That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Labour’s wobbles and grumbles

The Labour Party riven by factions? Say it ain’t so. But new eruptions simmer, and it does not bode well. It bodes badly, actually.

The self-styled Prince of Darkness, Peter Mandelson, is, unsurprisingly, at the heart of some of this. He clearly isn’t coping brilliantly with life outside the cut-and-thrust of cabinet level politics. His unhelpful, gossipy moaning about the problems with Labour leader Ed Miliband today is probably one part bitterness that Ed pipped his brother to the post, and two parts a longing to just get in front of cameras again.

As I sit and realise that I actually sympathise with Peter Mandelson, I begin to worry that my heart must have finally been replaced with a cindered hunk of lunar rock. I agree that Ed’s been remarkably swift to lead Labour into total drift, and would be totally despondent if they fought an election with him still leading.

Miliband’s bizarre shadow cabinet, defying prediction with Alan Johnson as the chancellor’s opposite number, smelled to me like Ed was trying a bit too hard to appear “his own man,” mixing it up on his own terms, and furthermore, confident enough to appoint a “Davidist” to just about the biggest role in his caucus. O.K., maybe a kind of cackhanded move to foster new unity, but itself not a bad idea. In its execution, however, it’s contributed to a shadow cabinet that is mostly incoherent. Ed and Alan disagree on the most fundamental approaches to economic governance.

Miliband’s showing in PMQs is not very authoritative either, by his own admission:

“Look, you’ve got to be who you are. If I think of what I’ve done – I’ve done a reshuffle to put a team around me that I think is a very good team and I have taken on Cameron in prime minister’s questions in a way in which I am reasonably content. You don’t win every round of it but all of those things are important for a leader of the opposition.”

Reasonably content? I would have thought humourless and withering, unfortunately. It seems unfair, but there remains this huge gulf between his stated aspirations to instigate all kinds of profound change, and the meek, splashless way in which he goes about his arguments. The power to convince is just absent.

So, there’s my agreement with Mandelson. The problem with any recent intervention from Mr. Darkness, though, is of course his position and his motivation. As a party elder, he shouldn’t be so clearly thrilled to wave dirty laundry around whenever he feels he isn’t being listened to, either by the party or by the papers. I don’t know if he can even tell which he’d prefer to influence anymore.

It’s the job of the media (including stupid blogs) to play this kind of game, criticising parties and leaders if they’re asking for it. But it’s not the job of one of Labour’s senior statesmen to do it, whether in documentaries or memoirs or random cold calls to the Telegraph. Labour’s got to fix itself, and Mandelson could have a helpful hand in it if so inclined. But please, leave the kvetching to the rest of us.

Filed under: Politics, UK, , ,


November 2010

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