It’s been a pretty eventful few weeks. If a load of verbiage and veiled insults can be considered ‘events’.
Do I want Blair to stand down? Hell yes. I didn’t support him in 1994. I never bought into the ‘New Labour’ project. Yes, I wanted to win in 1997, 2001 and 2005, and I can’t deny that Blair was a big part of that – at least in terms of the magnitude of the 1997 victory.
But Iraq is not the only major decision which irks me. Pushing through policy changes without bothering to consult (despite having set up the Partnership in Power process) such as University fees, Foundation Hospitals and then being annoyed when MPs and members raise objections is the real issue. Blair (and New Labourism) is ‘right’ and if we disagree then we are ‘ungrateful’ or ‘harking back to 1983’ or ‘dinosaurs’. Yes, that attitude really fosters debate.
The last couple of weeks was less about Blair than about Brown though. I don’t believe that he orchestrated things, rather that some low-level MPs were getting frustrated. People like Milburn and Clarke seem to think that Brown doesn’t deserve the leadership, and I suspect a certain amount of briefing (not just the public statements of course).
But last week I went to the Constituency Party GC. We barely discussed the leadership issues. In a two hour meeting we talked about:
1) The Tory council trying to sell of Council Housing, and our lobbying of the government to allow the ‘4th Option’.
2) The recent move to outsource NHS Logistics, and a motion to Conference to raise concerns about the direction that Health policy is taking – another round of re-organisations, more possible service ‘reconfigurations’,
3) Who will be on the list of candidates for next May’s local elections
4) The ridiculous decision by Ruth Kelly to override the Planning Inspectors’ upholding of the Borough Council’s opposition to the Russell Way development. (by the way, the original decision was taken before the May elections, and was probably approved by all members from Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative. But to read the press (and Alan Quine’s odious missive) you’d think it was only the Tories.
Personally I think that there are more important things than arguing over a leadership election that hasn’t started yet. Charles Clarke in particular has demonstrated why he should not return to any cabinet with his outburst. However, the personalised Blair leadership has led to that, because all policy discussion is subverted by whether TB or another individual pushes a line or not. The Party needs to get back to real politics – discussing what affects real people and directly influences their lives and livelihood.
Now, while there’s a barney going on, the media wonks in Westminster and the main outlets are focussing on that as it is fun to watch, whereas proper debate is quite boring. But it’s the latter we need, and we already get it in the grassroots.