Six reasons why Labour Britain is doomed

The Guardian continues to haemorrhage credibility. Every time Polly or Jackie makes an absolutely-last-and-positively-final-ditch defence of Labour, I read it and think, well, that at least is the very pits of absurd desperation, they cannot possibly dig themselves in any deeper than that.

I mean, surely to goodness they must now realise that by carrying on they only make Labour look worse – exposing just how little there is to applaud, how little there is for any Labour supporter to be hopeful about. They damn with faint praise, not by design, but because it’s impossible to do better. They have plunged a borehole right through the rotten flesh for all the world to see and arrived at the unyielding core of reality with nothing to show for it.

Yes, I think all that. It takes a while.

And each time the Graun surprises me. In a sort of danse macabre-style mad celebration of their awful news priorities they’ve just unveiled a “series” entitled Can Labour win?

And someone’s been busy, because though the series is only two days old there are already 23 equally desperate reasons why they can (if only they would follow the Guardian’s sage advice, naturally. I love the way all the commentators, particularly Jack and Poll, talk wistfully about the urgent need for Labour to “push” or “strengthen” various worthy agendas, like age discrimination or domestic violence, as if Labour are not the people who have just been in power for twelve years signally failing to do anything about these and many other things, ohnono that’s some other bunch of bastards, nothing to do with our Labour party).

One of the latest gems to emerge from the Islington bunker is this Young guns who will save the Labour party puffpiece, featuring a number of the more telegenic PPCs from the red corner. You might be thinking this has a familiar ring to it, and you’d be right. It’s not six months since Tatler did something similarly ghastly with the “top Tory totty”, and were rightly and roundly traduced for it by, er, me. And what do the Guardian do? Not only copy, but expressly attribute their inspiration to bloody Tatler magazine! Has the world gone stark raving bonkers? Is there anything, any low lesson of politics or marketing, that the lefty metro-intelligentsia are not willing to scrape off the bottom of the Tory barrel?

Anyway, this really is a video worth watching. It’s terrifying.  In a first-past-the-post system where it takes about four times as many votes to elect a Liberal Democrat as a Labour MP, this, my People, is what awaits us. Keep my commentary open in a side-by-side why don’t you?

Some hopeful plinky music and there’s a shot of all the young guns walking towards the camera, Reservoir Dogs style. It looks like a reject shot for the opening titles of The Apprentice. All of a sudden we are transported into the complex intellectual world of Chuka Umunna, he of the persistant “mainstreaming” and unconvincing grasp of liberal priorities at the Convention on Modern Liberty. (He’d now be officially banned from council communications for the former, incidentally.)

“It’s very flattering to be compared to Barack Obama,” he begins. I kid you not. Those are the first words this flowering hope of New Labour speaks to camera. I don’t hear the rest of what he says because I am busy burying my head in a cushion and weeping. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it would be very flattering to  be compared to Barack Obama if anyone other than his mum was doing it.

To be absolutely fair to him, I dry my eyes, assume he was asked a leading question, and pop the video back to see if he really does bear any resemblance to the leader of the free world beyond skin colour. Why does he want to become an MP, I wonder?

“As a solicitor you spend your time interpreting the law, but I actually want to change it, and that’s, you know, the bottom line there,” he explains.

And there’s more fractally subtle pearls of wisdom where that came from. Turns out Labour’s A-lister is a philosopher of comparative economics as well:

“I’ve always been massively curious about current and foreign affairs and what makes the world go round and why, you know, you get some people in some parts of the world who have nothing to eat and little water and then other people in countries like this who are doing very well.”

Seriously, he’s ticking all the right boxes for the summer internship. Cowley Street should get him on the phone.

Mercifully for his exhausted mental powers, we cut away to Rushanara Ali. She seems a nice girl – I say girl, this woman’s four years older than I am. She’s a little like me, actually, nice  middle class Southerner, bright and personable, but with four more years experience – what will she have made of her life, and what can I learn from her example? What does she have to say for herself? What are her innermost drives, I wonder?

She likes going back to her old school and inspiring the girls there with her political  career. She likes drinking tea with her would-be constituents in Bethnal Green and Bow. Yes, that’s all nice. I went to an all-girls school too. Fantastic way to get an education, and I’d recommend it to anyone, as the girls (or gels) thereby turned out tend to be, in my experience, that bit more confident about their place in the world and aware of why they’re doing what they’re doing.

But obviously you can’t win them all, and some people will always drop through any system. Next.

Rachel Reeves is Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Leeds West. She is nothing if not a good Yorkshirewoman, and she is not a good Yorkshirewoman. Might be Ilford, by the sound of it. But never mind all that “Are you local?” nonsense – the civil war ended a long time ago. Let’s give her a chance, shall we? So why did she join the Labour party?

“I remember in the ’87 election I was eight years old and people at school were talking about who their parents were voting for and I went home and asked my dad. He put on the six o’clock news and introduced me to Neil Kinnock and said ‘That’s who we vote for’ and ever since then I’ve known that I’ve been Labour.”

Now, to be fair, Rachel is hardly alone in having been brainwashed into accepting a Labour (or Tory) allegiance at an early age. Unlucky them, I suppose. I remember asking my mum the exact same question, and she said they’d generally voted Conservative before but were thinking of changing now, and the best thing was to decide who had the best ideas and vote for them. Shocking notion, eh? I’ve never quite recovered.

Next comes Toby Perkins, who appears to have gatecrashed this video on “young guns”, being of the ripe old age of 38. That’s only four years younger than Clegg. There are probably junior cabinet ministers younger than this. What’s going on? Did they run out of half-decent young people? What is Toby hoping for from his political career?

“You’ve got to go there and actually do something. I don’t intend to just sit in the house of Commons and be lobby fodder,” he says bravely.

And yet you will, Toby, you will. You’ve joined the Labour party. He seems like a good bloke as well – oh, it’s too sad! A tragedy unfolding before my eyes. Let’s move on.

Lilian Greenwood, candidate for Nottingham South, is 42. Yes, they’ve definitely run out of half-decent young people. She’s a bit sinister in a way that at first I can’t quite put my finger on. Does she have a master plan of some sort, perhaps?

“About two years ago I finally decided that it was time to move on and try and find a different way to do something really positive for the women that I’ve been representing – well, not just the women  mumble mumble low paid workers in particular.”

Oh what a Freudian slip! Men of Nottingham, head for the forest and take up  arms, ere you be gelded! But soft, am I being unfair? Perhaps the slip is due to her having worked for ten years in a women’s refuge and therefore she has formerly represented only women? Nope, she’s a regional official for Unison, with no official women’s portfolio that I can detect. Her blog lists her as a campaigner for women’s rights. But that’s not her job.

This is exactly why I am suspicious of lefty feminism and believe liberalism can fulfil the same aims more cleanly and fairly. No sooner does one allow that it’s a perfectly Good Thing for campaigning women to start unofficial support groups and mutual aid networks for each other than one finds said campaigners merrily transport all their assumptions, jargon and viewpoints into official jobs and contexts that were never designed to accommodate them.

There is literally no point in being an MP if you’re going to treat your constituents even slightly and subconsciously differently on the basis of gender, and that goes for lefty feminists as much as it goes for Tory dinosaurs. Get a grip.

Meanwhile, Shabana Mahmood is hoping to represent Birmingham Ladywood.

“You’ve got to be in it to win it is what I say,” she opines. I was right – it is The Apprentice! Mandela is her political hero, and she thinks he’s a really  good hook to get young people interested in politics. Hey, we never thought of that! After all, the fact that it has spent thirty years not working as such a hook and an entire generation has grown up in the great man’s shadow without becoming remotely interested in politics shouldn’t put us off.

Actually, I always feel slightly sorry for youngish politicians when journalists ask them – as they invariably will – about political apathy amongst the young, because their responses are so hopelessly inadequate. And no wonder, because they (charmingly uncognisant of this as they may be) are the weirdos who did get interested. You might as well ask a zebra why it thinks more of the  horse family don’t have stripes.

And that’s it, more optimistic plinky music and a couple of moody monochromesque shots of the Six Super Saviours in various noble attitudes in front of a stone parapet.

That, my friends, is what we and the Labour party have got to look forward to. Let’s just remind ourselves of those 2005 voting averages, shall we?

An average of 26,906 votes to elect a Labour MP

An average of 44,373 votes to elect a Tory MP

An average of 96,539 votes to elect a Lib Dem MP

Someone shoot me now.

26 Comments

  1. “I love the way all the commentators, particularly Jack and Poll, talk wistfully about the urgent need for Labour to “push” or “strengthen” various worthy agendas, like age discrimination or domestic violence, as if Labour are not the people who have just been in power for twelve years signally failing to do anything about these and many other things, ohnono that’s some other bunch of bastards, nothing to do with our Labour party).”

    It bears a strangely symmetrical relationship to the Republicans in the US at the moment, busily laying into Big Government and lauding Fiscal Responsibility, as though they hadn’t just presided over the turning of a surplus inherited from Clinton into a whopping great deficit. The doublethink evident in, say, Bobby Jindal’s response to Barrack Obama’s Not-The-State-Of-The-Union-Address address, is amazing.

    I think, in the case of Labour folk, it’s because they think Labour only does good things when its back is against the wall and it has to do something popular. Why they want to accept this as the best way things could be, I haven’t the foggiest.

  2. It looks at the moment that despite their increasingly desparate propagandising, the Guardian types are already conducting the autopsy of what went wrong. In tiresomely predicatable fashion everyone is concluding that the collapse of the Labour government was a result of it’s not precisely following their own agendas. Similar self-serving analysis can also be seen in some of the in-fighting in the Republican party, Tory comentators over the past 12 years and frankly factions in our own party whenever the polls wobble.

    I always read Polly Toynebee in the Guardian, awful though she is. Partly because it’s a fascinating unrefined peak into the mindset of a certain strand of Labour supported and partly because the stream of abuse that forms the responses on Comment is Free give me a comforting sense that I’m not alone in my view of her.

  3. “Actually, I always feel slightly sorry for youngish politicians when journalists ask them – as they invariably will – about political apathy amongst the young, because their responses are so hopelessly inadequate. And no wonder, because they (charmingly uncognisant of this as they may be) are the weirdos who did get interested.”

    Jo Swinson, who probably gets this worse than anyone else, has frequently pointed out that they’re asking the wrong person – she’s the strange one that is interested in politics.

  4. “You might as well ask a zebra why it thinks more of the horse family don’t have stripes.”

    Excellent line. I intend to use this in the future in an attempt to sound smart.

  5. Incidentally, I see that Rachel Reeves was the Labour candidate in the Bromley and Chislehurst by election, where her inspirational campaign brought them to a mere 422 votes from achieving 3rd place.

  6. My favourite line in that is Stephen Twigg’s:
    “They are being replaced by pragmatic young politicians – not one thing or the other,” says Twigg.

    How daring, how noble of him to pin his colours to the tree, then the next tree, and also the one over the road just in case. Yes, pragmatism above all else! That’s what the youth of this country are crying out for! In the words of Obama: Yes, We Possibly Might But I Want To Look Properly At The Relevant Issues Before Coming To A Final Conclusion.

  7. A fine piece as always!🙂

    Though I am afraid that Labour want to extinguish even democracy itself and sometimes with the help of an interest close to your political heart (LD’s).

    Whilst a man of independent thought – often a little cooky i admit!😆 I have gravitated toward my political views through experience and perception.

    People quite often mistake me for being a Labour man when they meet me in the flesh (I am not fat or have bad breath or even false teeth!)But i am compasionate – it is just i don’t belive wealth is created by the state or even well managed by it! I also believe that the individual should do what ever they want unless it hurts others! Some may say natural liberal Democrat but the difference is suttle but intriging!

    Maybe I will blog some more here!

    Right i have got to watch a film where they cut each others heads off now – Highlander!🙂 Well worth watching if you were a child of the 80’s! Just for the Music!🙂

  8. “Next comes Toby Perkins, who appears to have gatecrashed this video on “young guns”, being of the ripe old age of 38.”

    Yes, very nicely put, though until you mentioned it I hadnt actually felt so old, I was more aware of feeling huge, an occupational hazard of being 6’6″ and 17 1/2 stone, but somehow on the photo I seemed to look fairly normal proportions- probably Photoshopped.

    For your information, having a life before politics does take up a bit of time and I’m glad that I have that grounding.

    I hope it sets your mind at rest to tell you that I have spent the last six years as a Councillor in an authority run by one of Britain’s most hapless Lib Dem Councils and have hardly ever considered suicide so I have few fears about the lobby fodder thing …. ‘things can only get better’.

    Your comment about Nick Clegg was odd given that he was only elected to the HOC at 38.

    As for the other comments I agree that having made so much in the article attached to the piece about the political differences in the views of the candidates that they interviewed, it was odd that the Guardian should choose to edit out all the political bits and just leave answers to questions like “What’s it like to be described as the British Barack”, I mean what are you meant to say?

    Anyway thanks for your interest, I am still at the stage in my political career (even at such an advanced age) that I am flattered that someone can be bothered to comment on me, even if it is tragic.

    All the best,

    Toby ‘the good bloke’

  9. Hello, Toby! Thanks for dropping by,

    “having a life before politics does take up a bit of time and I’m glad that I have that grounding.”

    Well, quite. But that’s not what the video was billed as – I wasn’t getting at you.

    And I am, of course, highly sympathetic to the problem of having your politics dumbed down by the media through selective editing – god knows, it happens to our people enough. Still, from my point of view as a public consumer, I guess it’s not my job to watch out for the edits and try and guess what else might have been said.

    It’s certainly the media’s natural instinct to try to highlight ego and daftness in politicians wherever they can, and to that extent we all take their output with a pinch of salt. But they can only work with what’s there, and it is possible to confound them. If you don’t give them anything that makes you look daft and egotistical (and you didn’t) there’s nothing they can do.

    With that in mind, I’m afraid I cleave unreservedly tto my view of Chuka Umunna. Three reasons:

    a) you DON’T have to answer a question. You can say “That’s a self-evidently fatuous question and I’m not going to answer it.” Socially tricky, yes, but that’s part of being a politician dealing with the press and I can’t believe you don’t all get schooled in how to do it.

    b) if you are going to answer the BO question, don’t willingly walk into the soundbite trap by using the question’s terms in your answer. That is just asking for it to stand alone in the final edit. I mean literally asking – this is usually the technique by which people try to get soundbites picked up. Which makes me suspicious.

    c) As does this: I heard Chuka at the Convention of Modern Liberty and he brought up the Obama comparison himself, unnecessarily and unprompted, in the course of his 5 minute speech.

    Basically, it’s part of his routine and it makes him look like a bumptious tit. If he isn’t a bumptious tit, he needs to sort it out.

    Hm, it’s a shame you’re up against the generally fabulous Paul Holmes in Chesterfield, or I’d be able to wish you good luck!😀

  10. As I’ve blogged about before, the question I’d really like to see Chuka Umunna asked isn’t “Are you the British Barack Obama” but “Why did you show such stunning bad judgement over the case of Mirandra Grell, who was convicted of smearing her Lib Dem opponent as a paedophile?”

  11. I used to go to Muswell Hill about 9 years ago! I had a relative who lived in that area! Interesting pubs! One IIRC was in a place that used to be a church! It had big plastic objects on the walls! They were only dead animals though! Plastic immatations!

    Nevermind I sound like a dinosaur but my Roar is louder than my bite!🙂

  12. By the way I am great at cutting Hair! Even If i am not a LD – I will trim Dr Mark Packs hair next time I am in London with my folks! I can do many styles!😀 I also only fancy women but i guess you have established that!🙂

  13. I’m suspecting that the financial problems at GMG are directing Rusbridger’s agenda – they actively want Labour out as there’s more money in campaigning than in being the best behaved propaganda rag for the establishment.

    Give it a year, two max, and the Guardian will be a radically different beast – Polly & co are the last of their generation serving their time until retirement when they can move to Tuscany on a permanent basis – just pity the mountain goats!

  14. Highly entertaining post: that video could easily have been on The Onion as a spoof.

    Interesting stats re votes per seat too (if sadly, all too unsurprising).

  15. It’s not just the apparent vacuity of the candidates that makes me shudder, but the fact that the spinners deem this bland nonsense the “sort of thing” that might appeal to would-be voters.

    For all we know, some of them might really be intellectual heavyweights with new and exciting political ideas. But I suspect if they are (and the fact they agreed to be part of this drivel suggests otherwise), then those responsible for the video would have made damn sure not a hint of it remained in the final edit.

    Great blog Alix – came across you today via @willhowells on twitter. I don’t generally read party political blogs, but when the writing is as engaging as yours, I’m happy to make an exception.

  16. Great piece Alix!

    The “it’s very flattering to be compared line is, of course, factually trie. It certainly is very flattering when one is compared to Barack Obama. Of course, that doesn’t mean anyone ever HAS, but it would be flattering. I spend half my days lately cringing over people who claim dubious connections to the Man Himself. I do know a prominent Labour politician who is frequently… let’s say “liberal with the truth” in suggesting a closer relationship than exists between himself and Barack.

    On the other hand, Shabana Mahmood appears to have gone the other way and decided to be Hillary clinton. “In it to win it” did her little good – I’d suggest a new approach.

    Still, I’m sympathetic to the horrors of being “sexed up” by the media. The Sunday Express once ran the most screechingly awful photograph of me (overexposed, at an angle that made my nose look mountainous – I’m not just being typically awkward about pictures of me, it was hideous) under a headline reading “Barack’s Babes”. Vomitous.

    So give the poor guys a break. Given all the moaning I hear about insufficient media coverage, I doubt if the Lib Dems would turn down an opportunity for a “Hottest Young Liberals” photo spread. Sure, we’d all prefer it to be a six page feature on the education platform and local governance success, but that won’t sell the papers. Unless – maybe a naughty teacher centrefold augmented with platform bullet points? Sigh. Sadly plausible.

  17. It says rather a lot about LibDems’ grasp of things Union that you don’t know that the vast majority of Unison members are women – hospital cleaners and HCAs, teaching assistants etc. I know you guys don’t really know much about ordinary jobs, but still…As it happens, Lilian and Chukka are both active in Compass, so are a hell of a lot more ‘progressive’ than most LibDems.

    And let’s face it, there isn’t one LibDem MP (now Jenny Tonge is no more) with an ounce of charisma, so whatever your own pretensions of importance, I would get your own house in order. I mean, Nick Clegg, Jo Swinson? Both painfully banal. When have you lot ever produced a Clare Short, Diane Abbott, Barbara Castle, Mo Mowlam? I’m struggling to think of one LibDem with their kind of connection to the real world and to people. Lynne F is the closest you have at the minute – a braying toff with a vast fortune and an only slightly smaller ego.

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