Trying to make up for a shocking lack of posts during May with a sudden rally at the end of the month. So this'll be quite a long post, to make up some ground... I do have the excuse of having been on holiday last week, during which I missed the Crewe and Nantwich by-election results. No real surprise that the Conservatives won, but following the local election drubbing, it does make the punters start to think how long Gordon actually has left to run in his job.
Being Gordon Brown right now must be like having Status Quo's "Down Down" on repeat play on the iPod (he's probably more likely to have a 70s rock classic like that on there than the Arctic Monkeys, whatever the spin doctors say.) Deeper and down... 23% for Labour in the latest YouGov poll.
Whilst Brown is a duffer in many respects - an appalling bully at work (just ask anyone you know who has worked with him), obsessed with fiddly schemes that deliver good objectives badly (PPPs for additional public sector investment, tax credits for redistribution), mates with the editor of the Daily Mail, etc, infatuated with an unworkable and irrelevant obsession with 'Britishness' - it gives me no great pleasure to see him in this position. Tony Blair, a far more evil and dangerous figure, seems to have escaped relatively scot-free from the government's present morass and difficulties. He's off travelling the world, talking crap about faith, getting big money on the lecture circuit, while the remnants of the Labour party reap what he (partially) sowed. Some will say that's fair enough... Labour members voted in droves for Blair to become leader in 1994, what the hell did they expect?
But a crushing defeat for Labour in the 2010 election is unlikely to serve the interests of anyone on the left. My hope - and I think the hope of many anti-New Labourites on the left - was that the increased popularity of Cameron relative to previous Tory leaders would deliver a hung parliament, securing a Labour-Lib Dem coalition which would drag the country kicking and screaming into the political modern age with such innovations as proportional representation. But instead the Tories have climbed into a massive lead, and it now looks quite possible that the next election will deliver a 1983-style Conservative landslide which will destroy any chance of political innovation in the country for a generation. At least, unless the Tories prove to be so bloody incompetent that they get voted out after one term... but that's clutching at straws.
None of this is yet inevitable, of course, but I can't see how Labour can get out of this one without changing leader. Brown is out for the count. It's obvious to any observer (even The Observer!) that he hadn't ever expected to be in this weak a position - he thought he would have plenty of time to build on what looked like a good start in his first few months, finesse the position, and then kill off the weak Tory challenge, maybe in Spring 2009. Instead, his position collapsed completely over the winter as bad news on the economy was compounded by avoidable policy mistakes on stuff like the 10p tax debacle and 'discgate'.
The overall mood now is similar to the mid-90s. To use an old Malcolm MacLaren phrase, people are "sick and fed up" of the current govt and hence seem ready to endorse an alternative which offers almost exactly the same policies as the Blair/Brown years but just with a different set of faces. But to a large extent that's what they voted for in 1997, but the other way round.
The way forward must be a different set of policies which actually look appealing to anyone with a progressive bone in their body rather than the tired old crap being served up now. The campaign for the Crewe and Nantwich by-election was an embarrassment - an attack on alleged 'toff' Tories (including the Tory candidate) who were actually no more 'toffy' than their Labour counterparts. Blair and Ed Balls went to top public schools, ferchrissakes. Balls is the worst class war faker in the cabinet. Norman Tebbit - one of the most odious right-wingers ever to hold office in this country - is the product of a state school, as is the current Tory front bench's leading exponent of "hang 'em/flog 'em", David Davis. Tony Benn - perhaps the greatest left wing figure of the past 50 years in the UK - is an aristocrat who abandoned his heriditary peerage. Where someone is from, socially speaking, means f*** all. What matters is what they say and do now, and the struggle to create a society where these class distinctions don't exist. Both the Tories and New Labour have failed miserably at this latter objective, and there is nothing in either parties' programme to suggest that they will do any better next time round on current policies.
Well, I'd like to sign off for the moment by saying something about who I think should succeed Gordon Brown as leader if the Labour Party has the balls (no pun intended) to get rid of him before 2010, but I've already gone on long enough for now. So, more on that tomorrow. Hopefully June will be a more densely-posted month than May, which has been pretty skeletal. Sorry folks.