Wednesday, 25 August 2010

If a picture is worth a thousand words

... here's a two thousand word essay on why labour can expect to be in opposition for a very long time.

Can you really imagine voting for the snide git on the left, or for the gormless dolt on the right?

Of course, it shouldn't matter that both the Milliband brothers look like estate agents trying to hawk condemned properties (a telling description of them and the party their immediate predecessors have left for them) - but it does matter, for believe it or not, that the best thing they've got going for them (1).

David Milliband is everything that went wrong in the last thirteen years condensed. According to him, Labour can only be elected if it abandons everything that makes it Labour; we - the people who were right - should stop going on about Iraq, where he was, conveniently, wrong; and the only way to save the party is to embrace the corrosive legacy of Blair which is what what left it bewildered, despised and powerless after thirteen years of blunders and betrayals in office.

He's wrong, just as Blair was wrong. That idea has been shown to have failed, and it has been rejected by the voters. If the former doesn't convince Milliband's heart, the latter should appeal to his cynical head. But it doesn't seem to. He doesn't realise that Blair was voted in because he wasn't a Tory, and came to be hated when it turned out he was. He thinks re-colonising the middle ground - a space somewhat to the left of the majority of the British public,, and already in the hands of the coalition, is a strategy that will bring back the disaffected and the disgusted. It won't, it'll just swell their ranks.

Ed Milliband, to his credit, is trying. He makes the sort of noises that might suggest he'd make a decent deputy, with real leadership potential in a decade's time. But right now, he just doesn't seem up to it. He talks vaguely about values and aspiration, without actually explaining how we get there. Perhaps he's too cerebral, perhaps he lacks the sort of attitude that relishes political trench warfare. You might say, that's good, it would be great to have a leader who doesn't believe victory is necessarily achieved over the trampled faces of your opponents. Blair, after all, trampled all over his opponents, in a sort of civilised and polite way, and look where it got us. But Ed Milliband could neither take the fight to the coalition, or inspire voters. And, too often, he shies away from tough calls and challenges to the status quo in his party. Blair, at least, rubbed the face of the Labour left in its own vomit. But I don't think Ed Milliband would oversee anything but stagnation and drift.
1 - David and Ed Milliband, courtesy of Getty Images. Reproduced in The Independent, 25th of August, 2010. (

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