Polly Toynbee says what few on the left want to admit:
It’s all over for Brown and Labour. The abyss awaits. As long as he remains leader, there is nothing that wretched Labour candidates can plausibly say on the doorstep at next month’s European elections. They are struck dumb. Why should people vote for them? The horse manure bought on expenses is garnish for a decomposing government. The heart of the matter is the economy, and Brown’s responsibility for the bubble years. He personally is to blame for Labour’s failure to ensure that ordinary people on median incomes and poor people at the bottom received a bigger share in national growth: it turns out that they fell back and only the wealthy prospered. Labour made the rich richer and the poor poorer: growth for the few, not the many.
She then claims:
The one person around whom the party could gather speedily would be Alan Johnson. It’s nonsense that another unopposed leadership would mean disaster: a general election is coming soon enough. Orphan boy, genial postman, self-made, clever but modest, he has the grace and charm to match his perfect backstory. He was always the one the Cameroons feared. His political talents turned the NHS from a danger with closures and denials of drugs into an asset for Labour. Good to work with, good in public, he inspires considerable admiration. This time I will not say I know he would be a good leader – that’s unknowable until too late. I doubt that he can win for Labour. But, goodness knows, Cameron is still there for the taking.
Off the cuff I’m in the odd position of wanting to agree. Cameron is winning in the polls by default. Blair in 1997 had Major over a barrel (despite turning out to be a fraud himself) – Cameron isn’t winning on his own merits – it’s Brown who’s losing because he has none. His government has allowed the police to behave like a quasi-autonomous militia, has presided over the near-destruction of the economy, has created the biggest divide between rich and poor since Victorian times and played with very basic civil liberties like toys. Their record on the environment too is a joke, still beholden to big business as they are at all costs. The question though remains: what would Johnson bring to the leadership which Brown hasn’t already? And this is where the argument falls flat – Johnson is New Labour through and through. ID cards? Check. Foundation hospitals? Check. Iraq War? Check. The list goes on. They really shouldn’t replace Brown – they’re toast either way.
I’d say I didn’t understand the upcoming London Mayoral election, but the reality is one which Polly Toynbee regularly directs us to: the British newspaper media is overwhelmingly right wing, and in this case the Associated Newspapers group which have always hated Ken Livingstone with a passion, scent the possibility of revenge. Of what you may ask? Remember his fight with Evening Standard (Associated Newspapers) reporter Oliver Finegold? Well a newspaper group with a noted history of anti-semitism chose to call Livingstone anti-semitic (a blatantly preposterous charge). He successfully fought them off, and now we’re at election time…who’s leading the pro-Boris, anti-Ken drive? Surprise surprise.
It’s really sick. I’m not saying for a moment that he hasn’t made serious mistakes (supporting Sir Ian Blair in the aftermath of Jean Charles de Menezes’ murder to name but one example – I’m sure Peter Tatchell could come up with many more), but this isn’t politics. Even his desperate opponent Boris Johnson is joining in the frenzy. Having links with a Trotskyite faction? Is the ‘Red Ken’ jibe really supposed to resonate with anyone anymore (hint: the polls suggest it really doesn’t)? Let’s also not forget that Boris’ sudden animosity against Ken is more than a little staged…
Livingstone’s a maverick, was before he was elected in 2000, and has supported factions and causes which have been politically incorrect before becoming the political norm for over a generation. As Mayor he’s actually made progress in redistribution of income in a city with levels of poverty unmatched anywhere in the pre-enlargement EU. Whilst the tube hasn’t improved, much of that can be laid at the feet of Gordon Brown, whose PFI contract hasn’t exactly been an incentive to improve our underground transport! Is he a petty bureaucrat? Yes, and I don’t like it. Is he a benign dictator? Yes, by his own admission the powers he assumed in 2000 were needed in order to force through progressive changes like the congestion charge – changes which worked to the betterment of all Londoners. This is a reason to be as uncontrollably brutal against him now? I said a few weeks ago we’d get a Jacques Chirac v Jean-Marie Le Pen-type election here and it’s sadly shaping up quite nicely.
I have reservations about him on principle, after basically admitting it was ok for the Metropolitan Police to murder Jean Charles de Menezes. But I don’t agree with this character assassination which is going on right now. Is he probably a bastard in private? Sure. When did that become a bar to high office? We need to see through the ridiculous distortions of what’s really going on, and see his achievements (check out the press conference Martin Bright tries to cut through by the way, if you can make it work, and make your own mind up). If you don’t think they amount to much then vote for someone else, but otherwise grow up!
Posted in politics
Tagged anti semitism, Associated Newspapers, Boris Johnson, Conservative, Daily Mail, election, Evening Standard, Gordon Brown, Jean Charles de Menezes, Ken Livingstone, Labour, London, Martin Bright, Mayor, metro, Metronet, New Labour, New Statesman, Oliver Finegold, Peter Tatchell, PFI, Polly Toynbee, Sir Ian Blair, Tory