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...