Sunday 26 July 2015

A Speech as a Labour Leadership Candidate

Well it is good to be taking part in these Labour leadership hustings, to put myself forward as one of the candidates. So, my collegues, and friends, or indeed that long-lost word 'comrades' should Jeremy win, we need to tackle some hard truths about where we are and where we are probably going. I am saying I am the person for the job.

Face the facts. We are in the downstream of the General Election result, the signficance of which is pessimistic, but potentially optimistic, as we tackle the role of opposition in recognising that the government won, as indeed governments always do. Our leadership is not to oppose, simply, but to win, and win next time, not the time after, or the time after that. Which could happen if we get this wrong, and probably will if we are not careful. But this government won this time, and could next, and next again, with an agenda somewhat different from ours, which is why some of us think, in some aspects, think that to win, and win soon, that our agenda should instead be somewhat similar to theirs, that is doing what they do, according, however, to our values.

But what are our values? They are the values of perhaps the interpretive photocopier, the intelligent scanner, the diligent copyist, in the sense that we embed our values into that which we copy, one of our values now being to copy the other and make it our own. We need to make the appeal, and flattery is part of the appeal. A blat flattery is no good to anyone, so we need the copying process to work, in which to embed our values, as I say. We need Windows on the world by which to operate the scanner and of course to print out the agenda, by which we make it our own, as well as theirs.

And this, of course, is a painful process. It was when Tony Blair did it, and remember: he won many elections even as he lost our core vote. He was followed by Gordon Brown, as Margaret Thatcher was followed by John Major, except Major achieved a modest majority on a huge vote, rather as this government now has won a modest majority on a tiny vote. Let's not forget that we are copying a government that hardly had a resounding win, except it did much better than us. Going back, I hardly need reminding you, we had Gordon Brown, of the banking crisis, rather as John Major had the disaster of the ERM: except that the Major government policy was to blame for the ERM, whereas in our case government policy at the time probably saved us from going down the economic and social plughole. But despite Gordon Brown around the world with Alistair Darling being praised for steadying the ship with strategies and liquidity, we must take our share of the blame for liberalising the financial markets during the period of the later Thatcher government. When the American property market exposed the rot in the derivative financial products around the world, it was seen by the electorate in the last five years as our fault. And we are listening.

President Obama might have reduced the US deficit by monetary and financial measures, supporting his real economy and infrastructure, rather than by austerity, but Labour surely must take its share of the blame and in a politically adept masochistic style adopt the current UK view of austerity in fiscal tightening and monetary slackness that allows moneys parked in banks to leak into property and the economy of the very rich. Yes, low wages have allowed employers to take on our underemployed workforce rather than invest in productive capital. My leadership accepts that the electorate, informed by the last government and the media, is right. We cannot argue otherwise: we simply are not competent to make a more irrelevant case. Of course we don't believe in trickle-down, and in our serious electoral situation we must surely follow the current Chancellor's policies of water pumped up, never mind down, up to those who buy goods of wealth that are part of the international economy, that we must preserve of excess liquidity flushing through London and giving us a share of the profits in the unbalanced world economy, for as long as it survives.

This is what is meant by supporting "working people" and we are the party of working people after all, one of the slogans of the Chancellor by which we cannot be otherwise labelled the party of the underclass. And, if the unbalanced world economy doesn't survive, we in Labour will of course more than likely take the blame for it not surviving, as George Osborne will pin it on us as disloyal to him and his agenda, and we must not let the electorate think we are to blame because as we know the electorate as informed by him is always right. And indeed it has gone to the right as he goes ahead of them, leading the way. Apparently. After all they did not vote for us after a period of the Tories and the Wooden Leg in government, for which we got the blame for allowing this to happen and for what they did.

So, whereas the Scots made the case and won on the argument, we cannot put our own argument if we had one because we are largely present in England, and we are not sure about Wales, and Northern Ireland is peculiar. This is my tough message: to win Scotland back is to lose England, and as there is no certainty in winning Scotland back we cannot first lose England.

So what we need is vision, vision for an alternative that follows the direction in which the government has gone and is going, and accepting the dominant third of the active electorate. If we could do it before, we can do it again. We need that vision thing, by which we can see ahead.

The dominant third was so powerful that it even demolished the prop I have just mentioned, the prop that allowed the Chancellor to operate in the previous coalition government, from which base he is now able to operate far more freely and ruthlessly. With them, he was able to make a good start on this shift towards inequality that he can now pursue, and which we see as the agenda today. It is my tough message. We too must support a benefits cap and take money from the poorest and continue to adopt the 'working people' language so that the wealthy can pass the financial assets between themselves.

But notice the difference between us and the former Wooden Leg of Conservative rule. Post-election, the Wooden Leg is as shocked as us, but it has just had a fairly benign leadership election, whereas we are showing our seriousness by tearing ourselves apart. Our leader, unlike Nick Clegg, resigned far too readily and early, and we are adrift in an election of our own as we try to adjust our agenda for this new financial age. They have replaced their leader easily, whereas we could end up with, for goodness sake, someone with - well, historically, it has been referred to as - socialism, but it is a word best avoided. No, Nick Clegg should have resigned a year or two earlier: we know that the former Business Secretary got cold feet when in China when Clegg should have gone. Now that would have been far more exciting than their rather late and timid actual leadership campaign. It just shows they have no flexibility and no idea of where they want to be, unlike us, and so we show seriousness in this very difficult time for this party.

Let's be honest. The acting leader has shown vision, vision to say we should follow the Chancellor and it is from this vision that I wish to make my case. For once a Labour leader actually lacks the authority to do bold things, and yet does them, and so I am arguing that I should be elected to have that authority to do what she has started.

For if we have more than our values, and have actual policies, we could upset what seems to be the former Wooden Leg's strategy of going back to the liberal left. This would not help them or us. It suits us as 'responsible' to have the Liberals to our left, so it shows how we apply what values we may have to the new era in which we find ourselves, an era of victimising the underclass and stripping the working poor of the ability to better themselves and even their dream of joining the elite. Labour ought to be itself the policy of the elite, so we can be of that appeal. Our big tent needs to go in that direction, even if it is actually no bigger.

We need to appeal to the elite because the people in the centre ground, now currently losing out, won't vote for us until others vote for us to be a government and show that we can be a responsible government. We cannot even appeal to the centre ground! This is what the focus groups show, and the focus groups are core information. They are our potential electorate - except they are not being our potential electorate until the time after next. This is devastating. I repeat: we cannot do our task of recovery by appealing to the centre, just as we cannot by energising people who might have a memory of the S word. We need a Labour Government by which we can then convince the middle ground voters to vote for us once we show that we are not to blame for the woes in the economy and what happens to those centre people, like at the present, as like at the last five years of Tories and the Wooden Leg.

And we should be ready. Their majority is effectively 16. Now when we took that visionary step of abstaining on the welfare matters, twenty Tories abstained as well. Assuming they weren't taking advantage of our principled stance, had we voted against we would have won and scuppered the government's harsh welfare policies. And that really will not do, not with our own tough message and our attempt to travel in the government's direction. We cannot elect someone who makes the case, that would only suit Scotland and not England, now, because very soon the Government will tear itself apart over the European referendum. We know the Prime Minister, David Cameron - even if George Osborne is increasingly running the government - will have a faux negotiation that will fool no one, and then there will be a referendum to dissatisfy and alienate the nut jobs in his party. That majority will effectively vanish in bitterness and rancour. David Cameron could be exposed as a political rancour. But if Cameron detects a weakness in us, then a simple majority can overturn the Fixed Term Parliament Act, that demands a two-thirds Commons majority, in order to call an early general election. Repeal the Act and, even if Cameron doesn't get back the power in the Crown to call an election, a simple majority will be enough. And if we are weak, or making some other former case, the Tories will win even more, even if with yet a smaller number of votes, should the former Wooden Leg party recover.

So let us be ready, and apply some hard vision, to not take the blame anymore, and show that we can do what they do, if not quite with the same venom. Perhaps we could have that too. Thank you very much.

No comments: