In politics there are two things you should not vote for: standing still and moving backwards. The first of these seeming options rests on the assumption that the duty of the Opposition is to oppose – a necessary function – and not to propose. I guess the electorate is heartily tired of the obfuscation of all Labour politicians confronted with the straight question of how to deal with the deficit. What would you cut then ? And to reform. Does the NHS need reform and if so of what should a reform programme consist? The second option is even worse. Going backwards to a golden age leads to nowhere. There was no golden age. Your father may have known Lloyd George but I doubt it. The 1983 Labour Manifesto stands as a stark warning. Described as ‘the longest suicide note in history’ it led an enthusiastic Labour Party to the brink of disaster. In retrospect we all adore Michael Foot. In my experience of him Michael had one speech and a very good one at that. The first time I heard it I was greatly moved, on the second occasion I clapped politely, and on all subsequent occasions I made for the exit. But like a good sermon it should not be lightly abandoned.
Reform is both necessary and, in the end, unpopular. But there is no alternative. Hard judgemnts have to be made; and, yes, some people lose their jobs and retrain for others. Reform is inconvenient: few people want constant change. Stop the train, I want to get off. Gordon, of blessed memory, wanted to get off, the Parliamentary Party was fed up with the constant stream of reform bills, trade unionists just hated losing members and tea and crumpets in Downing Street. Let’s get rid of this man Blair who wins us all these elections and restate Labour values and policies. It’s Buggins turn. He has waited too long and no.10 is his by right of presence and ‘all who sail in her.’ Well, we know where this led the Labour Party.
What has this got to do with anything? Well there is this issue of the election of a new Labour Party leader. Who should we vote for? Choice is always a difficult matter BUT thank goodness there is choice on this occasion. My advice to a perplexed electorate is to choose the person who most wishes to commit him/herself to a rational reform programme and studiously refrain from voting for any candidate who makes you yearn for the past – the illusory golden past. Choose the candidate who will give the Labour enthusiast a hard time, will make you think hardest, who will lead you to new pastures.
Well cocky, you might say, if you are so clever dick, tell me who is this person of steely resolve and visionary gifts? I’m so sorry. I have listened, I have read, but alas I cannot tell you? Perhaps you, if you have been thinking about it, would kindly tell me how you are going to vote?