now.

Turns out the reason I've been getting no comments for the past few weeks isn't because no one's reading the blog. (Although surely that has something to do with it). It's because I had the wrong default settings. Computers are clearly to me what anyone who earns under 50K a year is to George Osborne ie utterly beyond my comprehension.

So keep those tirades of blogosphere invective cascading in this direction. Before I cocked up the settings, I'm afraid to say that all the comments I received were disappointingly erudite and well-considered. This is a blog on the internet okay? I want bile! spelling mistakes! Abbreviations! And the only punctuation I'm looking for is exclamation marks!!!

:-)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

THE SPEECH OF HIS LIFE pt 2


My fellow Conservatives, what I am about to say to you today should come as no surprise. When I first became leader, and I began to talk about the importance of climate change, and how there was such a thing as society, and how we would not tolerate racial discrimination, you looked on me with suspicion.

But you also saw that for the first time I was beginning to attract a new kind of person to the Conservative Party. The kind of person who isn’t yet eligible for a bus pass. The kind of person who doesn’t necessarily look as though he might send letters in green biro to the Daily Mail.

You remained suspicious, but as Labour became less popular, and we started to build a lead over them in local and bye-elections, you stopped minding so much. Even your Chief Flag Bearer Lord Tebbit cooled his criticisms.

And for a while, it meant that I didn’t need to challenge you any more. It looked as though we were so clearly on course for an election victory that I might have been able to become Prime Minister without having to create a ‘Clause Four’ moment. My Bullingdon buds George and Boris were proving a hit with the neutrals, and Gordon Brown seemed to be taking popularity lessons from my predecessors Howard and Duncan Smith.

Well, as we all know the landscape has changed. Labour, and Brown, are being given another chance. There’s no point repeating the truth, that Brown’s personal promotion of unfettered city greed did so much to get us here in the first place. After all, to reiterate these facts only serves to remind people that these now utterly discredited policies were pioneered by Margaret Thatcher, Nigel Lawson and Ken Clarke.

So how should we respond to this new situation? The easiest thing would be for me to revert to type. To call for spending cuts as the only way to help reduce taxes. To show up Labour as the party of tax and spend. To create a climate of fear about the pound, and the economy. Hague, Howard, IDS, they all began with good intentions, each one soon returned to fear, racism, self-interest, the 80s siren calls that still played well to the dwindling minority of loyal grass roots voters.

But I’ve gone too far for that. I’ve moved our party too far into the 21st century to allow us to return to the 19th. I believe that to take on Labour, instead of trying to argue with them, we show the people that there are alternative ways of saving our economy. So that is why today, I am reviving one of the few policies that Margaret Thatcher advocated but which she failed to see through.

From today, I shall argue that Britain must, as soon as is humanly possible, sign up to the Euro.

The pound has been in more or less terminal decline for half a century, and frankly we should have joined at Margaret’s first attempt. Now we have to accept that, for better or for worse, in today’s global economy, global solutions are required. This is what Gordon Brown never tires of repeating, but he remains convinced that he alone knows what those solutions are.

Margaret, for all her hectoring aginst Europe, was a pragmatist at heart. She also signed us up to the Channel Tunnel, a move that has brought us closer to Europe physically and emotionally.

Yes, Margaret knew how to tickle the tummies of our grass roots supporters when it came to bashing Jean Foreigner, but deep down she was the most Europe-friendly Prime Minister Britain has ever had – and she did it because for her winning elections was ultimately far more important than taking a stand for Britain.

Europe is our future. At times they may seem bureaucratic and over-zealous in their regulations, but generally we are grateful for their directives on work, human rights, the lives we lead and the food we consume. To quote from one of my all-time heroes,
“He said ‘d’you want it pasteurised cos pasteurised is best?’
She said ‘Ernie I’ll be happy if it comes up to me chest.’”

Friday, 14 November 2008

GORD HELP US


Yes that's right, I set up this blog back in July as a little experiment, first of all to see if I could write four or five short articles a week about one topic (so far so good), and second because I really believed Labour might be able to choose a new leader, as the current one was proving so hopeless.

Then he became an international hero, saviour of the world etc - and a prolific letter-writer (see previous blogs). While I didn't become a convert overnight, my enduring fondness for the man and his principles at least made me believe he deserved another chance.

But reading the newspapers and websites today, I'm reminded what it is about Gordon Brown that makes him no longer the right man to lead the Labour Party to the next election. God, I even almost typed 'election defeat' without thinking there, that phrase might as well be one word.

Gordon, schoolmaster of all he surveys and Professor-in-Waiting to the world, will 'tell' the assembled Ministers and leaders this weekend what they need to do to make sure the world economy stays afloat. Okay, as world leaders go he has a better grasp of economics than most. He's proved himself, as even his harshest critics admit, to be a calm man in a crisis. But there are two other crucial requirements now, and he is sorely lacking in both areas.

One - he needs to show humility. There has been not the slightest hint that the problems of the last few weeks might have had anything to do with Gordonomics - specific policies that encouraged the city greed that brought us to this place, along with the ruthless pursuit of economic growth at any cost.

I can see why in political terms a public apology hands his enemies a lifeline while they're currently wondering how to defeat him, but a private acknowledgment that there are other countries - notably those signed up to the Euro, and those who have continued to innovate with their economies - who also know a thing or two about how to keep their countries economically viable.

So two - he needs to listen. Not to the people who have had his ear for the last ten years - Irwin Seltzer, Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre, Margaret Thatcher, people who like him and most of the bankers have learned nothing from this greedy world they created. People from other countries who have their own ideas about how to get out of this mess.

Today's rant is pushed for time. Have a nice weekend y'all.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

WORK LIFE BALANCE

Now I'm not trying to be flippant, I've been a freelance writer and performer for 25 years so I've had my fair share of anxious weeks and months wondering if I'll ever work again... but could we just stop for a moment and try and look at the current depressing unemployment figures from a different point of view?

Everyone is saying things are looking really bad for the economy, and for economies the world over, and of course economies are very big things that push and pull in all directions. But what I'm talking about is people. Individuals.

Now what I'm about to say goes against all my instincts as a lifelong Trade Unionist, and a believer that people should be paid properly for the work they do, but how about instead of making one person 100 per cent unemployed, why not make two people 50 per cent unemployed? I know, it's called job share.

These giant companies like BT and Virgin, for example, that are planning to shed thousands iof jobs. It shouldn't be beyond the realms of human capability for the people who run these companies to devise working situations where they could have two people working half-time, they're paying one less wage but they're not adding to the unemployment figures, they're putting one less person on benefits and giving everyone a chance to go out and do something useful in their lives - whether it's find anopther job, voluntary work, involvement in some local cause.

I know it sounds utterly fanciful and is so totally not thought through - this is, after all, a blog, so just be thankful I'm not writing 'that dude is so owt of tuch lol' - but if your own job is at risk which would you prefer - a 50 per cent pay cut plus 20 extra hours in the day, or a 100 per cent cut and 40 hours?

Oh well, back to comedy. Got bills to pay...

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

DEAR GORDON

Dear Gordon,

Just thought I'd keep up our blossoming correspondence of the last few weeks. Thanks for letting me know about why you bailed out the banks, bailed out Peter Mandelson, and gloated over Alex Salmond.

I've had quite a busy week, I've got a sitcom script I'm quite pleased with that I've been tweaking, and I shall be sending it out to a few producers before Christmas. And I've had some encouraging comments about this blog which is amazing because I don't think anyone reads it!!!

How about you? I see your old mate Paul Dacre has been slagging off the Human Rights Act, does this mean you're going to cave in exactly the same as you did with the BBC, and instantly repeal it? I hope not. Anyway, send Paul my love and tell him the measles epidemic is just starting to slow down now, so keep up the good work at the Mail.

Anyway, the reason I'm writing is because it's now five weeks (FIVE WEEKS!!!) since I contacted my local party. No one got back to me by phone or e-mail, but then joy of joys! I walked past the Labour Party office in Crouch End on Saturday morning and Steve was there! No I don't know who Steve is either, and he probably thought I was weird because I greeted him like a long lost friend.

But Steve ALSO took my e-mail and telephone number, and PROMISED me he'd do something about it. (Oh dear, mentioning Paul Dacre has turned me into a ranting tabloid journalist! Must calm down) Three days on and still not a peep from anyone local. Does the local Labour Party exist? Am I real, or am I dreaming? Are my plans to turn Labour into the kind of solvent mass movement the Democrats have become already dead in the water?

When you have a mo, let me know your thoughts. And if you know anyone who lives in Crouch End and votes Labour, let me know their address thanks

Love as ever
Dave

Monday, 10 November 2008

WAKE UP LABOUR...


"David Cameron is expected to say in a speech later that the Conservatives will not allow unemployment to ruin people's lives."

Somewhere in a parallel universe, my Tory equivalent is sitting in his little house in Maidstone or wherever they are, screaming at the BBC News website for printing the above (and probably using it as another excuse to close down the BBC for good.)

He is ranting against this one final betrayal of what Thatcherism was truly about - and he would have already posted something on his blog if the foam coming from his mouth hadn't jammed his keyboard - which was, letting the market solve how people live their lives. Cameron may not allow unemployment to ruin people's lives, but unemployment as 'the small price to pay' for good government was at the heart of Maggie's first two terms.

However, is there anyone from Labour daring to point this out? Why can't Labour be producing a press release to this effect? Or would I be accused by my leader of 'playing politics' for daring to point out the fundamental difference between the philosophies at the heart of Conservatism and Labour?

If you want to be liked again, I suggest you WAKE UP Labour.

Friday, 7 November 2008

I SPOKE TOO SOON

I don't normally post more than once a day but the continuingly prolific Gordon has sent me another e-mail, and I'm depressed again.

Dear Dave, it begins, and perhaps it would have been best for all of us if it had ended there -

I wanted to take the time to thank all those party members who helped secure a great win for Lindsay Roy in the Glenrothes by-election. Don't waste your valuable Prime Ministerial time writing to me then mate, I did sod all.

In particular I would like to pay tribute to Gordon Banks and John Park, Jim Murphy and Iain Gray for their energy and commitment. Lindsay was an excellent candidate and will make a great MP. It fills me with great pride that the former Head Master from my old school in Kirkcaldy will join us in the House of Commons.

Okay, nothing to bother me there. Quite touching, in a small way.

What this victory shows is that people want politicians who will help them fairly through the downturn, and that they will always turn away from those politicians who choose to play politics rather than offer solutions which protect people through this downturn.

Aaaaaarrrgggh! He's done it again. You had to bloody well go and spoil it.

Labour won Glenrothes to some extent by playing politics, and playing it well. They attacked the SNP where they were weak, even though many of the problems the SNP faced as the ruling party were not their fault. DON'T YOU SEE that merely by saying people turn away from politicians who choose to play politics, you are playing politics. I know this is supposed to be no time for a novice, but you should watch Obama's acceptance speech and learn how to show your opponents a bit of humility in victory.

That is why I am going to Brussels today to meet with other world leaders - subtext: Cameron and Salmond are not world leaders, I am, that's so childish - about the action we can take together to give British families and businesses the support and security they need to protect their mortgages, job and standards of living. It's that mantra again.

In the meantime please join me in thanking all of those who helped secure Lindsay's win.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Brown


GLENGORDON GLENROTHES

Well you could have knocked me down with a feather (Vic Feather, he was a big man. I love the fact that not only is there no one reading this blog, but that I can put in jokes that even if the blog was really popular hardly anyone would get. American comedy writers call jokes like that 'two percenters' ie only 2% of the viewers get it but it's going in the show anyway, just for them).

Anyway Labour, that Labour party I rejoined the week after their worst ever bye-election defeat, in Glasgow East last July, are back in the reckoning as a political party. The initial reason I set up this blog was because I thought Labour needed to get its act together, have a new leadership battle, with genuine arguments heard by all sides, led by the membership. Not the current membership, but people like me, the ones who left in their tens of thousands over matters such as the Iraq war.

It's quite breathtaking how Gordon's global 'to do' list has turned his fortunes around so dramatically. One of the reasons we were all fond of him was that he was a decent man with big ideas. The main reason we were fed up with him was that he was incapable of translating those big ideas into a coherent sense of what his leadership was for. Well, now that's been delivered to him by Lehman Brothers. Thanks guys.

So what now? With America about to change, subject to one last hurrah from George before he trashes the office on his last day, for the first time since Thatcher and Reagan there'll be two like-minded leaders in control of Britain and the US. Where Ronnie and Maggie created a world based on selfishness and greed, perhaps Gordon and Barack can point us towards a world where we have to share the diminishing wealth. Oops, off in dreamland.

I really want this blog to be funny, but honestly I'm so chuffed by the events of the past week I haven't found anything annoying enough to work me into a comedic frenzy. Promise to be funny again after the weekend.

Pip pip!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

A MACHINE WRITES...

----- Original Message -----
From: info @email newlabour.org.uk
Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 5:47 PM
Subject: Last night's result

Thank you for contacting the Labour Party.

Your comments and questions are important to us.

But we will not have seen this email you sent us.

You will need to re-send your email by clicking on the link below and completing the online form.

Go to labour.org.uk/contact. By using this form we will be better able to deal with your comments and questions in the most appropriate manner.

Thank you for contacting us.

Membership and Communications Unit
The Labour Party



Dear Labour Party,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly, albeit in automated form. I was just curious about the fact that, since I rejoined Labour and contacted my local party at the beginning of October, Gordon Brown has fought off a leadership challenge, saved the world from financial ruin, brought back Peter Mandelson (he must be kicking himself about that now) - and still found the time to write me two letters.

However, I have not received a single acknowledgment from my local branch of the Party (Crouch End and Wood Green), where even as we speak I am hanging around waiting desperately to jump out of the starting blocks and become involved in some direct action.

I can only assume that with no MP and no councillors, the remaining local members have given up on the party. So shall I just appoint myself chairman? Or is there anyone out there - anyone?! who might be willing to talk to me?

Many thanks
Dave

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

DEAR DAVE...

----- Original Message -----
From: Gordon Brown
Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 5:38 PM
Subject: Last night's result

Dear Dave

This morning I sent my sincere congratulations to Barack Obama on winning the Presidency of the United States. I also have sent a message to Senator John McCain who has shown characteristic dignity in defeat - the same dignity that has marked a lifetime of service to the public.

What has happened today will live in history for as long as history books are written. Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energising politics with his progressive vision for the future. His success marks a victory for those who believe that real change requires real substance and the right values.

Over the next few months and years, I look forward to working with Barack Obama, as President Elect and then as President. I know he is a true friend of Britain, and I know that the values we share in common and the polices on which we can work together will enable us to come through these difficult economic times and help to build a fairer and more secure world.

I believe the strong relationship between Britain and America is built not just on history and tradition but on values of liberty, democracy and opportunity that we hold in common. And today, as Barack Obama said this morning, America has proved once again that its great strength comes from 'the enduring power of our ideals.'

Gordon Brown



Dear Gordon,

Since I re-joined the Labour Party in July of this year, you have sent me two e-mails, without me even asking. (Thanks, by the way, I like the personal touch). However, despite numerous e-mails and phone calls to my local Labour Party, not one single person has responded to my request to become involved at local level.

I know you're a busy chap, but if someone with a bit of time on their hands could contact anyone from Crouch End and Wood Green Labour Party to contact me at this e-mail address, I'd be absolutely delighted.

Many thanks Dave

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I AM THE CROUCH END LABOUR PARTY

Ah, Crouch End, known only to the majority of web users as a short story by Stephen King - I've not read it, but I'm sure if I surmise that a grisly murder takes place somewhere among our buggy-filled boulevards that I'd be on the right lines synopsis-wise - and as the setting for Simon Pegg's 'Shaun Of The Dead' movie.

Anyway, I only mention these two dull snippets of information now because in the last four weeks I have been unable to spot or locate a single member of what was once the thriving Crouch End and Wood Green Labour Party. Have they all been killed off, or simply turned into zombies, doomed to a life of delivering postal votes from the grave?

No one answers my phone calls, nobody picks up my e-mails, the shop on Middle Lane is permanently shut. So I have decided to step in to the vacuum of power and intrigue caused by this depletion of bodies, to declare that as of today I am now unofficially Chairperson, secretary, treasurer and all round Policy Wonk of Crouch End and Wood Green Labour Party.

Too much power invested in one person? You should have thought of that before you relinquished your own authority, sucker. Power is mine, although I shall of course use it only for benign purposes (once I have thrown Starbucks off the high street and reinstated Word Play).

My first move will be to alert the national party of these missing persons... and then contact the computer savvy neighbouring branch of Walthamstow for some handy hints.

Can this blog get any more exciting you ask?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

WHILE GORDON SAVES WORLD (AND BBC FROM BRAND)...


... Dear Crouch End and Hornsey Labour Party,


Three weeks ago I telephoned your answerphone and asked for some information about how I could become active in my local party.

Ten days later I followed this up with another phone call and an e-mail. And now this e-mail number two.

Since I first spoke to your answerphone, Gordon Brown has spent 2.8 trillion pounds to bail out our banking system, Harry Redknapp has spent precisely nothing to facilitate the instant recovery of Tottenham Hotspur, Russell Brand has had to forgo his £200,000 a year BBC income and live solely off the earnings of his multimillion pound Hollywood career, and Leeds United have won three and lost three games yet somehow remain third in League One. Following them at the moment is not unlike following the Stock Exchange.

My original theory, that my telephone message was viewed by the massed throng of the local Labour Party as a prank call, doesn't hold water, as despite working regularly for the BBC I have yet to be suspended.

My current theory is that the original telephone message, with offers to become actively involved with the local Party, was met with such shock that it must have induced a heart attack in the person hearing it. Maybe that was the same person who is entrusted to answer the e-mails. In which case, I apologise for the pain I have caused, but in the meantime I'd still like to get involved in making Labour more interesting, and politics fun. Not much to ask is it?

Please contact me soon otherwise I may have to break in to your local offices and, assuming that they are totally empty, put things in there.

Many thanks

Dave

Friday, 24 October 2008

ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY RE-LAUNCH

Houston we have had the occasional problem with the re-launch, crashing computers and blocked websites – my library computer still insists that this site be filed under pornography (in which case how come no one is looking at it?). So my attempts to go daily have been scuppered by a combination of technology and my own inefficiency.

And next week is half term, so for those of us with blogs and small children, something has to give. If only it was still legal to send the five year old up a chimney, I could continue writing this blog to no one in particular about saving the world in peace.

But before I go, I leave you with these two thoughts:
1) Two people have changed the political landscape this month – for ever.

Gordon Brown has shown that when the will is there, anything is possible. If spending vast sums of money is what it takes to stave off the collapse of the world banking system, then vast sums of money can be found. If enough people push for something (such as action on climate change) it can be achieved. Which leads me to:

Barack Obama, who has raised vast amounts of money from thousands and thousands of small donations. He has done the equivalent of what Trade Unions and the Labour party used to do ie fund fairness through small donations. He has shown the Labour Party over here how it can reinvent itself, as a mass member party no longer dependent on the wishes or money of high finance. Which leads me to:

2) It is now two and a half weeks since I phoned my local party, three days since I e-mailed them. What is going on? Am I the only person left in Crouch End who is a member of the Party.

Happy holidays reader.

See you next week.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

GREED IS MY CREED


I’ve always prided myself on my refusal to conform. Call it single-mindedness, individuality, justification for things going wrong in my personal and professional life – take your pick.

However, this time I’ve really decided to go for it. In the style of Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street, tough-guy image built on the famous ‘braces and bracelets’ look, I am going to shout it from the rooftops – ‘Greed Is Good’!

Greed is good greed is good greed is good greed is good. No, I’m not being paid by the word. Just if you repeat something often enough it sticks.

That’s been the mantra on Wall Street and the city for two decades. And where did it get them? They got greedier and greedier and became bigger bullies so that no one dared to challenge them, then it all went horribly wrong.

So then what happened?

They got bailed out. A few people responsible lost their jobs. Nobody got hurt. Nobody died. Government remained in thrall to money.

What about those of us who’ve put the opposite view? That all that huge amount of wealth should be used to stave off climate change disasters? To feed the poor? To help Palestine become a proper country? To buy two tickets to see Lee Evans at the O2 stadium?

No one ever listens to us, talking reasonably in our thin weedy voices made meek by not eating enough red meat or driving enough sports cars through built-up areas.

What I learned in the playground aged five remains true today – the people who shout and scream the loudest are the ones who get their own way. We can all agree that we don’t like them, or that they’re spoilt, or unreasonable, but in the end we settle for a quiet life and give in, promising to fight them another day.

So what would happen if we all made a big row? If you and I and all our mates stamped our feet and screamed and yelled and shouted at our superiors that we wouldn’t stop until they implemented the Kyoto agreement – and once they’d done that we’d scream some more, and stamp our feet and roll around punching the ground with our fists until they cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent?

Come on then, let’s all be greedy. We know what we want – we want the world to be a safer place, we want to re-distruibute money and love more fairly around the world, we can’t stop fellow screamers and shouters with suicide bombs from blowing up trains but we can create conditions to stop more people signing up to their cause.

We’re not asking for much, just the world.

AND WE’RE GONNA SCREAM AND SHOUT SO LOUD YOU’RE GONNA BE FED UP WITH US AND GIVE IN JUST TO GET A QUIET LIFE.

So, can we have our world back please mister?

Monday, 20 October 2008

5,4,3,2,1... RELAUNCH!


The story so far:
July 2008 – Britain’s Labour Party at an all-time low. Memberless, broke, heading for certain electoral defeat – what better time to re-join the club that no one wants to be a member of?
In my simple, modest way, I fashioned this blog as a singlehanded attempt to save the Labour Party. In the light of recent world events I have decided to move with the times, and package financial meltdown, climate change, nuclear war, and one other thing so terrible we don’t even know what it is yet – into one giant securitised portfolio of joy. So this is now a blog about my slightly less modest attempt to save the world. Only my method – rejoining the Labour Party - remains the same.

Why the Labour Party? You may well ask. Why in God’s name the Labour Party? Also entitled. Are you completely mad? Now you’ve overstepped the bounds of politeness, stranger. But a legitimate question nonetheless.

Well, my 561 point plan to save the world has to start somewhere. And while this blog can be read from Krakatoa to Kuala Lumpur, via Northampton (all places that will at some point in the future take heed of my benign scheme), I need a physical place and some people on whom to attempt my evil experiments, and to help me work out what the remaining 559 steps are. For all their spinelessness, American influenced warmongering and right-wing press-pandering xenophobia, they are, once again, my party, and the only party to supposedly represent the under-represented.
Why 561 steps? Well, that's the exact number of days left between now and the last possible date for a General Election in the UK. Gives me something to work towards.

So – step one – re-join the Labour Party. Done. Bald, deaf Jew joins yet another minority.

Step two – get in touch with my local party.

Regular reader (Hi Pete!) may remember that about two weeks ago I managed to track down the phone number of my local party. I rang them but never received a reply. Last week I picked up an e-mail address. In my bid to save the world, I am nothing if not persistent.

Step three. The journey begins… See you tomorrow.

Friday, 17 October 2008

MAN NEW JOINS LABOUR


And so, to the big re-launch, coming next week. Hence the 'new' in the above title - although that was the only place I could put it in the title without making it sound like something it isn't.

Looking back to the original parameters of this blog, the Labour Party, has, for the moment, been saved. My work is done.

So farewell then, ‘Man Joins Labour’ Mark One. You were crafted with a modicum of care, but not slaved over. You have not quite achieved all you set out to do although as the original title of this blog shows, you have, indeed, joined Labour. Ten days on from calling your local party, and still no one has been in touch but hey – it took Gordon and Alastair nearly a fortnight to solve the collapse of the world economy, so I shouldn’t expect too much.

You have, let’s be honest, blog, become slightly more irrelevant than you already were to all but the six loyal souls (he said optimistically) who ever bothered to read you. And, coming as you did from the keyboard of a comedy writer, you simply weren’t funny enough.

You did, however, perform a very useful task, providing the first step on my road to discovery. Thanks to you I have worked out how to progress. Monday morning will see, in classic New Labour style, the Great Dave Blog Re-launch, designed in response to world events as they unfold.

See you then…

Thursday, 16 October 2008

WHAT WOULD VINCE DO




Approaching the subject of world finance with the same amount of complete ignorance as 99 per cent of the population, it’s not always easy to spot whose hidden agenda I might be following.

I’ve now found someone who probably knows more than most of us about this but has no hidden agenda. Vince Cable is the Lib Dem spokesman on finance, and so can say exactly what he likes.

I received this e-mail even though I’m not a member of the Lib Dems - they’re so much better organised in these areas than Labour.

So – what would Vince do?

"1. Action on housing stop unnecessary repossessions and provide more social housing
Allow families struggling with repayments to sell all or part of the equity in their house and rent it back from a housing association.
2. Tax cuts for people on low and middle incomes
3. Action to limit the excesses of the City
Firm up the policy of stopping destabilising short-selling of bank shares by hedge funds
Require banks to hold more capital in periods of boom and less in recession.
4. Action to deliver future economic stability
Include house prices in the considerations of the Bank of England when setting interest rates to manage inflation
5. Action to cut energy bills and fight fuel poverty
Compel energy companies to re-invest the £9 billion profit they have made in kind from the Emissions Trading Scheme.
6. Action to help people with debt problems
Roll out a national network of free independent financial advice centres, to ensure that individuals with debt problems can seek assistance promptly and professionally
7. Action to help people who lose their jobs
8. Action to deliver ‘green-collar’ jobs and energy independence
Big investment in renewables, home insulation and railways will create thousands of jobs
9. Action to reinvigorate global trade
Work within the EU to unlock the stalemate on agricultural trade between the rich and the developing world, and bring down prices worldwide."

This all came, of course, before Gordon and Alastair weren’t being socialist enough for George Osborne. But I’m sure it all holds.

Note how top of his agenda is a measure to help ordinary people. And nearly all his immediate measures are about a group of people Labour has so far almost failed to mention – people losing their jobs, people in debt, lowest income taxpayers etc. Shame on you Labour.

I know he’s a Lib Dem and is unshackled by the restraints of power, but imagine how many votes those policies might be worth to a party with a real chance of power.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

LABOUR SAVING DEVICE


Of course I always knew, when I started this Blog in July in the hope of creating a proper debate within the Labour Party about who should take over from Gordon Brown, that the world economy would collapse in a heap, Gordon would save it, and the leadership battle would become irrelevant.

Okay maybe not that much, but I did write a gag for a show in July about Gordon being so desperate that he brings back Peter Mandelson.

What has become clear to me is that the parameters of this blog are now way too narrow. Quite apart from the fact that even if it was the world's greatest blog about the battle for the soul of the Labour Party, it would still only be read by 13 people. All I really wanted to do was contribute in some way to a debate about saving the Labour Party. Now Gordon has read my blog, taken my advice, and saved it, it's time for me to develop the blog and move on.

In the style of our Premier, he-who-I-knew-all-along-was-a-superb-leader-and-should-never-have-been-challenged-in-the-first-place, I shall be instigating a relaunch of this blog next week. Or perhaps I should say Relaunch. Those capital letters always do the trick don't they.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

AND ALSO GREAT NEWS FOR...

...Gordon Brown, saviour of Britain and the world economy.

Okay, it's a little early to make such a prediction, but the man has proved once again that he knows how to come across well in a crisis. Makes you wonder if all that stuff he did since 1997 - handing over interest rates to the Bank of England, deregulating the city, allowing dodgy mortgages - was solely to give him something juicy to solve once he became Prime Minister.

Those of us who've been calling for some sort of vision, a setting out of ideals and ideas as to what the Labour Party, post-Blair, is really about, have our answer now. This is the kind of stuff that Tony Benn's been advocating for years. Does it matter that it's taken a world financial crisis of such proportions to bring us here? Probably not.

Insignificant as this blog is in my own life, let alone the great scheme of things, the reason for its existence just seems to have become even more pointless. I might as well give up and turn this into one of those 'life of a writer blogs' that seem to be appearing by the bucketload. ('today I found it hard to write my new script').

But...

I wonder if this fundamental change in how the government looks after our money might not be just the sort of spur we need to engage the vast majority of people in politics again. When times are average (we never see them as good until they disappear), nobody is really bothered enough to get worked up about schools and NHS funding. But now that every penny of funding is going to mean something to us all, now that we all have a personal stake in the economy - and, we're told, may even benefit from it - might more and more people sign up and join a political party... or am I simply trying to create a record for the world's longest sentence on the internet?

I rang my local Labour Party three days ago, and still haven't heard back from anyone. Who knows if anyone will ever get back to me, and if I can begin my plan for world domination?

In the meantime, I should leave this now and get back to my script. It's about a procrastinating writer who sets up a blog about how difficult it is to be a writer...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

GREAT NEWS! IT’S A WORLD RECESSION!

Why have I not seen the above headline anywhere at all?

Here’s what everyone has been saying for the last ten years. By everyone I mean mainstream politicians, scientists, journalists, and not just sandal-wearing eco-warriors with bushy beards and questionable hygiene habits:

“We are using up the world’s resources at an alarming rate, our pursuit of economic growth is exacerbating the problems of climate change, we are creating too much pollution, everyone, especially those of us in the developed west, needs to fundamentally re-think their habits. We need to fly less, drive less, use less energy to heat our homes, consume more locally grown produce.”

And here’s what the psycho-babble mumbo-jumbo industry, which has enjoyed unprecedented growth in the last decade, has been saying:

“Our lives are too stressful. We’re working too hard. Stop for a moment and enjoy the world for what it is. Think positive. Look on every crisis as an opportunity. Your life stinks because the wardrobe is where the dressing table should be.”

Okay I realise the last one isn’t too relevant here, but isn’t this situation a golden opportunity for everyone, yes everyone, in the world, yes the world, to stop for a moment and think about what they can do to save it? Even if we fail, and we’re doomed thanks to global warming and greedy bankers anyway, no one can say we didn’t try.

I realise for some people there are more important issues, like stopping his cabinet from plotting against him, but now that the 12 Blairites have decided against a coup, couldn’t Gordon lead the way?

(Cue tears of laughter from blog reader)

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

THE BANK OF ENGLAND, THE CBI, AND NOW ME!

Gordon Brown sent an e-mail to me! Obviously he's read my blog and has decided to consult me on what to do. I wonder if he sent this letter to anyone else. Anyway Gordon, I've printed my responses below...


Dear Dave

Hi Gordon – good to hear from you. You must be the other reader of this blog.

You will have seen from the news that I have carried out changes in the Government today. I wanted to contact you directly to let you know the thinking behind these changes.

Thanks. You don’t mind if I share this do you with the other blog reader?

We are living through the first truly global financial crisis that started in America, but where we must in Britain now do everything we can to ensure the stability of our economic system.

Rule 1 – stop blaming other people Gordon. Don’t you realise every time you try and shift the blame it gives your opponents an excuse to remind everyone who allowed America’s unfettered financial system to take root over here in the first place?

Serious people are needed for these serious times.

I disagree. I’m a comedian and comedy writer and I don’t think my contribution is any less valid for being flippant. (He said, flippantly.)

Margaret Beckett has come back into Government and I have also promoted some of our Party’s best new talent to help deal with the new challenges we face.

Nice move on climate change. Well done there, too easy to forget that there are far bigger problems the world faces than some bloke from Merill Lynch having to give up one of his hoiliday homes.

I want to reconstruct the way we govern to meet these challenges. Therefore I have created a new National Economic Council and put it on a day-to-day footing. It will meet for the first time on Monday.

Okay, but what’s the philosophy at the heart of it?

I have brought back Peter Mandelson from Brussels to lead our Business Department. Peter has been a European Commissioner of great distinction. He has unrivalled experience in international business issues and has built a reputation over these last few years as someone who can get things done.

And hand on heart there was no ulterior motive for bringing him back?

I believe the changes I have announced today are in the national interest. Our undivided attention must be on the security of millions of families and households who have been facing higher bills and now face the uncertainty caused by the financial failures in America and elsewhere.

Okay, that’s not unreasonable, still doesn’t sound like a philosophy yet. And stop blaming the Yanks!

Thank you for all that you do.

Even though I diss you man?

Gordon Brown

Monday, 6 October 2008

TRYING TO MAKE SOME SENSE OF IT ALL...

Okay, I've been reading an awful lot about the impending Armageddon, whose fault it is, what's to be done, why we've been bamboozled by those pesky Germans again, and I must confess I'm more confused than before. And don't sit me down and try to explain it to me in a way I understand, blog-reader if you're still there, because admit it, you're as clueless as I am.

So, I have decided to go back to basics. No, I'm not planning to shag Edwina Currie, I'm going to attempt to write down what I understand, in very simple terms, and see how it applies to this blog. Here goes:

1) Financially, the world is in a mess. There are several complex reasons for this, but the over-riding cause of this mess has been that financiers, unshackled by regulation or moral objectivity, have taken their creed of making money for its own sake to its logical conclusion. To use the obvious metaphor, if I drive a car and I keep driving it fast, going through red lights and refusing to slow down, I'll get to my destination faster than if I was driving within the rules - but there's a very strong possibility that at some point I will crash the car.

2) It's pointless trying to attribute blame. We're all tainted. Anyone who picked up a dodgy mortgage or took advantage of all those free credit lunches of the last decade helped to perpetuate the culture. We may have felt uncomfortable with it but we let it continue anyway.

3) Things cannot continue like this. A solution requires the following - a complete overhaul of the financial system that needs us all to take some responsibility for our actions. Bankers, shareholders, creditors, depositors, you, me (okay, I'll be realistic about this blog, just me).

There is a sense that some, if not all of these issues, are being addressed by the USA. As far as I can tell, the two main objecting voices to the US bail-out were a) the free market purists who said the weak should be allowed to go to the wall and b) politicians who knew they wouldn't be able to sell another hit on the taxpayer this close to an election. In the compromise deal that was finally passed, the voices of b) were allowed to be heard above those of a) - a first in the US to my knowledge.

So what are we doing in the UK? And I don't mean what are Gordon and Alastair doing to micro-manage the daily events. What overall message is being sent? As the Conservative columnist Bruce Anderson suggests in today's Independent, the overall message (the correct one, in his view) is that the city and the CBI are being calmed by the appointment of Peter Mandelson, friend of financiers and filthy rich filanthropists.

Am I the one out of touch then? Is it me who's mad to think that Gordon's latest move to stay as Prime Minister will make no sense or difference to the vast majority of people? And even to the anorak tendency, I must ask, was the recent threat to Brown's Premiership biggest from the Blairites?

Is there no one out there like me, who wanted Gordon Brown to take over, and has been saddened more or less from day one that for all those years of plotting he didn't ascend to the top job with a single innovative idea? I believe there are thousands who feel that way - which is why I need to get back to the original idea of this blog, which is to try and make the Labour party once more appear as a party that speaks common sense for the majority.

Piece of piss I reckon...

Friday, 3 October 2008

LEEDS UNITED AND ISRAEL

Being born Jewish, and in Leeds, I have learned a very important lesson in life, which is this:

As a Leeds United supporter, and a Jew uncomfortable with some of the excesses undertaken in the name of the so-called Jewish state, I have discovered that just when you think things couldn't possibly get any worse, something terrible will happen.

I was reminded of this truth when I read that Peter Mandelson had returned to the Cabinet. Of all the reams of sensible advice coming from left, right and centre, here was one response to the current economic crisis that no-one saw coming.

In a world where even Georges Bush and Osborne have called time on the filthy rich and their money-grabbing excesses, it beggars belief that the Labour Party, yes Neil, the LABOUR PARTY, have entrusted their financial situation to the man who professed himself extremely comfortable to be around those lucky chaps.

Maybe I'm reading this all wrong. Maybe Brown will use Mandelson's appointment as a reminder that our true economic security rests with being more integrated with Europe, and that he intends to sign us up to the Euro currency two decades after Margaret Thatcher failed to do so. And in so doing, once again exposes the violent fault line running through the Conservatives that no one in government dares mention for fear of it backfiring. Somehow I don't see it.

Looks like Mike Ashley just chose Kevin Keegan again.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

BURSTING WITH CONFIDENCE

I’ve been totally inspired by the Fabian Review published especially for Labour's Conference. Entitled ‘Must Labour Lose?’, it’s packed with masses of really useful ideas and information for kick-starting Labour. Shame about the title – I saw it in the background on the telly just about every time the news covered a Labour Fringe meeting, or turned up in case David Miliband picked his nose. Not exactly the most life-enhancing slogan that you want people to be tapping their toes to in future weeks, although admittedly a cut above ‘Forward not backwards’, ‘Fairness for hardworking families’ and ‘a bit less nasty than the Tories’ or whatever.

Anyway, there's a great piece by the Labour MP in my neighbouring constituency of Walthamstow. She seems to have the right idea – using computers to spread the word, linking in to local pressure groups, responding immediately to important local issues while not losing sight of the national ones. That’s exactly what our Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone has been doing for ages. Just watch me go to my first local party meeting and annoy them with my Johnny Come Lately ideas for reviving those three dispirited souls…

The trouble is, I'm not sure I have a local party anymore. Sure, there's still a Labour Party shop front in Crouch End, but even before Barbara Roche lost her seat I'm struggling to remember any moment in the last five years when I walked past to see it open.

So, readers (funny how the quotation 'reader, I married him' is known to millions, even though it was addressed to you singularly - whereas I am using the plural but can't even be sure that more than one person will actually ever read this post), that will be my next task - to stalk Crouch End, North London, in search of a Labour Party Activist.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

(LEADERSHIP) CRISIS WHAT CRISIS?

Do you remember those far off, innocent days when the Labour Party was heading for the abyss, and all the talk was of Gordon Brown being replaced as leader, not if but when. As I remember from my journalist training, bad news sells and the imminent collapse of the American political system is deemed, probably correctly by Fleet Street, to be badder news than the fact that nobody likes Gordon Brown. Or rather, liked. He's popular again, according to the opinion polls, which are only slightly less volatile than the stock market, and make about as much sense.

It's tempting to blame the press, and there's certainly no shortage of doom and gloom, in fact it's boom time for the Doom and Gloom Merchants. That's the sector I'd move my collateral to if I had any.

But it's not just the press, it's us. We can't resist a bad story. Part of my work involves writing stories, and all these stories begin with something very bad happening.

Even though it's a topical blog, I'm trying to keep this discussion (with myself) on a slightly different track. Plenty of rent-a-pundits are looking at what it all means for Labour. This whole banks malarkey has certainly piddled on Davey Cameron's chips, overnight the swagger has gone as we view a man who knows his party is financed by public enemy number one. A party paid for by paedophiles and drug dealers would get better publicity at the moment. And to go back to my recent post about party funding, this whole crisis should play out in favour of a left leaning party that relies for its funding on small donations from millions of workers, rather than billions from Peter Mandelson's formerly filthy-rich friends.

But oif course it's too early to tell (apologies, cliche police, I'm writing this in a rush), and who knows, in ten minuites time there may perhaps be no banks left and this tiny little corner of the internet that is forever unread may become utterly irrelevant even to the person writing it.

Continue to not watch this space...

Monday, 29 September 2008

MAN JOINS 21ST CENTURY

My friend George, who runs a very funny website called 'As A Dodo' (now a book, soon to be a major motion picture), who claims not to be a geek but compared to me is Bill Gates, suggested I start adding pictures to this website.

"The process is pretty simple," he tells me, "especially if you use Picasa (photo-organising software, now owned by Google) and some straightforward photo editing software such as Adobe elements or Paint.net."

Thanks George. Anyway, half-an-hour later, a half hour that I could have used more productively if I'd played spider solitaire, I accept defeat. Pretty Simple to you George, you computer geek! I'm 50 years old! I'm still young enough to remember typewriters, and computers made by Alan Sugar.

So here's another post without a picture. And, all you trendy teenagers with short attention spans reading this in your millions, (although you've probably given up by now because I haven't managed to sneak in a picture of a skateboarding hoodie or a group of mates with red eyes looking drunk), I promise to sort this technical difficulty out within a week.

Meantime I notice the Tories are buzzing in on Gordon Brown's comment that the age of irresponsibility is over. Personally I would have gone for the 'no time for a novice' line and suggested Brown is preferring McCain over Obama. Sorry, too much politics there, must get your attention back, I'll return next time with some pics of Paris Hilton!!! LOL.

Friday, 26 September 2008

SLAVISH DEVOTION TO UNCLE SAM

At last, we're doing something independently of the US.

Capping executive pay is being discussed at the highest levels of their government as an option. Not a word over here yet. Yo Alastair! Maybe he's hoping to lure to these shores those great minds that engineered the US banking collapse.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

I AM SLEAZY

So, why am I talking about party funding, arguably the deadest dead issue since reform of the House of Lords?

Why did I rejoin the Labour Party? (And why am I answering a question with another question? And another. It’s a Jewish thing, don’t ask.)

Because I would like, in my tiny, minuscule, insignificant way, to contribute my experience, beliefs and prejudices to the political system. To put it in a way that Alan Milburn might understand, I’m investing in the future of Labour plc. To put it in a way that Peter Mandelson would never understand, I’m not hoping to make financial gains from this decision.

Carping on the sidelines, as I’ve been doing for the last few years, it’s easy to moan about how rubbish things are. Well for once, I’ve decided to take a little bit of responsibility. I’ve signed up, and paid hard cash (alright, direct debit), and I expect something in return. I expect, at the very least, my voice to be heard. I perceive that Labour is extremely close to adapting to the current circumstances in the world, and the mood in the country, and getting ready to go in a direction that I would like to see it go.

I have paid money to the Labour party, and I want something in return.

You got a problem with that?

The big Trade Unions, who no longer dictate economic policy over beer and sandwiches at Number Ten (if they ever did), pay lots of money to the Labour Party, in what appears to me to be an abusive relationship. Is it not fair that they should expect something in return – at least, to be granted the kind of respect they are given by the CBI? I reckon if Cameron wasn’t so awash with Europhobic lolly he could easily turn the old Eton charm on the unions and get them to switch. Frankly they wouldn’t get much less in exchange for their hard-earned union subs than they’ve been getting lately from Labour.

Cameron, of course, will do no such thing, because his is the party of capital. And rich people give money to the Conservatives to protect their interests. It’s not fair – but that’s why they’re Conservatives and we’re Labour. Labour exists to protect the interests of the less well off. And while it was nice for a while to be in the black, that money came at a cost, which was a damn sight more than having Yates of the Yard knock on Tony’s door.

So can we please all grow up? Can we please accept that nobody pays money to a political party out of pure altruism. I believe it’s in my personal interest, and that of my family, to be part of a world where some redistribution of wealth is being attempted.

And that’s why I want you out there, yes all of you, the angry disbelievers who have been boycotting this blog in their millions, go out there and join Labour, make it once again a huge movement that has to be listened to by force of numbers of alone.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

DAVE'S PLEDGES

Okay I said I'd write about party funding today but first I'd like to clear up my views on the 'leadership battle.' Mr Brown has purchased himself a couple of weeks' breathing space before the next catastrophe, and so I have decided to use that time (two weeks or two minutes, well you never know at the moment do you) to take the following new new Labour five point pledge:

1) I hereby agree to devote whatever energies I normally devote to political activity, entirely to the cause of making Labour come across as popular.

2) I will do this from the point of view of being a member, thinking what I, as a member, would like to see Labour doing more of.

3) I will think only in terms of the Labour Party, and not whoever the leader is at the time. (Difficult I realise, but worth a try).

4) I will think only of increasing membership, so that more voices can be heard, and more issues can be discussed apart from whether Ruth Kelly really wants to spend less time with Gordon Brown's family.

5) For some reason it's always five isn't it? Not sure I'll have time for more than four. Okay I promise that if I see a family in my street who I do not perceive to be hardworking then I shall be unfair to them.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

BROWN'S SPEECH

Still think my version was better.

LEADERSHIP SMEADERSHIP

I’m trying to have a conversation here but I’m being drowned out by the clattering cacophony of hundreds of people not talking about the prospect of a leadership contest.

Quite early on in this blog’s history, I promised that I would not get sucked in to the hysterical media speculation about whether anyone would stand against Gordon, and if so, who. Last night I forced myself to sit through several turgid minutes of ‘Newsnight‘ as Michael Crick, a half-decent journalist who should know better, and lightweight presenter Jeremy Paxman, discussed at length the implications of a conversation someone had heard David Miliband having in a bar about trying not to have a Heseltine moment in his speech. BBC HAVE YOU GONE MAD? What the hell has happened to BBC journalism? I blame the Hutton report.

Anyway I realised today that this conversation I’m trying to have (admittedly with myself, since this is, after all, a blog, and is probably being read by less people than my diary) makes the question of who is leader a rather dull side issue. To ask ‘what is the point of the Labour Party?’ is to set up a far more interesting debate than “Ooh look, Jack Straw scratched his left earlobe when Gordon Brown said ‘global downturn’ What does it mean???”.

I re-joined the party a few weeks ago, partly because I like doing things that no-one else is doing – but also because I felt with a growth in membership and the smallest of pushes, Labour could become a truly vibrant and useful party. By marrying the best of the last 11 years with everything we’ve wanted to do but have been scared about in case it gives Labour’s enemies something to attack us with, we could become the party that Tony Blair never dared allow us to be.

So I’d like to start tomorrow by talking about party funding. In the process I shall hand myself over to the authorities for questioning…

Thursday, 18 September 2008

THE RETURN OF THE SUB PRIME MINISTER

Well amazingly Gordon Brown has yet to read out my speech, maybe he's just tweaking it for Conference. For very dull reasons I won't now be going to my first ever conference after all - looks like a snoozefest guaranteed. And for even duller reasons my computer is playing up so I have to keep this short. So, to the millions of you out there ignoring this particular blog, watch this space...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

THE SPEECH OF MY LIFE

I’d like to talk today, about courage.

As many of you will know, it is the one personal attribute that I believe, throughout history, has marked out the greatest men and women. Courage, or the ability to make serious personal sacrifice for the greater good of the wider community. I would never begin to imagine myself in the same league as some of those whose courage I wrote about in my last book, such as Edith Cavell and Nelson Mandela. But the time has come for me to show the kind of courage they did, the kind that makes a difference.

In recent weeks there has been talk of a challenge to my leadership of the party. Over the last few days this has developed into a call for me to take part in a leadership contest, like the one I should have held last year when Tony went. I would have won it then. But for me to stand now, fifteen months later, would only help to emphasise that the contest would solely be about leadership. And I have to accept that, whatever the truth, that is an area in which I have been perceived to have failed.

Now at last, comes an opportunity for me to show true leadership, and I hope, the kind of courage I have come to admire. And that is why, as of today, I am resigning as Prime Minister.

People who don’t wish to see a leadership contest have said this will throw Labour into turmoil. That would be true if we were a party, like the Tories in 1990, 1997, and even to a certain extent now, split down the middle by fundamental ideological differences. I don’t get any sense of a grassroots swelling of animosity against me, or that there is a large faction within the party fundamentally at odds with me. There is so much on which we are agreed, and which chimes with the current mood of the country. While a new beginning brings no guarantee of victory at the next election, it offers us far more hope than if I stay.

It would throw the party into turmoil if I was to show publicly, or even admit to, any bitterness at my failure to complete the job. No Prime Minister in my lifetime has ever wanted to quit the job, with the exception of John Major, who could see no way back for his party. Tony was, for all his faults, a great leader, but even he was unable to choose the time for his departure.

But after eleven years at the very pinnacle of British politics, despite the obvious failures, I can look back at many great achievements. What I understand now, is that it’s time for a fresh look at the problems facing Labour, and the country. I have, I accept, made many mistakes since becoming Prime Minister, but, with one exception, the reasons I cannot continue are nothing to do with them.

First, I should not have stayed on as Chancellor as long as I did. At the time it felt like the success of our project required Tony to be in charge of presentation, and putting the message across, while I ran the day-to-day affairs. And control of the Treasury is control over all Departments. But it laid me open to criticisms that I was not experienced enough across all areas of government, having held no other positions in the Cabinet. I dismissed those criticisms at the time – wrongly, I fear now.

Second, the phrase ‘no return to boom or bust’ will always come back to haunt me. It was a foolish boast, as was undoubtedly pointed out to me at the time. But hay, I’m human, and I have to say I really enjoyed that moment of schadenfreude. It will forever, though, remain my ‘back to basics’ moment.

Third, and most important, are the very real economic problems we face over the next couple of years. While many were undoubtedly caused by outside forces, the fact is that they have occurred on my watch, both as Chancellor and Prime Minister. It was me who presided over and encouraged the credit boom, me who de-regulated the city and me who allowed the free-for-all in the London housing market – against my instincts, but the short-term political success these bought made me challenge my normally sound judgement.

The mistake I made as Prime Minister was my handling of the 10 pence income tax rate. While I remain committed, long-term, to the eradication of poverty in the UK, I am also, instinctively, a politician. And if I can reclaim a policy that has always been considered Conservative, and make it part of Labour orthodoxy, this can often strengthen my beloved party and cause the Conservatives problems. The 10p tax rate may well have confused my enemies, but crucially, it also confused my friends. People who had remained loyal to me until then, and there were many, felt it went against my core beliefs. It doesn’t matter now who was right or wrong, importantly, it was the perception that did for me.

And now, what is needed more than ever in this country is a Labour government, a government that will react to downturn, not with the glee of a Margaret Thatcher, whose policies in the early 1980s caused so much devastation to our towns, villages and manufacturing industries, but with an instinctive desire for social justice, and an end to poverty.

People say there is no one qualified enough to take the helm but what of the alternatives? How qualified is David Cameron to lead us out of the current situation, or his newly-converted sidekick Nick Clegg? A debate has started in our own party, one I understand now I should have initiated before taking over as Prime Minister, and there is a broad consensus about the need for change.

We need regulation of the city, fairer taxation, and, arguably, increased borrowing to protect our public services. I understand that I am no longer the man who can deliver these things. But Labour remains the only party equipped to do so.

A new leader can openly acknowledge all the things I have shied away from saying, for fear of upsetting a right-wing press we have now lost. A new leader can admit, as even the CBI does, that the Unions are no longer part of the problem but part of the solution. A new leader can adopt an aggressively green agenda, the one David Cameron offered but then retracted. A new leader is no longer bound to keep in line with American economic and military policy. A new leader and a rejuvenated party that re-connects with its core beliefs will force the Tories to confront their own. For all their popularity in the opinion polls, they remain a deeply divided party who have yet to work through their own Clause Four moment.

I wish whoever takes over from me the best of luck. We may not win, but unlike the Tories in 1997, we owe it to the country not to give up without a fight.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

THE MAN WHO RE-INSPIRED MY SOCIALISM

Like many old lefties, I spent most of the 80s wondering if Labour would ever win power again, and most of the 90s worrying about what would happen if Labour ever won power again. I gradually came to accept the mantra that socialism was indeed dead, probably because I heard it so many times from left and right alike.

I knew I still believed in something, or thought I did, but wasn't sure what. I admired much of what the Labour Party managed to do under Blair, despaired of more, but so what? 'Disillusioned lefty claims Labour in power is not left-wing enough' is hardly a new complaint. But what was different was that there no longer seemed to be any people in power who cared about or were battling for the core values I'd believed in all my life - a fair and free education system, fairness for all in the law, fair taxation. I'd never been a hard-nosed firebrand, more a soft left box of Swan Vestas, but I was starting to wonder if I'd turned into Karl Marx.

Then along came a politician who started to talk about things I believed in. A staunch environmentalist, he argued it was no longer feasible for us to carry on flying, driving, heating our homes and destroying the planet - and individuals taking action was not enough on its own. Governments had to intervene, sign up for Kyoto, and more, and we all had to take responsibilty.

There is a very good reason why David Cameron no longer makes such intelligent and thought-provoking speeches. He worked out, as I did from listening to him, that if you take his arguments to their logical end, what he is advocating is an end to economic growth as a goal in itself, and a massive international re-distribution of wealth, from each country according to their means, to each according to their needs. For the first time in years, he made me believe in socialism again.

Thanks Dave. I'm off to spread your word. I know for a fact that I've already got two people reading this blog - which, by Labour standards, is what might currently be called a revival.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

WHY GORDON HAS TO GO

If he stays, Labour will lose the next election.

If he goes, Labour will quite possibly still lose the next election. But if he goes now, the rebuild begins. If he goes now, we can once again ask the question - what is Labour for? And personally, I think the British public would prefer our answer to the Tories.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

CAN I COME PLEASE

Continuing my attempt to do all things perverse:

Last month I joined the Labour Party. Now I want to go to my first ever Party Conference.

Forgive my naivety. Again. I reckoned
a) the way things are going for Labour at the moment, plus the way these things are horribly stage managed to stifle debate, not many people would be attending Conference this year. Therefore:
b) I'd have no problem booking myself a place.

Think again Dave. If Labour were as good at deterring illegal immigrants from coming to this country as they are at keeping members out of their annual conference, the Daily Mail would never complain again.

First, I was informed by the Members' website that I have not been a member (again) for long enough to entitle me to a pass. Fair enough. I could have been a non-Labour person (or a terrorist), joining just before conference in order to gatecrash the wake - sorry, party - and spy (or detonate).

Undeterred by this minor hitch, I contacted my Trade Union, the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, and asked if I could attend Conference as a Delegate. I've been pretty active in the union, and there's plenty to moan about to Labour. These days we're well vexed about BBC funding, the death of Childrens' TV, and the fact that most of ITV's comedy output is rubbish. (Sorry, last one is just from my own agenda).

They're happy for me to go on their behalf, and can write a letter to that effect. Trouble is, the deadline for Trade Union delegates is June, so whoever is in charge of issuing passes will have to study my application before deciding whether I can come or not. Enjoy your power while you can mate, I don't think we're going to have it for much longer.

Meantime I have been urged to also apply as a member, and ask that my lack of membership longevity be waived in this exceptional instance. (I wonder if that decision will be made by the same person who has the power to grant me a Delegates' Pass, and if so, will they be in touch with each other, or might one say 'no' and the other 'yes'? And people say Labour has lost its direction.)

Again, fair enough, although here I am in an office, trying to apply for a pass, and I am expected to have to hand my passport number, driving licence, and a signed photograph, all of which I am expected to plop through cyberspace this minute.

Comrades, I have been defeated temporarily. But I will be back, with my passport number, and my driving licence, and my National Insurance, and a signed photo, and a picture of my iris if necessary. La lutte continue...

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

SUMMER RE-ASSESS

Like most ordinary people I'm taking just two weeks off for the summer holidays. So before I go, here's my re-assessment of what I'm trying to do:

Labour, you might be surprised to learn, is still in power. They've done some great things that would never have happened under the Tories eg minimum wage, Sure Start, holding on to some public service element of the NHS (just). And they can do more.

Gordon seemed like the right choice at the time but it ain't working out, and he seems to be showing no interest in the kind of policies that I and many others believe would be popular. We almost certainly need a new leader to take us into the next election. Let's try and get as many enthusiastic people back into the party to renew Labour. As opposed to renew new Labour. We still might lose, but at least let's go down fighting.

Happy holidays.

Monday, 11 August 2008

WHAT IS THE POINT OF ME?

I ask this question sincerely, I think anyone producing a blog needs to be sure of why they are doing it. My desire arose, as an armchair Labour supporter yet to be convinced a) that Labour is a spent force and b) that the Tories have resolved all the problems that have kept them out of power for so long.

I've been reading quite a lot of the blogs on the bloggers4labour site, and there is a healthy debate going on - but nearly all of it is bogged down by speculation on which person would make a better alternative leader to Brown. As one blogger mentions, we have been forced to some extent to talk about personalities rather than policies, because that is how the party is now run at National Executive level. Because policy is so often a stitch-up, the only say grass roots followers have is in choosing a leader and deputy.

So to answer the question in the title, I believe the point of me is to try and come up with some coherent thoughts on issues that interest me - party funding, Europe, fair taxation, immigration, Lords reform, proportional representation.

I shall continue to post, and to do it properly come September when holidays for all but MPs are over, because although I am interested in who will take over, I'm more interested in talking about clear and serious issues in a sensible way. Vote Cruddas! I mean - let's talk about Europe...

Friday, 8 August 2008

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

Okay, so a week has passed and what have I learned?

1) David Miliband has definitely set something in motion. Since I started this blog the day before his article, I won't be seen as bandwagon jumping. (Maybe he will be seen as ripping me off)

2) I've got a clearer idea what I want from this, apart from the usual egotistical verbosity that is what most blogs are about. I want to see debates about things that Labour has been too scared to debate because they're worried they'll lose the right wing press. Well, now they're going to lose it anyway, they've got nothing to lose. I can think of loads of topics where they can say radical things that will not only get the wind up Cameron, but will also be popular with the vast majority of voters. Including Europe, party funding, taxing the rich, house of lords reform, proportional representation - for starters.

3) I should tell some more people about this blog.

4) According to the London web cleaning grid, a service available on my library computer, my site has been officially re-classified as pornography. But still no one's visitng it. Come on guys!

When I get back from my hols, when we all get back from our hols, I shall attempt to get some sort of debate going. I also intend to visit my first ever party conference. So farewell cyberspace, the weekend beckons.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

AAAAARRGGHH!

Glancing over someone's shoulder on the bus this morning, I read in the 'Daily Mirror' that 'Five Cabinet Ministers will resign rather than accept different jobs in any reshuffle.' Including Miliband, who it appears will not accept the job of Chancellor - and, given how the economy is at the moment, I guess that's understandable.

I realise now I'm turning into the very thing I set up this blog to try and avoid. I'm turning into:
a) a new Labour politician circa Alastair Campbell's day, responding to every newspaper article with an instant opinion and
b) a political journalist, who in the absence of proper and interesting debates focuses only on the personalities and potential leadership battles, or rumours of such battles.

I think there are loads of interesting discussions to be had, discussions that will engage the national press, actually force those journalists to get off their backside, and force us all to think a bit harder about what sort of government we can hope for, or expect to get.

Which brings me on to the next post. But until then, I must remember I have something that precludes me from staying here for too long - oh yeah, that's it, a life.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

STOP PRESS... OR RATHER: STOP, PRESS!

According to the Telegraph today (well known for their exclusive insider knowledge of Labour), David Miliband has Alun Milburn signed up as his Chancellor-in-Waiting. That's the Alun Milburn who had to be dropped during the 2005 election to ensure that Labour weren't completely wiped out. I get the impression David Miliband and his brother Steve (not my joke but such a good one I thought I should repeat it) actually want to win the next election.

Elsewhere Simon Jenkins has obviously been reading my blog as he effectively repeated my post from yesterday in 'the Guardian.'

Remember where you read it first, 'Jaded Activist'. And thanks for the comment. Okay, one comment so far, I realise this blog is currently about as popular as the Labour Party in Glasgow East, but as David Miliband and Yazz tell us, the only way is up.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

LEADER ARTICLES

I’m not a geek, but here’s something I have already learned in the short life of this blog. I should have guessed it before, since this rule applies to religion, law and the internet.

Politics is controlled by anoraks.

I rely on a small group of people to decode what’s being said in Westminster, and then translate it into plain English. Polly Toynbee, obviously, Steve Richards, Peter Riddell, Gary Younge, Peter Wilby and even occasionally Quentin Letts tend to do the job for me.

Before I learned what anyone else had to say, I had, like a na├»ve idiot, made up my own mind about the meaning of David Miliband’s Guardian article. All I knew about him before was that he was considered a Blairite, and that he’d been pushed by the Blairites to stand against Gordon last year. Even so his article was packed with several un-Blairish ideas:
1) He apologised for Iraq, the most senior Minister to do so as far as I am aware.
2) He spoke warmly about Europe, a refreshing change from more than a decade of Brown-Blair hectoring.
3) He implied he was less at ease with the filthy rich than any other senior Labour politician since 1997.
4) He went much further than Brown or Cameron ever have on the green agenda.
5) He defined a clear and positive way of fighting Cameron on poverty and social justice.
At no point did he back Gordon Brown – but then, at no point did he say he wanted to run a leadership contest against him.

Anyway, it seems I was totally mistaken. This article was the ultra-Blairite throwing down the gauntlet to the beleagured Brown (how would you like your cliches, Rawnsleyed or Borissed?). He’s directly challenging the party, it’s all a disaster… but it’s irrelevant anyway, because party rules will never allow a contest to happen. (In which case why make such a fuss about the article?)

And the reason, I’m told, that there will be no leadership contest, is because the party anoraks, the only people who truly understand the rules, will explain that Miliband won’t get the sufficent number of MPs or Trade Union votes to back him.

Which may well be true. And there may indeed be no need for a leadership contest. If Gordon genuinely does start to acknowledge that, for example, taxing the super-rich would be profitable and popular, and taxing the poor is not very, er, Labourish. If he promotes Miliband to Chancellor and starts to act as if he really does want to win the next election, maybe we can get away without one.

But if he fails, and enough people make a fuss, and the tide turns against him (oops, another Rawnsley), then the anoraks will find an interpretation of the rules that will allow the contest to go ahead.

Coming up: Maggie Thatcher, the great European…

Monday, 4 August 2008

THE DEED IS DONE

I have now re-joined the Labour Party.

Normally I would have done it anonymously, online, but I wanted to speak to a real person. Secretly I wanted to hear the excitement in his or her voice, the incredible puppy-dog gratitude that someone would even think to return in this, Labour’s darkest hour. These days you can’t sneeze without being courted by some dubious telephone marketing hack. Recently I switched mobile phone users, and was rung by my old company, and spoken to in a way that reminded me of those pathetic calls I used to make in my 20s to all the girls who dumped me.
“Why have you left us?”
“It’s not you, G-Mobile, it’s me, I’ve changed.”
“But I can change. If you come back I’ll throw in a free phone.”
“It’s too late, I’ve signed the forms.”
“And cut your bill in half. Is there nothing I can do to win you back?”
“Stop it now you’re being pathetic.”

As it turned out the Labour party bloke was really nice, and either he was a brilliant actor or I genuinely was just one of many telephone callers re-joining the party. I tried to coax him into saying “Wow! I’ve been in this job nine months now and nothing like this has ever happened before!” but he assured me that my call was not unusual. I’ll be interested to know if a recording of the call, made, a computerised voice informed me, for training purposes, is now running on an endless loop at Labour HQ.

“We get a mixture of people joining, and regularly get people coming back.” He added: “Whatever your disagreements with the party, it’s important to return,” and I found it hard to disagree. I’d rung him up feeling all smug and pompous, and put the phone down, humbled.

So I’m back. No fanfares, or personal deliveries of bouquets, just a new direct debit to sit next to the one from the mobile phone company. Thirty six quid. I was offered the option of three pounds a month, but as an act of gracious magnanimity I went for the full year option.

So: should there be a leadership contest?

Let me get back to you on that one.

Friday, 1 August 2008

MAN JOINS LABOUR

24 JULY 2008

I can't believe it. Labour have lost the Glasgow East bye-election. Boy that is bad. Very bad. I like Gordon, wanted him to take over from Blair, but surely he can't survive this one.


29 JULY 2008

Another brilliantly incisive article from Polly Toynbee sums up the utter despair within the Parliamentary Labour Party. Something must be done. But what?

I know. Write to Polly Toynbee.


Dear Polly,

As ever you have explained the current situation for Labour in clear and simple terms. And thank you for putting names to the faces within the factions. It has become clear to me in recent weeks that there are just two possible solutions to the current situation:
1) Elect Polly Toynbee to the post of Prime Minister.
Which I suspect is about as likely to happen as it is that Gordon will hand in his resignation.
2) Stop looking at the situation as a crisis, and see it instead as a brilliant opportunity to build (Re)new(al) Labour.

Here’s my plan. I have decided to renew my membership of the Labour Party, which I cancelled in 2002 over the party’s approach to Iraq. I will then try and persuade as many of the tens of thousands of people who left the party since 1997 to re-join, on the basis that they have a real chance to build a new, rejuvenated party that will elect a new leader in the autumn.

No doubt there are many flaws in my plan. I see merely a few inconvenient obstacles that may be brushed away. For instance, I am aware that it is not within our power to launch a leadership contest. However, my hunch is that the thousands of Labour re-joiners would be more sympathetic to the progressive wing, who would surely be emboldened if they knew that a challenge to Gordon Brown might bring an end to the stultifying atrophy you have been describing so succinctly for weeks.

What idiot would want to join the Labour Party now? Well, how about me for starters? Wouldn't thousands of others be enticed to re-join if they knew there was about to be a big debate about the future of the party, and they that could have a direct say in who would subsequently lead it?


30 JULY 2008

Well - my wish has instantly come true. The Milkiband kid has ever-so-slightly raised his head above the parapet and said it's time for a debate about the future of the party. His article in The Guardian makes him sound like David Cameron, except I don't have to feel guilty about agreeing with him.

And Polly Toynbee has written me a nice e-mail telling me that it's a good idea.


31 JULY 2008

As someone with an interest in politics a little below the scale of anorak, I thought Millie was pretty non-contentious. Some people though are claiming he's satan incarnate. Wow, he must be onto something.


1 AUGUST 2008

Today I will set up a blog that will follow my journey as I seek to re-join the Party I left six years ago. So, until next week...