LABOUR: CAN THIS COALITION WORK?


“There is now a vacancy at the top of the Labour Party…
and I am that vacancy.”


As always with New(ish) Labour, the humour and anger its senior members evoke among observers always comes from two sources: the conviction that they are ‘making a difference’ in any positive sense; and the obvious pot/kettle element in every criticism they make of opponents.

I’ve no idea at the moment whether the ToryDem coalition will work – any more than anyone else does. But even as it leaves scorched earth behind it on the way back to Berlin, the retreating progressive Rump has the spin machine working overtime in a bai to unsettle the traitorous forces of reaction.

Labour luvvies were out in force, lining up to speak to Sky’s Dermot Monaghan.

“You have to remember” said one, foot hard on the condescension pedal, “We have lost the intellectual giant of Twentieth Century politics. I mean, you look at Cameron and his little friend Clegg….I mean….”

Dermot tried not to laugh. I thought he was going to ask who on earth she was talking about, but he contented himself with a wry smile. It remains worrying, however, that after thirteen years of very clever people doing nothing very badly, people in the commentariat still make this alarmingly inaccurate correlation between being very bright, and able to do a proper job. Success in life comes largely from creativity, insight, focus and persistence. The Left has only ever had the last of these, and it simply isn’t enough.

The most hilarious aspect for me has been this “it’s all cobbled together, they’re chalk and cheese” guff from the (very bad) losers over the last two days. Here is a Party, 25% of whose business from 1997-2007 was managing the lack of relationship between Cheesie Blair and Chalkie Brown: to be frank, reading the diaries it seems to me that John Prescott did nothing else but this. Here is a Party which went to War with a Left Wing muttering in its beer, and bought them off by wasting 236 parliamentary hours sparing vermin. Here is a Party which contains 50 MPs sponsored by a hard-Left Union, but also includes the likes of Lord Adonis, Tessa Jowell, Geoff ‘Taxi’ Hoon, and Lord Mandelson.

So the question from here on, I think, is whether this coalition can hang together now there’s no need to be nice to each other in public any more. The signs are not good – and the early ‘comradely’ bollocks being put about is one of them. This leadership election is going to be about as comradely as a Stalinist purge.

David ‘gone missing’ Miliband, the ultimate vacant man, is the New Labour candidate. He’s got Mandy’s support, which means that the smearing of others will start just as soon as his Lordship is clear about the full list of contenders….and will move from person to person until he’s sure which one’s going to win. Milibland is the bookies’ favourite; I haven’t done the numbers yet, so I’ve no idea if they’re right or wrong.

The other clear tendency is that represented by Ed Balls. This is what one might call the No Going Forward wing of the Party. It’s the nearest thing Labour has to a military wing, and is backed by Unite, Whelan, Dromey and Harman. Hattie’s decision not to run was to ensure she didn’t split Ed Balls’ vote. It’s hard to split one vote – a bit like splitting the atom, really – but she’s right to do what she’s done: Ms Harman seems at last to have caught on to the fact that even 90% of women think she’s rather odd. Best, therefore, to remain in the shadows.

If Mr Balls wins, I think those of us outside the Labour Party should breathe a sigh of relief. Certainly, I wouldn’t want to be on the inside when those hordes of truculent LibDems allegedly signing up to Labour realise Ed hates them even more than the Tories.

Some ‘smart’ money thinks that the other Ed (Miliband) will run purely to split Ed’s Balls, but this feels like a conspiracy too far to me. My sense is that Ed Miliband thinks he can win almost outright. He is the nearest thing the Party has to a People’s Champion (not that they matter much in all this) and research I’ve seen suggests he has appeal for women – although chiefly on the mothering dimension. His enviromental credentials make him squeaky-clean, and so anyone dismissing him as a serious candidate is being cavalier: he’s a smarter politician than his brother.

Then there’s Mr Cruddas – who was being mooted at first as half of a David Miliband dream ticket. In the last few hours, Jon Cruddas has hinted that he might sail under his own flag, which is even redder than that used by Ed Balls. He is a working-class, comprehensively educated Catholic, but without the experience of working, as such: he has been visiting at Universities, a political secretary, a researcher on the minimum wage campaign, and an author of the MA thesis ‘An analysis of value theory, the sphere of production and contemporary approaches to the reorganisation of workplace relations’, by ‘eck.

This, then, is the likely set of runners keen to lead the rock-steady coalition between Old flat-cap and Clause IV Unionised Labour, and New Gay strategic geniuses in smart suits who made things get not quite better after all Labour.

I can’t see it lasting the full term, but let’s wait and see.