Just watching David Miliband’s interview on the Andrew Neil Show, on his new series on channel 4, will tell you why many traditionally Labour voters feel an enormous sense of frustration. To a perfectly sensible question on how he would tackle the cross channel ‘dinghy crisis’, a matter on most Faragists’ lips, David Miliband concedes calmly that he wouldn’t have wanted to start from here. He talks about how Brexit leads to not being a signatory any more of the UK to something called the Treaty of Dublin, and works backwards to think about how a legal infrastructure might be rebuilt.
I don’t suppose David Miliband devotes much time to thinking about how he could re-enter parliament, become leader of the Labour Party, and then become Prime Minister. He seems more concerned about putting his family first, and running his increasingly successful NGO well. I actually remember voting for Ed Miliband to become party leader in about 2010. I remember when his leadership was announced in 2010 to much excitement at party conference, which I think was in Manchester. Or it might have been Liverpool. Not sure. I remember meeting the late Michael Meacher who told me he was ecstatic. And he looked it. He died five years later.
2015 was coincidentally when Ed Miliband failed to win a general election. I remember the ‘one last heave’ approach very well – which had embittered many of us, with the famous ‘immigration mugs’.
The rest of course is history – David Cameron was voted in in an endorsement of ‘competence’ over ‘chaos’, while regretfully he brought in a referendum with no clear plan of what to do on voting Brexit. Corbyn was blamed for a lack lustre ‘remain’ campaign, when it is clear that Alan Johnson and Lord Stuart Rose hardly covered themselves in glory either.
My perspective I don’t feel is unique to Corbynistas. The irony is that I am not a Corbynista at all. I had supported all Labour leaders during my time supporting the party between 1992 and 2019. I thought it was a good idea in 2019 to strengthen the NHS as a public service, introduce a national care service, produce a proper infrastructure for internet services, and so on.
Somebody on Question Time recently in the audience started laying into Mick Lynch why the teams from Victoria and Euston were separate. It was calmly explained to ‘Tory boy’ that it was not common either for staff at ASDA to help routinely staff at Sainsbury’s. It was also calmed explained to him that this problem wouldn’t arise if the railways had been nationalised. Lynch calmly explained how he could not explain the ‘compulsory job cuts’ when the railways were returning multi-million revenues. And so it went on.
But now when people are told, ‘remember the 1970s?’, people think the 1970s were not so bad. Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan were not, to our knowledge, shagging multiple mistresses consecutively, nor holding parties in Downing Street, nor balls-ing up a major plank of policy which threatened our geopolitical or economy security. OK, they did not have to pretend to be Bennie Hill, with dandruff and shirt hanging out, or need to get their deputies to wink across the despatch box either.
When asked simply on the BBC Radio 4 programme yesterday what his programme for national government would be, Andy Burnham simply said social and constitutional reform. This is what he feels, apparently, is holding back Britain. This of course would be a sensible move for members of the Labour Left, who do not consider themselves ‘hard left’, to feel more part of a party which has chucked out somebody they supported and went door-knocking for years. It is indeed possible that proportional representation and the reform of the House of Lords are issues which need addressing much more than Brexit. It is still the case that not many individuals can point to a tangible benefit or beneficial outcome from Brexit apart from ‘sovereignty’. And even the ‘taking back control’ has gone pear-shaped with the ‘oven-ready’ deal – which turned out to be, who’d have thunk it, possibly yet another one of Johnson’s porkie pies. The NI protocol is such a mess, that the Government has had to introduce its own legislation which many to think to be unlawful under international law – leading to a Trumpian government to say ‘breaking the law is sometimes a necessity’ (which is not true at all).
Starmer cannot be blamed for being able to set out, now, in detail, his policy on a number of areas – but there could be a ‘snap election’, and everyone fails to know what he stands for ideologically (apart from U-turning on his own ‘pledges’ to become leader of the Party). He doesn’t seem to have any views on what to improve on Brexit. The comparison with Tony Blair is quite insulting to Tony Blair. Blair ahead of the 1997 general election was massively ahead in the polls, and had the skeleton of a clear programme for government. Look at today – the running of the NHS, ambulances, social care, passport offices and so on is a shambles. Inflation is at over 11% on one measure, and this cannot simply be put down to ‘international factors’ – I am no economist, but I am sure printing lots of money as has been a drug since Osborne had something to do with it. Ironically, Ed Miliband wanted to come in on a ticket to reform the energy ‘market’ – so how’s that going for you then?
Whisper it gently. Wakefield was hardly a massive endorsement for Labour, as their number of voters actually went down in a climate of the worst Tory Prime Minister (and government) in ‘living memory’. I am not alone. I also happen not to be that interested in culture wars or Brexit. If you’re looking for ‘security’, this Government is the pits – howeverso defined, economic, financial, or political, with the shambolic running of public services. But if you’re looking at ‘aspiration’, it’s pretty awful too. I can’t believe that many so-called entrepreneurs found Boris Johnson’s call to arms, ‘Fuck business!’, that inspiring.
It might be a case of ‘hold your nose and vote for Labour’, which is what I suspect might happen. Meanwhile, Scotland might get some momentum on its indy ref, and this might alter the landscape of the next Government of the UK. I think, however, it would be wrong to say that Starmer has successfully completed ‘phase 1’ of his election-winning strategy. If the aim was to rout out all the hard Left, he has also palpably annoyed many who supported the policies of the previous leader of the Labour Party. So as the ‘unity’ candidate, I have rarely seen the Labour Party so divided. With a possible ‘summer of discontent’, extending from railway workers to nurses, post office, fire brigade workers, the plight of the public sector who have sustained world-beating pay freezes will come under increased scrutiny. We know that Starmer has cancelled the 2019 manifesto, and it’s hard to say quite how popular/unpopular these policies were. Two things to say here, Starmer’s 2nd referendum didn’t help with Red Wall Brexiteers. Secondly, much of this policy has been assumed by a rather non-conservative Conservative Policy anyway.
Starmer’s problem is that he does not seem to be wooing as many from the ‘Centre’ as he has clearly lost from the Left. And he has – as yet – no clear view on inflation, Ukraine, or Brexit – even if he knows what a woman is. I am yet to be convinced he has completed ‘phase 1’ of his strategy – but assume for a moment that he has, what is his programme for government?
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