Sunday, June 24, 2007

You are the future now

And so we say farewell to Tony (and John) and welcome Gordon (and Harriet).

I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and months. Gordon has the job of justifying the faith of his MPs in his ability. He has to make the most of the poll bounce - a three point lead according to the Observer today - and launch some policies to sustain a lead generated before the handover. I don't think this is a Brown bounce, more of a Blair's-finally-gone-bounce. The Brown bounce will be apparent if he can sustain the performance. He's already appointed a general election co-ordinator in the person of Douglas Alexander - so could he be considering an early assault on the ballot box? I think that this is more about putting the party back on an election footing and ensuring that if conditions are right, then we're ready to go.

That poll doesn't make good reading when it comes to credibility as leader - 40% back Brown, almost double the 22% who support Cameron and eight times the tiny 5% who reckon that Ming would be the man for the job. On the basis of this poll, a third of Lib Dem voters think that Ming would be a good PM, which draws into question their support for a party dedicated to making that happen. As with all mid-term polls that show a slump in LD support, I always add the caveat that they underperform without the light upon them and 14-15% isn't dramatically unusual outside an election campaign.

Meanwhile, Harriet Harman picked up the pitcher of warm spit that is the deputy leadership, although the ornamentation of Deputy Prime Minister eluded her and she had to settle for party chair instead. I was surprised by her win - although it shows the importance of those second votes in a complex election structure - but not hugely disappointed. Either Cruddas or Johnson (or even Blears, heaven forfend) might have been better placed to help party unity - one from the left and the other from the right, but I think that Harriet can make a decent job of it. She'll prove a useful, southern counterweight to the leader, despite his attempts to mask his Scots origins by wrapping himself in the Union Flag to an extent not seen in any post-war leader except Thatcher. Harman also has a strong track record on family and child poverty issues, something that we can expect to be at the forefront of the Brown premiership. There are also political advantages from having a woman in such a senior role - something that I know the Harman campaign majored on. When I saw her speak, I was more impressed with her than I expected to be and she certainly picked up my third place votes, so I guess I helped to put her where she is today.

Tony gave a warm welcome to the new leader - doubtless through heavily gritted teeth, but he's a performer to the bitter end. Just a few more days and he gets to hand the seals of office back to HM and leave the stage, hopefully with good grace and no desire to rage against his old friend, colleague and enemy (how's that for a conflicted, dysfunctional relationship?). Brown is bang on to say that now the election campaign is over

'Nobody is going to serve in the government of the Labour party starting on Wednesday who is not prepared to support the manifesto of our party... When people make these comments, they have got to look at what the policy of our party is and the policy the government is pursuing and there will have to be discipline in the government that I lead.'

That has to be the message for the party - we need unity of purpose. If we do not stand together, we will fail when it comes to the next election.


Unity said...

I think two things have come out of the Deputy Leadership contest of real value.

One is that Cruddas won the key policy argument on housing and pushed it right up the party's agenda. Above all else, that's the policy area we need to be hitting hard to keep the heartlands happy.

We're solid on the economy. The reform agenda in education, the NHS and local government is still giving some the yips, but if anyone can put that back into a genuine Labour narrative then its Brown. One thing he needs to do on the NHS is remind the party that localism in the NHS is hardly a new idea for the party, but one that harks back to Morrison and the debates surrounding the creation of the NHS under Attlee.

The big plus is that for the way the votes spread, its clear that the political centre of the party falls somewhere in between the positions taken by Benn and Harman, and the vote in the members section were pretty much on the money in terms of the backing for both.

With any luck, that should bury the scare stories being run by the Blairite rump about the party lurching to the left under the influence of the membership and send the message that engagement with members is nothing for the leadership to shy away from for fear of running into problems with infighting.

Time to get on with the real business at hand - battering the Tories.

Freddie said...

Oh Happy Day!

Good riddance Phoney Tony! Come on in dour-Scots-Gordo.

And a great big 'Thank You!' for that act of supreme self-indulgence - electing Mrs Harperson. It's like the good old days when we could always rely on the Labour rank and file to do the wrong thing.

Manfarang said...

Blair as a peace envoy to the middle east-what a joke!