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The gig is up… Polly Toynbee talks of replacing Brown… June 27, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, British Politics, Uncategorized.

This I didn’t see coming, but over lunch consulting the (paper version of) the Guardian I read

Here’s the imaginary scenario: three or four cabinet ministers backed by senior backbenchers go to the prime minister to say it’s over. Most ministers are just waiting for someone else to break the glass. An election between several candidates would be no bloodbath but just what Labour needs to regain public attention. Miliband and Johnson would be lead contenders, Straw would go for it, Hutton or Milburn would hold a torch for the privatising right, and Cruddas for the progressive left. Public debate would not be chaos: it would force the winner to bound out of the gate with a new crystal clarity. As for bankruptcy, only a new leader can now raise funds for the party.

A caveat…

Let’s be clear. This is not happening. No such deputation exists. Those who think about it also think the cabinet so spineless that none will dare. “Oh, wake me up if anyone does anything,” said one despairing MP. Ministers look at one another and say nothing. Older MPs say the young ministers simply have no idea how horrible eight or 18 years in a rump opposition will be, watching Tories demolish cherished Labour projects. They lack mettle, this generation that had it all on a plate. They never lived through years of fighting Militant and forging New Labour. This is their Clause Four moment, their moment to save the party, and they’ll probably flunk it. It should have been before the long summer break: the autumn conference will be dire. The one who dares first may be the one who deserves the crown.

But it’s all tactics, isn’t it? Because she also writes…

They have another fear: if Labour goes down badly under Brown, a rump party of mainly leftist old Labourites will select some unelectable leader and seal the party’s fate. Better to choose the best now so that, even if Labour loses, it’s a soft landing with a good leader who lives to fight another day.

I’m not sure whether Toynbee subscribes to such views, indeed her piece is near masterful for not taking a particular side… Still, to articulate such thoughts is a step forward from thinking them and step closer to wanting them. To hear them from an increasingly critical, yet largely supportive, voice of Labour across the last ten years must give pause for thought. Particularly in a week where we have seen historic lows in Labour’s poll. Particularly on the day that Labour is beaten behind the BNP in the Henley by-election, and what a lovely gift that was to Gordon Brown on this anniversary, a year in power. Because it is that serious. It’s hard to see how Labour could be pulled back from its current political situation. That said, a genuine break with the past? It might minimise the fall-out and leave something new to be fashioned. Either way I’m guessing Toynbee will be off the Christmas card list this year.

Onlookers may think there is no point in changing leaders for cosmetic reasons: a smilier or a younger face can’t save the day. The trouble lies in the muddy messages they have all put out in recent years. Ministers are rightly hastening to nail to the floor every good policy while they can, but without a story to tell, without crisp contrast with the Tories, frantic activity can’t forge an election-winning identity. No one need bother urging any new leader to step up to the plate unless they have a better answer to this: what’s Labour for and what is it definitely against?

That’s the core question. But who is left to answer it?

Meanwhile the more eagle-eyed amongst us may have noticed this interesting block on the lower right-hand corner of the front page of the Guardian (and it was there yesterday).

Anyone have any details, and is it restricted to the North or South of the island?


1. ejh - June 27, 2008

a rump party of mainly leftist old Labourites will select some unelectable leader

As opposed to, say, the one Polly demanded and got?

I dunno, Polly Toynbee.

Polly Toynbee.

What is there to be said about Polly Toynbee that is worth expending any more of my Friday evening to say it?


2. WorldbyStorm - June 27, 2008

Not a lot. She was loyal to something that largely didn’t exist… and she suffered from massive projection.


3. ejh - June 28, 2008

Oh, indeed. The “cherished projects” bit is a fine example – it’s her Fantasy Labour Government rather than the real one.


4. WorldbyStorm - June 28, 2008

Yeah, that’s it. It’s understandable, but a case of seeing good where really there was little or none.


5. ejh - June 28, 2008

Not just that of course: it’s her approach that gets on so many people’s nerves, the way anybody else’s criticisms are dismissed, but she personally must finger-wag at the government whenever she feel like it. That’s why “Fantasy” rather than “fantasy” – it’s as if she considers it her own personal project. This goes well beyond the normal standard of “what the government must do” columnist-punditry, and the likelihood that she does, in fact, lunch with several members of the government merely increases the degree to which this pisses people off.


6. WorldbyStorm - June 28, 2008

I can understand that. That really does sum up her way of doing things. And isn’t that the sort of misplaced loyalty thing as well – ‘I can criticise because I’m so loyal, but you…’


7. Irish Times & the Guardian | Newspaper News at David Maybury | Blog - June 29, 2008

[…] small piece of newspaper news appeared in yesterdays guardian (via Cedar Lounge) – Dunnes Stores across Ireland will no longer be stocking the Guardian or the Observer newspapers […]


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