The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘Labour leadership’

Miliband, Miliband Or Other?

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 15, 2010 @ 11:16

Just to show how different they are, they even un-coordinated their ties...

It is pleasing to see that later on today Ed Miliband will join the Labour leadership race. I’m pleased not just because it means we’ll actually have a contest to look forward to, but also because it means my prediction on January 1 that he will be the next Labour leader might well come to pass…

Of the Milibands, I have never been impressed by David. I have never understood what made him the “favourite” in the first place. I wrote about this last year. He is policy light, idea-free, but worst of all is not exactly fluent in front of the cameras. In the new age of TV debates, I don’t think his empty personality will come across all too well in this arena.

There was a chink of light earlier this year, however, and I slightly reconsidered my view of him. Maybe within that tired Blairite façade there is a real political thinker waiting to burst out. Oh, if only we could have a leader of a party that actually believed in a philosophy. The Milibands are, after all, steeped in a Marxist heritage. Not that that will happen, but maybe there might just be a little more democratic socialism, or failing that social democracy, under the skin than we think.

No. I’m dreaming. Of course not.

But of the two Milibands, the younger brother Ed has always been slightly more interesting. He is better on camera, without a doubt. He doesn’t have the same degree of uber geekery that David has. He looks, well, a bit more human.

Ed has always been associated with the Brown faction of the Labour Party, while David has always been seen to be a Blairite. Bear in mind that there is barely a cigarette paper between the Brown and the Blairite faction of the Labour Party. It is just a tribal thing. People like to feel like they belong to something more than just a party. The miniscule differences in emphasis between the factions are exaggerated to an enormous degree in order to pretend that you can only be one or the other. Boys, eh.

This distinction is important, though, as it will greatly influence where support is going to come from. It’s already obvious that David has the backing of a lot of MPs. Ed may pick up some Brownite rump, but if Ed Balls also stands then Ed Miliband (too many Eds – Ed.) has lost this third of the electoral college quite convincingly.

Same too of the unions. Ed Balls, if he stands, will get the full backing of them. Why that would be I don’t know. Labour, despite its pretence of meritocracy, is a real big fan of nepotism. The unions have always preferred Brown to Blair, but since Ed Balls and Brown went hand in hand, he will receive the union’s blessing, rather than Ed Miliband. Fortunately, each union member is balloted individually, so this may not be quite so important. It will, however, if it comes to the issue of how much finance each campaign gets to push its message out.

That only leaves the members. And if the members get a genuine look at the candidates, I think Ed Miliband has a chance of winning this third. John Cruddas, if he stands, will fare equally well, but there is just a chance that John Cruddas will stand aside for another candidate, and give them his blessing in return for a cushy Shadow Cabinet post. Could Ed Miliband persuade him? I think he could.

Either way, we’re in for a lot of novelty value of seeing two brothers locked in a deadly political battle. Both of them are still young enough that if both, or either, lose, they will get another chance, but by then there will be a new generation of young pretenders. This may be their one shot.

While only one of them has a chance of doing a good job as the Labour Party leader – Ed Miliband – the other might just be the candidate that makes the Labour Party even more distant from the electorate than ever. Aloof, brainy, nerdy. That’s not how you get noticed in the new media age, I’m afraid.

Fun times ahead!


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Ed Balls: A Challenger Appears

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 23, 2010 @ 09:26

He deserves to be Labour's next leader on the strength of this picture alone.

The headline in today’s Telegraph, of all places, says it all:

Ed Balls: my struggle to overcome stammer

Is it just me or is this article an attempt by Ed Balls to make himself appear more human? More normal…

Of course it is. As soon as Ed first realised Gordon was toast he has been mobilising ever since. He never used to appear on TV so regularly, but now it is hard to move around the schedules, especially on Sunday, without seeing his ugly mug staring back at you from Andrew Marr’s, Adam Boulton’s or Jon Sopel’s sofas…

And, as everyone knows, you can’t seriously expect to lead a party these days, let alone the country, if you have no personal connection with the electorate. Well, that is unless your name is Gordon Brown.

To win elections, you have to appear personable. You have to have to be liked. And if you’re liked, all of a sudden that magic word “electability” gets attached to you.

The problem with Ed Balls is that he just isn’t likeable. He is crafty, shifty-looking and downright evasive at times. But then again, most politicians are exactly the same.

To fix that problem, it’s clear we’re going to get a stream of cosy soft-focus “profiles” in the months ahead, detailing his career to date and his ambitions for his Britain of the future. Until Brown has gone, all of this will be coded as if to say it is what he will be working towards as part of Gordon’s Cabinet.

The truth is anything but.

Balls used Brown to ascend to power, to a position of national influence, and is already in process of ditching him and preparing for the next phase.

I’ll bet he’s glad, though, he never did get a chance to be Chancellor. That one was left to the fall guy, Alistair Darling.

All seems a bit clever to me. A bit too clever, perhaps…

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The Curious Incident Of The Hoon In The Day-Time

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 7, 2010 @ 09:37

I guess it was like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. The one time he really was telling the truth...

As the UK descends into the frozen wastes of a minor Siberian winter, events over at Westminster reached boiling point yesterday as the man himself, none other than Geoff Hoon, attempted to plunge the knife into Gordon Brown.

But Brownfink‘s wings were like a shield of steel, and they easily deflected the mincing blow of The Hoon.

There had been rumours over the past few days that yet another coup attempt was imminent. There was much talk that it would involve a Cabinet minister, if not several. At last it wouldn’t just be the usual suspects. At last the Labour Party would be free of Gordon Brown.

But Labour don’t do proper coups. Labour prefers to do its business slowly, minimally, and with no conclusion. Death by a thousand cuts. Only there is never a death. It’s like a curious case of self-harm. A violent release, a quick trip to A&E to staunch the bleeding, maybe a blood transfusion or two. And on the road again.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The irony of all this is that Geoff Hoon actually did something honest. He put a public face on the widespread disquiet amongst the Labour ranks. Fancy that! Geoff Hoon, teller of some serious porkies over the Iraq War, comes clean and tells the nation that the Labour Party simply can’t go on like this.

What makes no sense, however, is why he has waited so long. If Hoon and Hewitt had gone public when James Purnell did maybe the only honourable thing in his career by resigning, it may have given his campaign the critical momentum at the exact time. Coups are all about momentum. You set off the initial strike, and then set rolling with wave after wave of punches.

Maybe Hoon had been promised by other backbenchers, maybe even a Cabinet minister, that they would back his plan. Why else would anyone go public now and be made such a total fool of? Hoon looked extremely sheepish on Newsnight last night. He appeared to know he’d done his party serious damage and achieved nothing in the process. There was also a tinge of resentment that he’d done his bit and then been left in the wilderness.

The reason is that the Labour Party are serial bottlers. When faced with the opportunity to do the deed, they run a mile. That has been the tale of the New Labour years. Lots of rumours, lots of plotting. But no backbone. No one prepared to throw their career to the wolves in order to save their party. Everyone waiting for everyone else to act. Every chance wasted.

And what do they get for their troubles? Just imagine if there had been no plotting at all since Brown became PM. There’s no doubting he would be in a stronger position. He might also feel the spring of self-confidence. What, then, has been the point to it all?

There is no point. If you’re going to attempt a coup, you’d better be bloody certain you’re going to win.

As far as Labour are concerned, they either don’t understand that, or don’t believe it applies to them.

What a shower.

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One Month Less

Posted by The Futility Monster on November 3, 2009 @ 09:05


Here's another - less liked - form of Poll

Or fewer?

Today we consider the latest instalment in our Monster’s Poll series. And the bad news for Labour is that nothing has changed:

  • Conservatives: 40% (N/C)
  • Labour: 23% (N/C)
  • Lib Dems: 23% (N/C)

The only thing that has changed, of course, is time. Labour now have one less month to tackle that major deficit.

Naturally, they aren’t going to overcome it. After all, they’ve spent the last year or more being way behind, and it seems to make no difference to the way they behave. They’re no closer to solving the problem, which makes me wonder if they’re even bothered about it any more.

We’re all humans, so there must come a point at which defeatism sets in. Most Tory members knew they would lose the 1997 election, but one thing they did demonstrate is that it was worth fighting back. In the year or two before the 1997 election, Labour often recorded over 50% in polls. They still achieved a landslide, but there is no doubt that Tory voters came home to a limited extent in the run up to the election.

Will we see the same thing here? I believe we will, but only if Labour voters get energised about the process. And yet… they just aren’t going to if the polls are this far apart.

Which is why the fightback, if one is going to happen, will not be organic. It will have to be lead in the first instance by the Labour top brass. Mandelson, you may recall, is a fighter and not a quitter. So there’s one for the battlebus. But what about the rest?

You get the sense that the expenses fiasco and the battle that is governing this country has taken it out of Labour. They are now lethargic, waiting for the end to come. Contrast that with the Tories, who have a spring in their step, desperate to get their hands on the levers of power, and can’t wait to turn off the taps of public funding. They haven’t had a better opportunity/excuse in decades to implement a radical Tory platform than the economic crisis. They have a raison d’etre.

Labour don’t. They know inevitable defeat will lead to an even more open party warfare than before. Perhaps that’s why most of them are so morose, because they know that just around the corner is the prospect of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband battling it out for the Labour leadership.

And if that’s not enough to fill anyone with dread, I don’t know what is.

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Purnell: “Send In The Goats” (apparently)

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 24, 2009 @ 06:34

What does he look so happy about? He's jobless isn't he? Oh no, hang on, he was magically given the job as director of "Open Left". The result of a free and fair selection process, I'm sure.

What does he look so happy about? He's jobless isn't he? Oh no, hang on, he was magically given the job as director of "Open Left". The result of a free and fair selection process, I'm sure.

… says James Purnell:

British politics is better for the appointment of Mervyn Davies, Stephen Carter, Mark Malloch Brown and indeed Baron Mandelson. We should make such appointees accountable to the Commons so that this becomes an accepted way of attracting people with recent real life experience of politics.

One might think this is James Purnell coming out in favour of more appointments to the House of Lords who then become ministers, which is an entirely undemocratic process for our political system, especially when those same ministers later resign/retire and then become a burden on the House of Lords for the rest of their days thanks to cronyism. But wait…

peers should be elected and given the task of amending legislation

Well… it seems the Guardian headline doesn’t quite match the story. As usual, suckered in by the media.

Instead, what Purnell’s article in Progress Magazine is actually about is the question of democratic renewal and the best ways to achieve it. Number one on his list is my old friend, the open primary. He reckons that this is the way in which we will usher in a broader range of people from different backgrounds into politics. He moans about it being:

almost impossible to get selected as a candidate of one of the main parties unless you’re a political lifer. As an ex-special adviser and councillor, I’m not against people who’ve worked in politics becoming MPs, but we should be a smaller share of the total.

… which is an easy thing to say but rather difficult to achieve in practice. I’m not so sure the trend towards “professional” politicians is that bad; as long as our MPs are extremely empathetic individuals with a great deal of emotional intelligence, they will be good at seeing the world from the perspective of others no matter where they come from. That’s not to say I want a Parliament of career politicians, but they do have their role to play.

So what is Purnell’s real point? Coming out in support of an elected House of Lords is always welcome, but Labour won’t be delivering it any time soon. Neither will they be ushering in an era of open primaries, or party funding reform (Purnell suggests parties should be state funded), and suggesting the era of collective responsibility for Cabinet is dead and may it rest in peace.

All very nice. But Labour have had 12 years to do all this and spectacularly failed. The obvious conclusion is that there is clearly no appetite for his ideas in the party.

In other words the only way any of this is going to happen is if: a) Cameron does it; or b) Purnell becomes the leader.

So is that the real point? Is this merely a little piece of fluff to rebuild his reputation with the dying breed of radical reformers on the centre-left? A long term plan to not be the next leader, but the one after that?

Or should he just defect to the Lib Dems now, where it sounds to me like he’ll be more at home?

Well, we are supposed to be the party of all the talents. POATTs doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, though.

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

What Is Jon Cruddas Up To?

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 9, 2009 @ 06:33

I'm sure I've seen Alan Sugar in a similar publicity photo for The Apprentice. Maybe they photoshopped Cruddas' face onto it...

I'm sure I've seen Alan Sugar in a similar publicity photo for The Apprentice. Maybe they photoshopped Cruddas' face onto it...

I don’t know about you, but for a Labour MP, Jon Cruddas seems to enjoy taking every opportunity possible to knock his party.

Last night he did it again, telling the Compass think tank that Labour had, “no compelling case for re-election”.

Having said that, the man does have excellent judgement. He refused a job in Gordon Brown’s cabinet in June 2007, which with hindsight seems a superb decision, but at the time must have been very difficult for him. After all, he’d never been anywhere near government; most MPs would never dream of turning down a chance to get their hands on the tiller.

But Cruddas did. Surely, even then, he was not doing what most people assume he is doing, and thinking that Gordon Brown would be a total disaster, a government job from him would be a poisoned chalice, and that guilt by association would be terribly damaging to any future leadership bid?

As it happens, time has proved him right. And now, with at most nine months to go until a General Election, if he really does want the Labour leadership, the time for him to lay out his stall is fast approaching. What would a Labour party under Jon Cruddas be doing different right now? What would its policies be?

Cruddas has actually been something of an enigma. He has gained his reputation as a tough talker on the BNP; he was one of the few Labour MPs to advocate that they must be tackled head on. Otherwise, what he truly stands in terms of actual policy is a little more hazy, apart from opposition to Trident and Royal Mail privatisation. But, as we know from history, having only a couple of policies doesn’t matter. After all, Cameron only had one!

Cruddas’ new-found prominence was built upon his excellent campaign for the Labour deputy leadership, which showed him as erudite and a decent public speaker, and the outcome was he came from nowhere to finish third against some of the biggest names in the Labour Party.

Since then, he has spent his political capital wisely – popping up at regular intervals to give a poke in the ribs to the party establishment. Just a little “friendly”  reminder that he is still there. Still waiting. Still scheming. Even when he is ostensibly “backing” his leadership – it’s always done in a way which still berates his own party and appeals to the base.

If Cruddas doesn’t make a leadership bid when Brown is soon toppled I’ll eat my hat. It all just adds up too conveniently now. Even if his decision to avoid high office in June 2007 was a pure fluke, his actions since then have been always indicative of someone waiting in the wings for the right moment.

He is playing a dangerous game by knocking his own party with such force, such regularity, but every swipe keeps him in the media agenda, keeps the attention of the party hierarchy, and no doubt appeals to what remains of the tired, beleaguered grassroots of Labour.

It is no co-incidence that the Labour Party conference is on the way. Maybe we could be seeing a move against Brown sooner than we think…

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The Miliband Alternative?

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 4, 2009 @ 20:12

It's easy to make people look stupid in photos

It's easy to make people look stupid in photos

A rather curious phrase usually appears in every article containing the words “David Miliband” in any political discourse.

However, it is my humble suggestion that the words “future Labour leader” should never appear in the same sentence as one which also contains the word “Milband”. (Yes, we’ll exclude poor Ed too)

I have been keeping an eye on him for a few years now. It’s hard to know the exact point at which David Miliband became the apparent heir apparent. When Tony Blair was having his local difficulties, eventually having his hand forced by a putsch in September 2006, many seemed to suggest that Miliband was the not only the right man, but the best man, to challenge the Gordon Brown orthodoxy.

On what they based this assertion I know not. Miliband is bland, dull, and charisma-free. Worse than that – he has no policies. Miliband’s latest attempt to get some headlines for his fake bid for leading the party is to say Labour must reinvent itself. Yet there doesn’t appear to be anything in there to suggest what that reinvention should look like. Apart from sucking up to the very same trade unionists which could help deliver him the leadership.

More bizarre bedfellows I can’t possibly imagine. I know the name “Miliband” is steeped in Labour history, but David has never struck me as one to cozy up to Derek Simpson, et al. It has widely been assumed that David Miliband comes from the Blairite wing of the party – largely associated with delivering public services via any means necessary, including by working with the private sector.

But perhaps he is more akin to the ideology-free Blairism which basically meant Blair adopted whatever policy was necessary in order to secure his goals. The object of power is power.

Now, excuse me if I try to claim that policies matter. I know David Cameron is not exactly awash with them either, and is still likely to win the election anyway. That’s very fortunate indeed for him that he faces Gordon Brown in the next election.

But for those of us who still wish politicians would not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, it is eternally frustrating to see that, once again, the electorate, and a pliant media, seem ready to anoint people “winners” and “favourites” or “successors” without barely a casual glance of a) their credentials; and b) the alternatives.

It seems that as long as we’re unhappy with whoever is in power or the leader, then it doesn’t matter what the alternative is, as they’re Not The Person In Power. See also the rallying around Alan Johnson, when it is equally unclear what difference he would make.

To me, Miliband has never justified his status. He hasn’t covered himself in glory in his record, and has no real vision for the future.

But just as much to blame is the media, who seem to have given us yet another fine illustration of their power to make things happen which really have no business taking place.

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