Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gray Skies ahead for Labour

It doesn't matter what they do at the moment, but Labour just can't seem to get it right.

I suppose we should really give Iain Gray a chance, but I'm not sure he has what it takes to bring people to Labour. I think Cathy Jamieson, despite her faux pas last Thursday would have been better in terms of portraying that Labour actually understands what's happening in people's lives at the moment.

However, the Labour Party in Scotland has managed to get through its leadership campaign without too much bloodletting. They now need to really get their act together at Holyrood. They haven't really been functioning as a proper opposition for the last year or so because they have been firefighting on their own turf. It's always better to subject Governments to vigorous and effective scrutiny - and this SNP one sure needs it.

The UK Labour Party slithers seemingly inexorably towards meltdown. There is a bit of Devil's Advocate in what I'm about to say, but in many ways this lot have been lucky to get away with so much for so long. Gordon Brown had a sustained period of fairly benign economic circumstances as Chancellor only to see it all fall apart the minute he gets the top job. Frankly, the global economic crisis isn't entirely the UK Labour Party's fault. Sure, they failed to curb the banks' irresponsible and clearly unsustainable lending habits which led to the credit crunch, but there are bigger global economic players who chose to make their hay while the sun shone who should share the blame.

Let's not forget that Tony Blair's new Labour led us into what was probably an illegal and certainly an immoral and expensive war in Iraq in the face of unprecedented opposition on the streets, they have been responsible for attacks on our civil liberties such as ID cards and 42 days' detention.

Labour backbenchers were bitching and whinging over all of these things in Tony Blair's day. Hell, he lost a darned good Cabinet Minister in Robin Cook over Iraq, but he coped. I guess he had what Brown lacks - the Bullshit Factor. He could sit there and look all sincere and tell a story - and nine times out of ten that's exactly what it was, a piece of carefully woven spin - about what was going on. And while people didn't always buy it, they accepted it.

When Gordon Brown tries to explain something, he just sounds a bit awkward and lumbering - he just doesn't have that way of telling that story that makes you feel that he has everything sorted.

Maybe we don't need that, though. Sure, when we're headed for bad times, we want reassurance and somebody to tell us it isn't happening. We don't want Captain Darling telling us we're all doomed.

Times are tough, though, and they will get tougher until we can find a more sustainable, less oil dependent way of living. This is going to require some common working amongst politicians of all parties but I don't have much hope of that happening any time soon.

As for the whinging on the Labour benches, I suspect it's not just about people being worried about their own seats. It's the continuation of the Blair v Brown feud which marked virtually all of Blair's premiership. There are scores to settle and the Blairites are going to enjoy raining as much misery upon Brown's head as they can.

It's all a bit pathetic, really. They are saying they want a contest, but don't say who they want to be the challenger. I guess all potential challengers see the spectre of Michael Heseltine before them - he was earmarked as the clear challenger to Thatcher, they used him to get rid of her and then chose someone else. Nobody wants to make that kind of sacrifice of their career.

If Labour are ever going to get anywhere, the whingers need to shut up, no elected Labour official should say anything that isn't directly related to understanding and dealing with people's troubles at the moment and they just need to get their heads down and deliver. While we're at it, they shouldn't allow stories to build around things like a planned £150 payment to every family - if it's not true they should kill it immediately. Cos a few weeks later when all they end up giving out is some lagging for your loft, people will feel disappointed.

I'm not optimistic that Labour are going to be capable of digging themselves out of their current mess. I think it's possible, but it will involve effort from everybody, including their backbenchers. Changing their leader will do them no favours. Ok, they might scrape back in like John Major did for the Tories. But at what cost?

We need a grown up Government dealing with the current problems, not being preoccupied with the knives aimed at their backs.

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