All hail the Emissary from Planet Fuck!

The Sunday papers are overflowing with it but I thought I’d offer some, ahem, brief reflections on the election of my fellow Ed to the leadership of the Labour Party – the man the Blarites used to call “our emissary from Planet Fuck” as he was the only member of the Brown camp who’d talk to them sans Malcolm Tuckerisms.

“You’ve stolen my DNA!”

The first and most important question anyone should ask when someone accedes to the leadership of a major political party is, what kind of person are they? Character matters. It shouldn’t do because the ability of one person to cast the shadow of their intellect across fiendishly difficult problems and solve them, while addressing as many sectional interests as possible, is a task that only a handful of us are equipped for. Of course no leader has to deal with these things alone, they’re flanked with advisers but ultimately they make the crucial decisions. These are matters of the mind so what, you may ask, does it matter if you’re a social terrorist? Ask that question to Gordon Brown and he’d cough so hard his eye would pop out. If you were standing too close you might choke on it. Character matters.

So what do we know about Ed Miliband and I’m not talking biographical toss because your background, though important, only suggests a direction of travel, it doesn’t guarantee what you’ll do en route. One thing we do know is that Ed is ruthless enough that he’ll destroy his elder brother’s political ambitions to further his own. There are two ways of looking at this. Either you can infer that he’s a bastard; a cold, selfish and opportunistic careerist who’s happy to play politics with his own immediate family, or he’s so, how do they say, “passionate” about his beliefs that he simply couldn’t defer to Mili-D’s more Blarite positioning at this critical juncture in the party’s history. I’m not sure I’d want Ed as a brother but I imagine that there’s more of the latter in his decision to go for the leadership.

We know he wrote the last Labour manifesto but I’m writing this and you don’t imagine I believe a word of it do you? Exactly. It’s fair to say that Ed didn’t have the final say on what went into the document. He’d have agreed with the thrust of it I’m sure but he was a junior figure relative to its final composition, constrained by the likes of Brown and Mandleson. The fact he felt oppressed by these people is, for my money, a sign of rude intellectual health.

I’d feel a little more sorry for David Miliband were he not emotionally stunted and so vulnerable to the entitlement trap that snared Gordon Brown. Brown, like Mili-D, saw himself as the senior figure and resented some little upstart squatting over his Maris Piper wedges. However, the lesson of the Blair/Brown years is surely that no one, regardless of his or her age and experience should feel entitled to be Labour leader. It isn’t a matter for an individual’s ego, it’s for the party, and in terms of being prime minister, for the country to decide. If Milli-E thought he knew better he was right not to allow the matter to be decided internally. Contesting the election was the right thing to do, that way any issue of who the legitimate leader should be would be settled outright. It’s just a pity that the Labour Party’s electoral college has fucked that into a lead box.

You illegitimate son of a Marxist intellectual!

Never hand a loaded gun to someone with a Labour membership card because chances are they’ll discharge it into their own genitals. I’ve got some sympathy with John Rentoul’s view in the Independent on Sunday, that this is mathematically the worst result possible for Labour because it appears to fly in the face of party intent. Granted, it’s a bit of a freak result – with Ed coming second amongst MPs, MEPs and Party Members yet just crossing the finishing line by being ahead with trade union members, nor was it easily anticipated (or avoided) because there were so many variables, not least the redistribution of second preference votes across a series of (as it turned out) four rounds of voting but does any of that make it illegitimate?

It won’t matter to the Westminster village or perhaps, to the electorate, that the votes of union members are legitimate and their interests should be represented at the top of the party that they co-fund and established a century ago. What’s causing anger and resentment already is that neither the political class nor the deferential party membership elected Ed.

Unionisation in Britain is now shorthand for sinister protectionism amongst a cabal of lowly, base, grunting proles. The PM will chide Ed for being their bag man while simultaneously, though you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t be reported this way, telling the country that he’s governing to protect working people and their families, implying that anyone who represents their interests is in some way illegitimate and has a less than robust mandate to be opposition leader.

Were I Mili-E, I’d be challenging Cameron to tell me why, given that the final result is not disputed and within the rules, should my strong showing amongst union members be a problem. Is the backing of workers who carry a union card more or less legitimate than being in hoc to say, Rupert Murdoch or a tiny minority of Middle England voters? You’ll be able to list many more minority interests with disproportionate influence that are far more perfidious than trade unions. You may begin now.

What Margaret Knew

Clearly poor Ed must cope with political reality and that means that his 2nd place finish amongst his own MPs and party members is a problem. What to do? Courting them is a thankless task because he won’t face another election at their hands unless he’s challenged for the leadership, a sure fire sign that you’ve already lost the confidence of the party. To be brutal he must forget about them, especially David and concentrate on us – the great unwashed (and in many uncases, the great undecided). The received wisdom, which should always be questioned, is that in times like these you should seek to balance your shadow cabinet to unite factions within your party. My instinct would be to do the opposite. Set out a clear direction of travel and set of policies, particularly on balancing the economy fairly and stuff your senior positions with sympathisers, assuming that is that the party elect enough of them to the shadow cabinet to allow such a thing. Fuck balance – look at the drift it lead to in government. Unity at the top is paramount. Your members aren’t on TV, unless you work in pornography, so Ed Balls to them. If you’re winning the argument opinion polls will take care of back benchers and the grass roots, all 17 of them, will go to ground if they sense the tide is turning toward victory.

Triangulation is a strategy for maintaining the status quo, so drop it. Besides it’s just a euphemism for small c Conservatism. Margaret Thatcher understood that being ideologically driven was an asset provided it was supported with a bit of political nous and the impression of strength. No one in the country needs to like Ed, they only need to know where they are with him. Even if they grow to loathe him (unlikely), the confidence with which he puts forward his arguments and their coherence will be key.

We’re about to enter a period of real political turmoil. The economy may droop, blacken and then fall off – hundreds of thousands more people could be out of work, critically middle class people who previously didn’t feel the spray in recessionary waters because the proles were throwing tarpaulin over them. 35% of registered voters don’t bother to walk half a mile to a polling station and put a cross on a bit of paper. This is bad news for them but good news for Ed because they’re not signed up to the coalition’s plans. These people are there for the taking. Whoever can capture their imagination and make them angry enough to vote has a chance of overpowering Middle England. Reforming the voting system would help of course but as previously documented in this blog, I think it would need to be reformed so that,

a)  Effectively every seat became a marginal while

b)  Allowing for the possibility of single party majority government.

If someone can tell me how that might work I’d be grateful. Anyway, the point is that no system should be adopted to fit current voting patterns. You adopt the fairest system and then persuade people to use it in order to give you the sole mandate to govern. Shouldn’t that be what politics is all about? None of the parties currently trust the electorate to abandon their tribal vote if something better came along, nor their own ability to make us enthused enough by becoming that something better and it shows.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

If by their enemies ye shall know them, then Ed is already looking like a friend of progress. Those that now wish he’d perish down a well include Tony Blair, Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Tessa Jowell, Alistair Darling, Lord Mandleson and of course, David Miliband. I don’t know about you but I feel better already.

You cynics will say ah, but aren’t Ed’s “friends” all kryptonite to the electorate? Who’d want backing from Gordon Brown, Peter Hain, Diane Abbot and Harriet Harman? This is the struggle for the future political positioning of Labour. Mili-E’s bent only looks like a liability if you accept, without question, two intellectually spurious propositions. One, that the 2010 general election result was the public throwing their hands up in horror at Labour abandoning the so called “centre ground” for a more left leaning position and NOT a rejection of a party that had apparently betrayed all its principles after 13 largely listless years in government. Two, that a small number of voters, perhaps no more than 30,000, living in a series of marginal constituencies and representing a highly narrow sectional interest should be allowed to decide the result of general elections.

If you want to take something positive from Mili-E’s election it should be that he correctly rejects both those propositions as false.

Scary Monsters (and super creeps)

Were I a special adviser to Ed I’d be in his hotel room right now, helping myself to the free drinks and presenting him with a choice of two golden envelopes. One would contain a card that said “play it safe”, the other “be bold”. If he chose PIS I’d tell him that his job was to accept that the country is now Thatcherite by design and that any attempt to change that is fundamentally doomed. He must capitulate accordingly, being careful not to make any noises that may be interpreted as radical.

I’d tell him about terribly nice, semi-affluent people around the country who were politically and socially pig-ignorant and had fallen victim to the disease of middle age. I’d tell him that they, like many, started out as broad minded and socially conscientious but narrowed their field of interaction to a limited group of people from a similar background as they got older. I’d tell him that slowly, empathy for those from other walks of life frittered away and turned to resentment, envy, fear and hatred – though not necessarily in that order. I’d tell him that these people live in bubbles, seldom venturing beyond their immediate environs and whereas once they formed an impression of the world from brushing up against many different types of people, maybe in school, maybe at work – these days their window on the universe is the paper they read and the scare stories they see on the drool-box.

I’d tell him that much of what they saw was now judged in terms of whether or not it represented a threat to their lifestyle and interests. I’d tell him that this bunch didn’t give two fucks about vulnerable people because whenever they ceased to be abstract figures and became people they’d actually met, they wrote them off as uneducated, crude and pointless. I’d tell him that these were the people whose votes currently held the most sway and who had the most to lose from a more equal and inclusive society. I’d tell him that if he wanted an easy win, he should give them the nod as Tony Blair did and allay their guilty conscience about voting selfishly with hollow rhetoric on protecting the most vulnerable.

However, if he chose “be bold” I’d tell him that his mission in opposition should be to marginalise the influence of these people in the political life of the nation. I’d tell him that the key was to overpower them using the votes of the young and those currently disfranchised. I’d tell him that he had to find new ways to reach the vast constituencies of people who know nothing about politics and consequently may as well be dead from the neck up. These people are Frankenstein’s monsters waiting for a shock. I’d tell him we were out of Gordons Gin and little cans of tonic and perhaps someone should ring room service. I’d tell him that we needed state interventionism more than ever to deal with the problems of housing and employment and transport, which he could deal with under the banner of the environment if he so desired as long as he understood that the issue was transport. I’d tell him that his period as Labour leader could be the most important yet because chance had afforded him one last opportunity to move the country to the left and keep it there. I’d tell him that the price of failure would be the de facto end of the Labour movement and a final, decisive victory for Thatcherism.

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 17:54  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So, what the emissary from Planet Fuck should do to those of us who are stupid enough to be older and still earning money is, essentially, fuck us? Fuck us over, disenfranchise us, but presumably expect to continue paying (ever more) taxes to pay for the newly enfranchised? Finem, but forgive me for hoping your cretinuous party never get back to power and that Miliwank rots in hell with his traitor father.

    • An interesting comment frontloaded with all sorts of assumptions, none of which correspond to what I wrote.

      If you represent the constituency of people I talked about in the post, that’s exactly what he should do – fuck you over. Yes, fuck you. I mean, why not? You’ve made the political weather in this country for the last 30 years and look at it. We’re politically backward and socially stunted. We’ll continue to be so until the people who don’t buy into the Thatcherite model are represented in government. The country needs to grow up, and by that I mean it needs to be politically educated. Perhaps then it’d be harder to caricature any threat to the status quo as lunacy.

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