Monday, September 28, 2009

The underdogs of war

The Labour conference has heard it openly acknowledged that they are the political underdogs, on track to lose the next election if they aren't able to turn things around. That's all fine and dandy but the thing that's praying on my mind is who's going to be leader after the electoral defeat.

As always we're hearing about leadership challenges before the election but that's all wind. If I was a Labour member in Charles Clarke's area I'd be less than happy with the fact he keeps getting his knife out when he should be trying to hold onto his seat. Maybe he doesn't care and has given up - if so good riddence to him although why he feels it necessary to damage Labour's prospects in general is anyone's guess. Taking lessons from Blears I guess.

So who is going to be the next leader of the Labour Party? People keep telling me it's going to be Lord Peter Mandelson... could this really be true? Labour conference delegates seem very relaxed with the dark lord so perhaps it is, after all he seems to have bridged the Brown-Blair divide whilst other contenders seem too deeply ensconced on one side or the other.

I don't really have much time for the personal vilification of Peter Mandelson that the Daily Mail and the left seem to enjoy so much in and, I'll be honest, I even warmed to him a little after he was slimed - I'm not into personal attacks let alone physical ones. It's his politics that are the problem not his existence. I realise this is a minority opinion though!

However, if he was elected Labour leader it would make life a lot easier. They'd be no particular political shift in the party but he would give absolute clarity to what a vote for Labour actually means. Those who are happy with a free market, right wing party can keep voting for them - everyone else will have to find a new home. Sweet.


The Third Estate said...

This is a somewhat disturbing post Jim, and not because you very mildly defended Mandy. Although I am absolutely clear that a vote for Labour is a vote for a free market, right wing, pro-war party, and although I will not be voting Labour even to stop the Tories, I don't think we should stop pushing for a return to the left for Labour, no matter how unlikely a possibility. I will be voting Green at the next election. I will be hoping that the Greens get their first MP. But I have to recognise that the Greens are not going to form the next government, even if people abandon Labour in droves. Given the political realities we face, there's nothing to cheer in the continuance of the New Labour project under Mandelson. All that does under the present electoral system, is deny people a real choice. Even while we work outside Labour to affect left-wing progress, we have to hope that we can pull the party in our direction to recapture the lost left votes. Things can't go on as they are.


Jim Jay said...

As I pressed publish I also got notification that John MacDonnell is now following me on twitter - I have to watch my step now :)

Obviously I'm hoping those left Labour MPs are re-elected although i guess it's a matter of taste where you draw the line.

I think we ought to be realistic about what that means though. I'm keen on Caroline Lucas' analogy of a camp site of alternatives over the big tent so I'm not so tribal green that I don't see the good points in others (doesn't include mandy!).

What have the left of Labour achieved in the last four years? Sadly precious little and what energy they have is often sapped fighting losing internal battles with the right - I think that's a waste of energy.

Galloway used to use a good analogy. He said there's this huge mountain that's rebuilding the left and there's another which is reclaiming Labour back to its best traditional values. Whilst it's admirable for those who want to climb two mountains at once - most of us can only manage one at a time.

I think any young lefty joining the Labour Party is opening themselves up to a world of pain, I really would not want to encourage that, even accidentally. Labour cannot be reclaimed, those who try are wasting their time - even though I certainly do sympathise with what they are trying to do.

Anonymous said...

I'm hopping mad that this unelected neoliberal so and so has a role in our government - ministers should be elected MPs, not appointed Lords etc.

Wouldn't he need to stand as a candidate somewhere and get re-elected as an MP in order to be the leader of the Labour Party?

Strategist said...

I don't think it's illegal for a Lord to lead a party.

But I do believe it's illegal to renounce a life peerage. A special law had to be brought in to allow Tony Benn to renounce his seat in the House of Lords, but he inherited that. I read somewhere that there was a move to bring in a bill this autumn to allow the renunciation of life peerages, but it was thought to be too blatant a ruse for getting Mandy in as leader.

BTW, IMHO, as someone who has pulled off one of the all-time great comebacks (of court not electoral politics) to become Lord High President of the Council and Minister for Outer Space, Mandy will have no taste to lead the PLP rump in the wilderness. More likely offer his "Handy Mandy" services to unelected President Blair of the EU.

The Third Estate said...

The mountain analogy is good Jim, but I don't think the two goals are mutually exclusive. I'm certainly climbing the one that's not crawling with neo-liberal cowards, but if the project to build a left alternative outside Labour is successful, it may well provide the impetus to help those on the left within the party pull it in their direction. Which is why it's utterly soul destroying to see the left outside of Labour (with the exception of the Greens) getting utterly raped for no reason that I, or anyone else it seems, can really understand.


The Third Estate said...

PS. Mr McD MP is following us too, so ner :p

ModernityBlog said...

Interesting point Jim,

Never considered Mandy for Labour leader, but it is an option.

If Brown's health failed or he collapsed then Mandy could step in, that could be a possibility.

In terms of electability Mandy is no worse than Brown, they both have awful politics, but Mandy is smarter politically speaking and has some charm. However, whether or not he could make the transition from back-room 'Prince' to leader remains to be seen, I am not sure he could.

Whatever happens, it seems unlikely that Mandy would take over a defeated Labour, when and if the Tories take power.

Mandy likes power, and running a defeated party with no chance of power for 4 years wouldn't suit him.

I suspect that a defeated Labour would elect a token left pointing leader like Cruddas and make lots of rhetorical noises, putting as much distance as they could from New Labour. Either that or the LP dies on the vine.

Jim Jay said...

It's an interesting point that Mandelson might not want to be leader of the opposition only PM - but we should bear in mind that most PMs we've had were leader of the opposition before becoming head cheese (Major and Brown being the exceptions to the rule)

ModernityBlog said...

Yeah Jim, but I can't see Mandy dirtying his hands for 4 years, whilst waiting for a shot at Cameron.

He'd rather go off somewhere then wait to be called in near the end, once others have done the hard work.

But will New Labour really continue after a defeat from the Tories? I can't see it, they've had their day.

Jim Jay said...

In the absence of any forces to replace it it will continue. There may be a renewal with new faces and slightly different ideological sound bites but they aren't going to die just because they're trounced at the election.

The only two options for the death of new labour are either - the death of the labour party (not going to happen) or a stronger ideological force inside of the party (which doesn't exist).

thats the way i see it anyway.

ModernityBlog said...

Jim, I see your point, certainly those spinless New Labourites are not going to vanish over night, but theirs is a belief system (if you can call it that) well past its sell-by date.

The hemorrhaging of 100,000s of members shows that.

The political problem in a post Tory win, is how best to sell Labour?

Or as they say in advertising, what's the USP (unique selling point)?

More Blairism/Brownism won't cut it, so apart from, as you say, the death of Labour, they will probably swing leftward, maybe after a bunfight in the party?

A slightly left Labour Party can appeal to old labour voters and try to out flank the Tories, whereas a New Labour one can't.

New Labour could hold thing together when they have *power*, but without it, they have little to offer.

Strategist said...

Whatever New Labour are, they are certainly not "spinless".

Anonymous said...

I think Peter knows that he does not have what it takes to be Labour leader. Namely a clean slate and a fresh start.

Whilst Peter Mandelson's speech was enough to arouse the faith of the most pessimistic Labour supporter, realistically Mandy and every other Labourite knows that he is not the man to steer Labour in opposition. That task falls to Alan Johnson, the only Cabinet minister with a sense of humour and an appeal to the real 'middle Britain'- the so-called 'aspirational working-class.'

I do have my favourites of who I would like to see lead the Labour Party and who would be the future intellectuals of a post-May 2010 Labour Party, it is unlikely to bore into fruitition in the immediate Tory victory.

I've even heard it on the grapevine from a Labour friend that Mandy is a fan of German-style PR. However rumour is rumour and should remain so until the contrary.