Sunday, 29 January 2012

Militancy resurrected!

This is in response to Left Outside's post titled Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition should officially and unequivocally object, to everything, even good ideas, loudly and often


I'm not a Labour partisan (not by any means), but I strongly disagree with this. Labour will never gain my support unless I can be persuaded it is credible on the issues.

Left Outside is entirely correct in recognising the 'game-changing' effect - overlooked by many on the left - which results from fixed-term parliaments. Rather than being forced to gamble on the prospective date of the next election, the leader of the opposition can now reassure himself that the cycle is fixed and can succeed by pacing the speed he pedals.

Activist commentators such as LO, The Third Estate and Sunny Hundal's crowd at Liberal Conspiracy are gradually coalescing around the strategic vision for a more militant opposition campaign of iron-clad stonewalling on policy. They are building fresh barricades.

For them no longer is politics about policy and the impact on the lives of ordinary people, but the impact of policy is about who is in charge of introducing it. There has been a subtle, imperceptable shift in opposition attitudes, radicalised by the expressions of populist disapproval seen during the past 20-or-so months, which has now reached the point of no return.

These bloggers formerly defined their concerns by their willingness to engage in more discussion of finer details of policy, and grew their reputations on the back of their ability to contribute. Now, however, they are increasingly making the transition to talking about partisan strategic concerns and in doing so are separating their contribution to political analysis from their assertive political conclusions.

It's a natural progression for the social climbers to change their behaviour while maintaining the same appearance - call it the anti-chameleon process.

I also disagree with Miliband. He won't gain my support if he says the problem with the coalition is a question of leadership - what does the man who gave his full backing to Brown and Brown know about leadership? Complaining about a lack of leadership is a perverse self-contradicting argument anyway - why issue a complaint whent you have the opportunity to set an example?

Yet where LO strikes out at Cameron's chameleon-like attempt to mollify floating voters holding the centre-ground by tacking left and
"trying to appear electable, trying to appear “in-touch” by visiting the arctic, liberal by hugging hoodies and as a better heir to Blair than Brown could ever be,"
he fires a corresponding volley out against the Labour leader for tacking right and appearing tough on fiscal choices, benefits claimants and offense caused by backbenchers as unnecessary - it almost seems the leftist grassroots are not so much complaining about the particular type of leadership offered by Labour's supposed Prime-ministerial candidate, but that he might be attempting to show any leadership at all!

Indeed, I previously discussed the background to Miliband's personal unpopularity (even leaving aside his impossibly unstatesman-like demeanour, appearance, voice and speaking-style) and have elsewhere described for former energy secretary as Labour's William Hague.

Just as Hague had not yet then developed into a politically-mature performer buoyed by the acknowledgement of his limitations as much as his capabilities, so too does Ed Miliband carry with him a schoolboyish air - in this he is about as realistic a contender for the country's top job as Michael Foot.

The issue for Labour is not policy, it is personality.

The question being put therefore is how can Labour lose the next election in order to detoxify after the damage done by Blair, Brown and Mandelson?

Can Yvette Cooper effectively represent a feminist take on financial prudence? Can Chuka Umunna throw off his multi-culturalist's link to social conservatism? Could David Miliband make a decisive return instead of dithering?

It seems unlikely with so many of Labour's prospective frontline figures trying to keep their heads just under the parapet as the 'difficult decisions' are made to deal with the current crisis. So perhaps LO's post is important for indicating onlookers' expectations should be prepared for the left's more extreme voices to be tasked with sticking the knife in (a la Michael Howard) and for more violent expressions of opposition over the coming period.

There is a more direct comparison in the rise of Militant Tendency in opposition to the Thatcherite agenda of the 1980's - which effectively scored an own-goal by presenting a political vacuum at the heart of debate as the radicals polarised debate through the prism of the Miner's strike, Section 28 and the Poll Tax riots etc.

So we might well ask if Labour are preparing for an extended stay in the wilderness.

As LO insightfully notes, it comes down to a matter of timing. It all depends whether the challenge for the Labour leadership comes in anticipation for the 2015 General Election, or after it.

And in acknowledging the significance of the electoral cycle he overlooks how every individual is already locked into their own cycle of growing political maturity - in other words when the challenge comes depends on the ability for the internal factions to align behind a winner.

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