Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What's New?

Back from inspecting the sites of historic British triumphs over the European Project- at Cape Trafalgar and Cadiz Harbour- I'm pleased to find that DD is still the overwhelming favourite to become leader.

His odds have shortened further to evens, equivalent to a 50 per cent probability of winning. In contrast, the odds on David Cameron, his nearest rival, have lengthened to 6/1, a probability of 14 per cent. The others are pretty well nowhere.

What's more, the latest polling shows that over 50 per cent of party members now want DD as leader.

Against that, it is disappointing that all those uninspiring also-rans are still jockeying to get up to the starting line. Perhaps it was naive to think they might lay down their personal ambitions for the sake of the party, but I still hope that David C might do the right thing and join our man.

Lying by the pool I read Philip Gould's 1998 book, 'The Unfinished Revolution- How the Modernisers Saved the Labour Party'. Gould of course was a marketing/advertising adviser to Labour from the mid-eighties all the way through to the 1997 triumph. And this was the book that William Hague presented to every member of his shadow cabinet, as a how-t0-do-it manual.

An interesting read, even if Gould's bigging up of his own contribution does begin to grate after a while. And it is a tale that has certainly been influential among our own 'modernisers', who slaver for that orgasmic 'Clause IV Moment'. But what does Gould actually tell us about our position today?

First, you can have as much debate over purpose as you like, but until you have a leader who can grip it, you won't get anywhere. Revisionism/modernisation in the Labour Party began in 1952 with the publication of NewFabian Essays (featuring contributions from Crosland, Healey, and Jenkins), and continued through 1956's 'The Future of Socialism', and Gaitskell's failed 1959 attempt to abolish Clause IV. There was a half-arsed attempt to modernise under waffly/wobbly Kinnockio. But it wasn't until Tory Tony- 'who was utterly unlike any previous Labour politician'- took the controls that 'the Project' was brought to fruition.

Labour's experience tells us that it's a delusion to think we can have a nice neat two-stage process, whereby we first agree our 'purpose' and then choose the appropriate leader to achieve that purpose. Real life just isn't like that.

We're all Conservatives. We need to choose the best leader, and let him get on with it.

Second, compared to the hole Labour were in, our position today is much better. That fabled 'Clause IV' moment was about ditching a formal written constitutional policy- nationalisation- that was clearly a recipe for economic disaster. And that was on top of their crackers policy on nuclear defence.

We have no such formal policies. As DD reminds us, we are the party with a coherent living philosophy, readily applicable to the problems of any age, which does not need to be entrenched in some time-warped parchment. Our philosophy is that of the future, not the past, as Tony was quick to grasp.

There are more Gould reflections to come, but must unpack now, and bury the cat (which Eu-Serf forgot to feed).
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