Tuesday, 30 September 2008


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


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


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


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


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


Still think my version was better.


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


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


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


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


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


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...