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Fight to get Labour back in starts now

Posted on 12 May 2010 | 10:05am

Part of politics is having to prepare for every eventuality. So even before a vote had been cast last week, Gordon Brown had several drafts of statements – win, lose or draw – that he would make once the result became clear.

Even the ‘draw’ drafts, as it turned out, did not really cover the unclear situation which developed, which is why a new statement had to be made, the one he made in Downing Street on Friday.

But it did mean that when it came to the words he spoke yesterday before heading to see The Queen to tender his resignation, he already had a draft he could work on. When it came to it, as is often the case with politicians and big moments, he sat at his own desk and wrote the final version himself. Even his biggest opponents would be hard pressed to say he did not capture the moment well.

Though he was leaving as Prime Minister, and knew it was a moment in history, he also set great store by the speech he made to Labour Party staff after returning to Party HQ from Buckingham Palace. I assume the Party have put out a transcript, and I know it was filmed. I hope people watch it.

Because it showed that even in that moment of defeat, there is within him, and within all Labour campaigners and activists, the knowledge that the political fight never ends, and a new one has just begun. As he reeled off the list of Labour achievements – and as you know I wish we had done more of that in the last year or two – then I defy anyone but the ideologically right and the cynically wrong to claim that Britain is not a better country by far after 13 years of Labour in power.

To well-paid journalists in the right-wing media, and indeed the left-wing media who went to the Liberal Democrats, it does not make that much difference who is in power (though the Murdoch Empire stands to gain hugely if the Lib-Dems allow the Tories to push through broadcasting changes promised when Cameron thought he was on for a big win). But we will very quickly find it makes a big difference to lower and middle income families.

If Cameron proves me wrong, good luck to him. I mean that. He has taken on an enormous job, with tremendous capacity to do good. But I do not believe his Party has the values or the understanding of the modern world to make the most of it, and certainly not for the benefit of people who most need an active government on their side. And I don’t believe the Liberal Democrats can either. Otherwise they would not have shepherded a right-wing, unchanged Tory Party – that hates Europe, has crazy policies on schools, wanted to help the richest first, wants to bring back hunting and all the other paraphernalia of a backward-looking non progressive force – through the door in the first place.

The Liberal Democrats will pay a political price in the short term, for sure. It is up to real progressives to make sure both parties play a price in the long term – not least when they start to implement their shared desire to cut tax credits.

The next election campaign – which could come sooner rather than later whatever they say about fixed term Parliaments – starts now.

Last night, just going around the place, I recruited three former Lib Dems to join the Labour Party. If every party member recuited one today, we would double the membership. If you vote Labour, become an activist. Join the Party, get involved in the debate which a leadership election will spark, and which will hopefully help re-engergise the Party. If you didn’t vote Labour, but didn’t want a Tory government, then never forget what it has delivered – a Tory government led by a tradtional Tory who talked the talk on change and modernisation but failed to get a majority because people saw through it.

If you know someone who voted Lib Dem to keep the Tories out – including people who voted Labour in Tory/Lib marginals, try to sign them up too. I am always amazed how people who would never think of joining a political party will do so if you whip out a membership form. Or whip out a laptop and take them to

Above all, as the changes flow, with a right-wing media desperate to put the best possible gloss on them all, just as they put the worst possible gloss on us, remember that elections are won and lost in years not weeks, even if we did manage to stop their overall majority in the final weeks. And never forget politics is not about what happens in the Westminster bubble, important though that is, but what happens in communities, families, workplaces, schools and hospitals around the country.

With every change that comes, Labour must remind people there was and is an alternative progressive route.

It is not a nice feeling to watch a Tory walk in to run the country after 13 years of Labour – an incredible achievement by the way given how many wrote us off in 1992. But as Gordon said last night, the fight continues. The Tories have had their wings clipped. Their pretensions to be the natural party of government are not quite as strong as they were.

We lost. But we can win again. And the chance could come a lot sooner than people think, whatever the spring in Tory steps today, the rise in the polls any new government gets, their satisfaction at getting us out after 13 years, and the joy for Liberal Democrat ministers in being taken seriously. (By the way – Clegg’s first big mistake in government – he should have taken one of the big three departments – Treasury, FCO, Home Office – alongside a DPM role)

I have been saying consistently on here ever since I started this blog that I felt Cameron could be stopped because he would get found out. We failed to stop him becoming PM. But we stopped him getting a full mandate. He starts as a weak Prime Minister of a coalition government made up of partners who have little real time for each other, and who will always be looking over their shoulders at the politics in their own backyards.

At least Labour people, whatever the differences, believe in fundamentally the same things; and remain the only progressive force for fairness,capable of winning and exercising power, which is left in Britain today.

*** I had assumed I would stop my booksale fundraising offer on May 7. However, we have had a surge since the election, so I will keep it going. To be honest, we are down to the last few boxes of The Blair Years, but I will speak to the publishers today. I will also extend the scheme to my first novel, All In The Mind. But if you want to buy a signed copy of The Blair Years and raise cash for Labour, go to

My meeting with the publishers by the way is to discuss the launch of Prelude to Power, the first volume of my complete diaries, which is being published next month and covers 1994 to May 1997. I revealed this exclusively on Newsnight last night, apparently – even though it has been on Amazon for weeks!!

PS – and yes, Gordon knew about it.

Enjoy the sunshine. It won’t last! Rainfall levels have been lower on average under Labour than Tory governments. Not a lot of people know that.

  • sean

    I almost voted Lib dem but changed my mind when I putt he X on paper, Will be joining new Lab to make sure we have a labour government next.
    Alastair, I have to say you did a good job forcing the ConDem marriage, it is a shame some labour MP did not get the bluff. well done hope you stay on and get under Adam Boulton skin.

  • Chris lancashire

    As ever, there is a grain of truth in amongst the spin. At last you have acknowledged you lost and, yes, Labour will, one day, return to power – that’s the nature of politics. But next time let all right-minded electors hope that it’s not NEW Labour characterised by your particular brand of nasty, aggressive politics which says we are in the absolute right so it’s OK to use any means to get and stay in power. Let’s all hope it’s goodbye to not only you but also Brown, Whelan, McBride and Balls. And hello to Johnson, Straw, the Millibands and other sane and reasonable politicians.
    Oh, BTW, it wasn’t the “media” that ejected you, it was normal, reasonable voters. Cheerio.

  • Brian

    The lib-dems have to push for political reform otherwise it all comes to nothing.

  • Stan S

    Well done AC! I was one of those Labour voters that voted LD in a LD/Tory marginal; I feel duped and very angry that the LDs have installed a Tory gov. I sort of get the Tories, they have an idealogy and fight for it and as much as I detest it you know where they stand (although perhaps that is arguable with Cameron and his wolf in sheeps clothing modernisation). the LDs on the other hand are exactly what David Blunket called them…….HARLOTS

  • Alison KS

    Joined last night. The server was busy for a while too, so that’s a good sign.

  • Brian Tomkinson

    Face it, you and Mandelson aren’t as clever as you think you are. Your plan to cling on to power failed. Your party is in opposition and the squabbling to find a new leader has now to begin. As for the media “putting the worst possible gloss on us”, in your case you make their task very simple.

  • Lisa Ansell

    I have been very critical of you in the past, but I have to say- well done on an excellent campaign.

    Somehow, Labour have come out of this election stronger than any other party. Votes on the left solidifying behind them, and not bound to a coalition ultimately doomed to failure.

    I have been angry at the Labour party since we went into Iraq- and yesterday I rejoined.

    This period in opposition gives the party a chance to regroup, and allows the public perception of distance from the government of Blair.

    In the meantime, Labour get to form a healthy opposition.

    I hope that the party understands that at the very least, a perception of a united Labour(with a clean leadership contest) is needed to capitalise on this.

    But well bloody done. I never thought I would say this, but I watched David Cameron walk into number 10, and realised that Labours place in British politics was secured for another generation.

    A Labour win in GE10- would have meant a dying government on its last legs. A short break(and it will be a short spell-the knives are already out for Cameron and Clegg within their own parties) allows them to come back and form a new government with public support.

    I don’t know if it was a strategy, but is remarkable what Labour achieved in the past 4 weeks. Never thought I woudl see it. Well done.

  • Richard

    You really aren’t a good loser are you? The word “graceless” scarcely does you justice. I thought Brown grew taller last night, whereas you seem to be shrinking ever smaller.

    Think about the views of someone who after all that has happened is still banging on about “a right-wing, unchanged Tory Party” when it is obvious Cameron is using a coalition to try to permanently move his party to the left and let the loonies move to UKIP, and then tribal nonsense such as “It is not a nice feeling to watch a Tory walk in to run the country”.

    These do not sound like someone who loves his country, just a sore tribal loser. Shame on you.

    PS I voted LibDem and support Blackburn Rovers. 2-0 to me…

  • Cromwell

    The fight back would have a chance if labour has a charismatic “english” leader. This is very important, in order to stand a chance against Cameron. I hate saying this but its the basics. The English are very sensitive right now and if labour replaces Gordon Brown with any non English candidate, labour would not stand much of a chance against a Prime Minister Cameron. Just basic politics.

    I could only be wrong if the candidate that Labour party chooses was very charismatic, inspirational, neutral in term of Blairite or Brownite(divisive stuff), resonnates with labour core message.

    Not surprised that Alan Johnson(Blairite) threw his weight behind another blairite. This would not do. The old pattern would not help the revival of labour.
    Labour needs a break it all.

  • Phil

    Alistair, do you not also accept that many people voted LibDem to get Labour out? And please stop spinning the line that there was a majority anti-Tory vote. If this is true (and to subscribe to it you must believe that the British public always vote against rather than for something) then surely there was an even greater anti-Labour vote.

    You must be sore that you, Adonis, Mandleson and Whelan (all four of you unelected) couldn’t stich up that last minute deal with the LibDems.

  • Chris Hughes

    A quick thought about joining: the electronic form on the Labour website does not make it very clear how much it costs to join. In fact, you have to enter a payment method before it is clear how much you are committed to. (I might have missed it: apologies if I am being dim)
    I am sure Labour supporters like to make sure their spending commitments are fully costed in advance. 🙂

  • dc

    i think labour have a good opportunity for the next election, which i believe will be called sooner than in fives years. i think labour should take heart from the fact that governments rarely get more popular in power… considering the tories cant get a majority, if labour get a good leader its game on!

    am fed up of politicians talking about ‘in the national interest’ when they overuse a phrase you can generally be sure its not true, its in their own interest, they are desparate for power!

    can you extend the signed copy scheme to your book next month, prelude to power?

  • Marc Jones

    I agree re payment being awkward to assertain. It does offer options but no indication on what people should pay – it appears to be up to your conscience (like buying a Radiohead LP online). I assume you can pay extra should you get a better job and likewise lower the payment should you lose your job under the brave new ConDem Nation?

  • Lisa Ansell

    You shoudl really unblock me on twitter. @lisaansell

  • Charlie

    @AC “I have been saying consistently on here ever since I started this blog that I felt Cameron could be stopped because he would get found out.”

    Evidence would suggest that it is Labour that have been found out. The only surprising thing is that it took 13 years.

  • Ed Davie

    Your post regarding recruiting Lib Dems and the weather really cheered me up. I will suggest a recruitment drive at our Lambeth council Labour group meeting tomorrow. Looking forward to reading your new book.

  • craig thomas

    Do you think you could you find time also, Alastair, to campaign for the Meat and Potato Pie to become mandatory at every football ground in this country? If anyone can pull it off, you can. I think if we can make inroads in the south, I think we can give ourselves a real chance of winning back some marginal seats, via the moral value of the pie. And as we all know, the pie has always been the life force of the party going back to the days of Keir Hardie when goalies were ‘goal-keepers’ and ‘custodians’ and the Biscuitmen would beat the men from the hardware town’by two points to love.’

    Even more seriously, we all have to protest to all media outlets constantly about the new spin. Did you notice Attila the Hague (or ‘Attila Den Haag’ as Nick calls him) arguing on the Today programme that the coalition was about to implement ‘Labour cuts’? Look out: here we go, on Day 1, right back to the last days of Major.

    As Peter Kay says, ‘You got to watch ’em.’ And then stab ’em in the eye.

    Metaphorically, of course.

    Alastair, thanks for the constant inspiration.

  • Sara

    I’ve always been proud to be a Labour Supporter, but never more so than over the past 13+ years. My Father passed away, due to Cancer in 2007, sadly…but the unreserved Government support given to my Local Heath Authority in the NE, undoubtedly allowed me to share a further 7 years with him that I KNOW I would never have had under Conservative Leadership!
    Gordon Brown, was a wonderful chancellor and Leader…he was not ‘Mr Personality’, but his heart was always true and I think that Labour were ‘judged’ by ‘mal-media’ and the ‘XFactor’ effect during the election…so I want to thank you for giving Tory sycophant ‘Adam Boulton’ his come-uppance!
    Now…Will you be running for Leader? – You’ve got my vote!!!

  • anthony burke

    hello Alistair. I cannot telephone Gordon Brown. Please on my behalf call him and thank him from me. I admire his work his intellect and his contributions to the world. I myself do not take fools gladly, and how he, as a private man, put up with the weasels he had to work with and the snakes he had to contend with both inside and outside the labour party has impressed and astounded me.
    Thank you Gordon. Please do not leave us completly. We still need you.
    you have my total respect.

    PS. Thanks for all you did for Northern Ireland

    tony burke

  • Patrick James

    Everyone I know who voted Lib Dem is now kicking themselves.

    The movement from the Lib Dems to Labour will be very great imho.

    It will be interesting to see if the Lib Dem MPs start to switch sides in the House of Commons. I know if I were a Lib Dem MP I would feel really in a compromised position now.

  • Richard Burnell

    “WE LOST.” First sign of recognition from you, Al.

    You lost because the public saw through your, ” It wasn’t me, sir, a big boy did it and ran away” excuse on the economy.

    The crippling debt, the boom and bust, Iraq, Afghan War, etc, etc, might have had something to do with your crushing defeat, together with the elctoral disaster area that was Brown.

    Time should be spent developing future policy and analysing why it all went wrong. Consider the roles of Mandy, Adonis, yourself and Whelan. The public did, and saw a frightening, unelected, bullying bunch of fanatics they could not trust.

    Your blog today enforces your pedigree; by malice out of envy.

  • Margaret Thatcher



  • olli issakainen

    They said it would not last, but the new Con-Them coalition is still together after a couple of hours. But its honeymoon is already over.
    It is beyond parody that a party with values and policies like the Lib Dems has agreed an unholy alliance with the Tories. It is time for all left-liberals to join Labour.
    We have now seen what “new politics” really mean: doing deals in personal and party interest.
    The Tories have destructive policies on the economy and public services. It seems now to be OK for Vince Cable to start the early cuts which will risk the recovery.
    As for Big Society, pro-Tory the Times reports that an US political consultant asked on the eve of the important second TV debate what researh the Tories had done to the key election theme of Big Society? The answer was – yes, you guessed it – a complete silence.
    And everyone who has listened to that now legendary BBC Radio4 PM interview with David Cameron knows how “well-prepaired” he is to his current job. But like AC, I wish him well. He is a decent, fair and hard-working man.
    So, the Lib Dems will get a referendum on Alternative Vote for selling their soul. But the only alternative vote available in next election will be to vote for Labour!

    Ps. As for a new Labour leader, I back Ed Miliband. He has both substance and good presentation skills. Mr Miliband is strong enough to be a leader. He will be able to win back support for Labour.

  • Mark Wright

    I’ve never experienced losing since I became a Labour member. The funny thing is that I don’t feel we’ve lost even today.

    The clouds are already brewing on the horizon. The ink had yet to even dry before the viewing public were subjected to 15 minutes of Bill Cash banging on about Europe and how certain ‘red lines’ between the two parties are NOT to be crossed.

    I made an analogy a while back equating the situation between the Labour and Conservative wooing of the Lib Dems being akin to two blokes being in a bar at the end of the night when the lights go up both trying to pull the ugly minger left at the bar because all the good looking girls had already left. The minger of course is flattered to get any attention at all and seems unconcerned that this attention only started when all the other options had failed.

    Well it seems Nick Clegg, punch drunk (from having no sleep obviously), has decided to go home with Cameron (champagne goes to one’s head a lot quicker than John Smith’s). The two clearly had a wonderful night together (although that sneaky Clegg still took down the number of the other one just in case). So much so that Dave even took his new partner home to meet the folks!

    Clegg is obviously not the partner his family were hoping for for ‘their boy’ but they won’t say anything yet so as not to upset him. It’s been so long since he’s been able to bring anyone home to meet the folks it wouldn’t be fair to burst his bubble just yet. But already the older relatives have started muttering how “It’ll never last” behind their backs. “Oh leave them alone,” says another, “It’s nice to see him look so happy. Of course it’ll never last but at least let him have his fun for now.”

    We’ll see.

    But the inherent problem with picking someone up at the last minute is that the intense physical attraction (heightened by the fact that it’s been soooo long since either party last got laid) often leads to the couple jumping into bed on the first date without barely a word spoken between them. This can be fun, indeed thrilling! But after 6 months of intense shagging the couple in question invariably wake up one morning and realise they have bugger all in common.

    I just hope Nick and Dave are using contraception. Which brings me back round to Bill Cash and his red lines…

    I just hope they signed a pre-nup.

  • Paul

    Are you sticking around at Labour Alastair? I hope so. And the list of achievements indeed should have been shouted more. It was the one thing that almost swayed my vote to red. Blue/Yellow have a lot to live up to.

  • Andy

    I had issues with Mr Brown but the guy handled himself amazing.

    Typical of the libdems they always need someone to blame..ofc it had nothing to do with the fact the tories caught wind they were speaking to labour (not telling dave).

    Adam boulton is a bloody disgrace he almost reached the point of orgasm (a horrific thought) when Cameron walked into no 10.

    I can imagine Kay burley will be draped on one of the chairs with her first of many Interviews with him and his ‘lovely wife’ sam…

    Labour didnt stand a chance and for all those people who bleat on about we didnt moan when Murdoch supported labour!! is that what he really did?? all he did was a muted support with no mud slinging or personal attacks and more importantly!!! NO BLOODY SKY NEWS!!!=fox new lite.

  • niccareem

    Alastair take it like a man! or women. You lost and this Lib-con coalition is the best thing that could have happenned to our politics in years. You know it, I know it, and the vast majority of the British people know it. So don’t be bitter just get better

  • Martin Goddard

    When all is said and done GB is now going to enjoy the best job of his life as a Father and Husband. Enjoy the rest and freedom and don’t look back, as in all facets of life; life goes on with or without you.
    Good luck for the future.

  • Samragi Madden

    Will they be able to push through a ‘fixed term’ parliament? My fear is, they will tread very carefully over the next few months to keep this fragile coalition – but not sure it can last at all. I am hoping we can get the labour leadership contest out of the way without a rightwing media circus – and then fingers crossed a fresh election in 2011. The tories have usurped power, and the liberals have sold their soul. Now more than ever I am proud to be part of the labour legacy that will finally see an end to this unholy pact of schemers, liars, opportunist toffs.

    P.s I thought Gordon’s departure was dignified and I wish him all the best.

  • SueZ

    Alastair, I just wanted to say thank you for the contribution you make through this blog. It has allowed me to follow a little of the inside movements, and even though this immediate battle is now over, I look forward to continuing to share your journey.

    I too, wish I had the opportunity to personally thank Gordon Brown. The greatness of the man poured out this past week and it was inspirational – a man of integrity, a man of substance. I truly wish him well in his next endeavours, he has much to offer the world.

    So now the LibDems have sold their soul to the devil, we all have to take action to ensure our communities do not collapse under the neglect they will surely receive from DC and the conservatives. This will be a government that cares for itself, not for the people. The way the deal was done shows that very clearly. As people are saying… now begins the time of Con-Dem-nation.

    I look forward to the Labour regrouping, to its new strength, and to all the new possibilities that will present. And I will be supporting that.

  • D Brower

    I supported the Liberal Democrats for the first time in this election. I will never do so again. This is truly demoralising. Back to Labour.

  • David (Leeds)

    Brown impressed me immensely with his dignity last night. You could learn a thing or two from him. This nonsense about Libs Dems joining Labour in droves for instance. There may be some but many others will now see them as part of a progressive government. Let’s wait and see what happens but now is a time to wish luck to the new government.

  • s chapman

    If every Labour voter got 1 other person then we double our membership – if they got 2 others we treble it…..if they got 10 others we get millions….get real you doughnut your history and this alliance has every chance of succeeding now and beyond !!
    Out and about last night I recruited 15 labour supporters to the new winning team and real enthusiasm for this new style of Govt.
    Im hoping beyond hope that you remain at the heart of spin for labour so I can laugh at you on your blog…laugh at you and all those losing labour lemmings

  • Peter Thomson

    @ Richard Burnell

    Sorry, but are you forgetting that there was a mess financial meltdown around the world? Sure, what has happened before may not have been ideal, what the country had to do something. I think you will find, that most countries around the world followed the model set by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling to bail out the banks. Sure, if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have this massive deficit. But we also wouldn’t have any money ourselves. I appreciate that maybe things could have been done differently during the Labour years. But that is the beauty of hindsight. It allows you to criticise and reflect without any of the consequences. Just please don’t forget, that Gordon Brown and Labour have done a lot of help this country, as well as in some people’s views, hinder it.

  • Cass

    The public did, and saw a frightening, unelected, bullying bunch of fanatics they could not trust.

    What????? Is this person talking about Labour? He must be joking, all the bullying that went on was committed by the tory toadies masquerading as political commentators.

  • smolly

    Dear Mr Campbell
    you infulence as an unelected devious bullying policy maker is unwanted in the new politics
    why not if you are really passionate about Labour do you
    not stand for election yourself then the public could tell
    exactly what it thinks of you by voting ,this would make
    a nice change from you telling the public what it thinks!!! time you and mandy gave up your time is over ,its not big and its not clever and you have been found out

  • Tim Gallagher

    I nearly wept as I saw the Tories stride into Number 10 and control of our government. Urge all Labour members to regroup and refocus. We need to refresh our ideas and appeal. we lost our way and wasted time despite our great achievements. We can come back stronger and better equipped for a real labour government but we need to seize the moment. The election merely sidelined us for a while – we need to use the time wisely now and be a credible alternative government with a new leader and team as fast as possible.

  • Nero

    You were part of creating this spin machine, which you did rather well. Unfortunately, this became a total substitute for government, policy and subtantive analysis. At the end, no-one trusted New Labour, and I fear that you have condemned the Labour Party to be the Liberals of the 21st Century: an irrelevant bunch of nutters, ranting at the margins.

  • Phil Lane

    In response to Patrick James – I was a first time Liberal Democrat voter and I am not kicking myself. I am over the moon about this result – we now have a new kind of politics – in the past the Conservatives woulod have took their turn and in 5 or 10 years Labour replaced them. But now we have the Lib Dems having a measure of control over what would have otherwise been an elected dictatorship. This can only be good for Britain and great practice for what in future years will become the norm. This will get Parliament back to how it should be – 650 representatives of the people working together to achieve consensus.

  • Brian Hughes

    4,757 consecutive days of Labour in power, something I never thought I’d live to see back in those dark days of the 1980s. And the county’s so much better for them. Even David Cameron acknowledged that we’re more at ease with each other now.

    But you’re right that to lots of people it makes little direct difference which party’s in government. Even those who have clearly benefited from Labour’s reforms quickly forget or have little experience of what life was like before. Parents taking their children to primary schools today won’t have experienced the leaking roofs, teacher shortages and lack of equipment. Not everyone knows pensioners such as my in-laws who, having worked at sub minimum wage rates for fifty years and never been able to save for old age, gained extra dignity in the last few years of their lives thanks to pension credits. Those going to hospital will have forgotten the 18 month waiting lists and patients dying on trolleys. People starting work today won’t know what it was like in pre-minimum wage days.

    But Labour supporters shouldn’t assume the LibDems will implode or that their voters will abandon them. I’ve watched them in coalition on our county council and Gloucester city council. They’re good at it. All the credit for the good stuff is claimed by them, all the mistakes and electoral damage heaped on their partners.

    I can already hear our local Lib Dem MP addressing the hustings in 2014. This year he explained how, if only Labour had listened to him, the world’s environmental problems would all long ago have been solved. At the next election I predict he’ll be explaining that there would have been a triple-dip recession had Vince Cable not been restraining the Tories and that unemployment would have passed five million instead of being “only” four and a half ditto had the Lib Dems not been part of the government!

    But perhaps I’m wrong, maybe a Cameron government constrained by a dose of Clegg won’t be too awful after all. We must wait, watch and never stop campaigning to get Labour back….

  • Julian

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Conservatives back in, normal service has resumed! Bye bye, losers!

    Although, Alistair, it was truly a great day for democracy to seen you, Lord Mandleson, Lord Adonis, et al trying to do a deal for reform of the House of Lords with the Lib Dems

  • pete

    I think Britain is sadly in a much worse state than it was 13 years ago.
    300% increases in house prices will cause the young adults of today much stress and anxiety for years to come unless there is an adjustment. An active BOE would have included a mortgage component in its inflation targetting. A foreign policy cow towing to a frankly scary US president.
    And uncertainty as to where future economic growth will come from. I’m not a cynic but a romantic….Gordon Brown was far too myopic as a chancellor and PM & he should have seen Tony Blairs hospital pass coming.

  • Eric

    Well, I moved to LD this year because I wanted to see a coalition with Labour that delivered PR; or a coalition with Tory that delivered a liberal home office (seeing as Labour have made being hard right on law and order their tag line)!

    Now I hear it’s Theresa May, I am disappointed on both fronts. Can regenerated Labour in opposition regain a regard for individual freedoms? Will have to wait and see…

  • Claire

    Hi Alastair

    I think all 3 leaders have conducted themselves in a dignified manner over the last 3 days, knowing if one of their party stepped out of line and threw stones, the whole deal-making could fall through.

    I am a life-long Labour supporter, for too many reasons to mention here, but they need a break to renew themselves. Too many things have happened to make people tired of them, expenses, the recession (admittedly not a direct fault of Labour) and people in this country have very short memories – for the first 10 years of a Labour Govt we had relatively comfortable lives (I know some have not before people comment, but standard of living was better)

    My husband and I have now actively joined the Labour party, and hope to become pro-active in rebuilding the party. We are both teachers, and can see how funding and support has helped the vulnerable children we teach.

    Enjoyed your spat with Boulton… dignity needed indeed.

  • Tom Henery

    I have been a memeber of the Liberal Democrats for the last 12 years. Last night I felt like what can only be described as a rabbit that had been hit by a car and lying wounded at the side of the road, fully conscious but its whole world changed in an instant. This deal has rocked my political foundations and I guess shown me that I must be more left wing than I truely realised or admitted. I will not remain a member of the Liberal Democrats as long as this coalition continues.

  • shane


    Good job in getting your point across on Sky this week. Interesting to watch a rerun of that interview on youtube. Adam appears to have a bee in his bonnet before the interview has even begun. He appears to be frustrated about something and takes it out on you. You are an easy target given your reputation for abrasiveness. But in my opinion you did not put a foot wrong here. I really dig your passion.

    Don’t let the bastards grind you down.


  • Steve

    “then I defy anyone but the ideologically right and the cynically wrong to claim that Britain is not a better country by far after 13 years of Labour in power.”

    I’m neither, but I can give you a list of why Britain is worse off than when Labour came to power: suspension of habeas corpus, the loss of the 10p tax rate, our entry into two very suspect foreign wars, the pressing for the introduction of ID cards despite popular opposition to the idea, the constant infringement into civil liberties, the passing of the Digital Economy bill without thorough scrutiny, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers act, and the fact that Labour have led us into recession but still believe they’re the best party to take us back out of it.

    Maybe the Tories will prove to be worse, who knows, but to claim Labour have done a good job is plain wrong, and the argument that anyone with a view opposing yours is either cynically wrong or ideologically right is both fallacious and weak. I expect better from you.

  • Seamus from Bracknell

    As a Labour voter, who deserted in disgust in 2002, I am dismayed to read that you still hold to the dispicable mess of New Labour.

    Labour, as I knew it, through the 60’s – 80’s was ideological and robust despite years of Opposition.

    I even supported it’s organised demonstrations against the ‘Poll Tax’, despite the obvious rent-a-mob elements within it.

    Much since has been shabby, bordering on the downright illegal, and certainly lacking in any honour or courtesy toward voters.

    It is time for Labour to not re-invent itself again, but to get back to it’s moral guiding principles and stick to them. The British public do not need to be ‘spun’ any more stories, just given a genuine reason to believe in Labour.

  • Jacquie R

    Hope Labour membership and funds swell and look forward to the leadership and direction debate. And, along with other Labour supporters, I will be expecting the new Lib Dem alliance to cost it its core vote at the next election.

    BUT, and it’s a very big BUT, the next election could be years, rather than months, away. This changes everything and the immediate priority of the left and centre/left should be to safeguard the interests of those on lower incomes.

    One way to do this is to actively join the Lib Dem party in the constutencies they represent. By constantly applying pressure on the MP (many of whom will now be in government), it will make it harder for the Tories to carry out the worst of their policies.

    Incidentally, although sympathetic to some of their manifesto, I am not a member of the Lib Dem party and I find it pretty appalling to see them with their new bedfellows. However, their new position provides a golden opportunity to influence this coalition. I do not under-estimate the importance of the electoral battle ahead, but it looks to be for another day.

    Finally, I do have one question. Can someone be a member of both the Labour and Lib Dem parties? Ethically, I don’t see why not, specially now.

  • Jonathan

    The ‘people’ made a choice between a ‘canny Scots right “bastard”‘ and two smarmy public school boys.

    I would prefer to trust the canny Scot, with the country, but it seems that smarmy is the current flavour of choice.

    I may be the only one to admit it but I liked Gordon Brown and think that History will judge him as a great Chancellor and Prime Minister.

    On the new comedy double act, I think we will be asking ‘where’s the meat?’ within weeks…..

  • Nick

    First, congratulations to Gordon Brown for statesmanlike dignity in the manner of his leaving No10. If only he had shown more of that and less ugly partisanship in the previous 13 years then he might still be there.

    Second, I wonder how much personal responsibility you feel for Labour’s fall? The spin and (much of) the tribal poison since 1997 is attributed to you and Lord M. Do you accept that citizens like myself view this with distaste and that it colours our view of most politicians from left and right alike.

    Finally, I hope that the Lib Dems can indeeed knock the sharp edges off Tory policies and lock-in the centre-right government I believe most of the country are happiest with.

  • Nicki E

    I thought Gordon’s resignation speach was superb and absolutely heartfelt and I for one will miss the man. If it turns out (as the Tories keep screaming at us) that Labour have been misleading over the public finances, then at least they got us into debt trying to give ordinary folk a decent standard of living, a decent health service and a decent education system. Maybe living through the last Tory reign has made me a cynic but I can’t quite yet believe that Cameron and Co are a party for the people and not a party for the privileged. Like you Alastair, I would love to be proved wrong. Thankyou Gordon, Tony and Labour for 13 years of compassionate government.

  • Robert Jackson

    Very strange “Shotgun Wedding” unfolding before us.

    Normally it’s the recalcitrant groom brought to the altar by the bride’s dad.

    This time we see the groom’s sugardaddies seducing the bride.

  • Michael Stockham

    Let’s be absolutely clear about the election – no-one actually won it and there was no ‘crushing’ defeat. Analysis of the total votes cast for the 3 major parties and others shew that in the major industrial regions i.e Scotland, Wales, NE & NW England, E & W Midlands (amounting to 52.7% of the total UK votes cast) 36.3% voted Labour, 31.0% Conservative, 21.1% Lib Dem and 11.6% Others delivering 210 Labour MPs, 115 Tories, 27 LDs and 9 Others. Where is the fairness in that Messrs Cameron & Clegg? I fear that there will unparalleled civil unrest when the cuts start to bite in these areas – Athens we ain’t seen nothing yet!!!!

  • Amanda

    Just tried to join Labour party via your link but site seems to have crashed

  • John

    Well thankfully we had a great thirteen years in which my father and mother both strong tory voters prior to 1997 changed to Labour, They said that Labour had made them better off as pensioners then the Tory’s that is some quote. Give my thanks to Gordon Brown for a great job lets see what happens to all those Lib Dem voters, I’m sure they will not be voting for them next time around.

  • Barbara Stewart

    I think Gordon made a very dignified exit from No.10. It is rare to have a prime minister who puts the interests of the country before his own and I think he will stand out in the history books for having done that on this and so many occasions. Labour can still be a strong opposition party. There is a lot of political unrest amongst voters of every kind at the moment. Good luck!

  • John Williams

    Electoral Reform: I believe it should be mandatory to vote in General Elections, don’t know how you would do that and enforce it though. I DO know that it would almost certainly mean that there would never be another Conservative government again in my lifetime – or a Con/Lib one for that matter.

    Agree with the other guy about joining the Labour Party, get that online form simplified ASAP. Time to recruit is NOW.

    All the best. Fingers crossed Gordon gets to do something that makes the most of his considerable intellect and his true socialist compassion.

  • Womble On Tour

    Fascinated by the rainfall claim. Please can you back it up with hard data ?

  • malcolm goulding

    Are we supposed to believe this nonsensical judgement from the – Lib Dem’s Chris Huhne, who we think will soon take up a cabinet post, says he doesn’t believe there was ever as much difference between the Lib Dems and the Tories on the issue of spending cuts as was made out during the election campaign

  • Griffin

    I’m an American but I was a big Gordon Brown fan. I liked him because I think he was real. No, he wasn’t Mr. Personality as one poster has already said but he was all heart and he sincerely cared about helping people. I always felt so bad for him because of the way your media treated him. They talked about the way he looked, drew terrible pictures of him. That’s the way you treat your won guy? Geez. And the part that I find so funny is that they love our President and at the same time bash their own PM.

    Gordon was a good partner to Obama and as a Democrat I will always appreciate that. Politically Brown made mistakes but his heart was in the right place and you certainly can’t say that about all leaders.

    I will say I hope for the following:
    I hope Gordon is able to separate himself from this and just enjoy this time with his family.
    I hope when he reflects he will focus on the good and push the bad to the side.
    I hope when he’s ready he will find a non-profit to work with.
    I hope he and Sarah will retain their close ties with Barack and Michelle. And finally I hope Labor comes back under ED Miliband and takes back #10.



  • Derrick Randall-Emeka

    Hi Alistair, let me first say how well you handled Boulton’s rant. Throughout the build up to this election and after it, the coverage through Sky TV has been so partial and biased in favour of the Conservatives, that it surely contradicts the term ‘Independent’. In fact I was so disappointed by their coverage that I have written a complaint in to OfCom. I very much doubt anything will come of that. Not only were Sky rude to you through Boulton, but Kay Burley also did her best to strengthen Sky’s favourtism of the Conservative party, and interview (if you can call it that) the owner/leader of 38 degrees but did not allow the interviewee (David Babbs) to get his point across. He also handled this inappropriate interview very well. Surely someone has got to pull Sky up about this as it is ludicrous. In fact it was so bad that any normal minded person could assume that Sky commentators were all vying for a cabinet position in the Conservative Party. I thought we were supposed to be democratic. I know where Rupert Murdoch’s allegiances are, but the coverage over the last few weeks go way beyond the mark of independent journalism.
    Anyway, Labour will in the end benefit from this coalition. I have no doubts that this pause in their leadership could be a blessing in disguise. For now you can see that the body language of all the sky commentators has changed and is now more upbeat (very noticeable), but for now I’ll be tuning in to the BBC.

  • Jim Heath

    Great blog, Alistair! I too thought it odd Clegg should take the DPM role without any meaningful portfolio. He’s going to be used as a doormat. Even though it was a sickening sight seeing Cameron walk into No 10 (even worse was BBC’s Nick Robinson gushing all over the place!) but it’s been great that the Tories have had to grovel for power. Fair play to Gordon, he pulled a great card on Monday and I wish him all the best, I just get the feeling that if Alan Johnson had succeeded Tony, Labour would be about to embark on a fourth term. Yes, the fightback starts now – Andy Burnham for leader anyone?

  • rhodri davies

    The sad fact is that there is a lack of intellectual quality at the top of the Labour Party as there is at the top of the Tory Party (and there was never much intellectual steel to the Lib Dems after the original Gang of Four). As a result, GB was allowed to lose control of the agenda, initially with his prevarification over calling an early election and subsequently with the 10p tax debacle. it all smacks of a Party running on empty.
    Do not expect much more from the new administration though, it is the same bunch of career politicians with great degrees but a lack of perspective to see how policies will play in the field beyond the focus group. MPs used to be lawyers, teachers, doctors with some experience of the context in which politics should be played out, but the new breed have experience only of the Westminster Village. Add to this the offensive degree of power that a mere 57 seats gets you to hamstring any bright ideas the conservatives may (unexpectedly) come up with and the future doesn’t look too bright.
    On a personal note, there is a real tinge of sadness, a sense of a generation having lost its golden opportunity to change this country for good, The NHS has been an (expensive) success, but child poverty persists, political integrity has been lost and serious questions persist about the advisability let alone legality of the Iraq war.
    I felt more hope seeing TB enter No 10 than I did watching DC last night, maybe that just means the sense of disappointment in years to come will be less.

  • Janet Gillies

    Yes you lost Mr Campbell – pity you did not admit that to Adam Boulton live on Sky news this week. Gordon Brown should have resigned the minute he knew the Libs were in talks with Tories, but to come out and say that he would go when it suited him in September, was a complete and utter disgrace! You should be ashamed of yourselves as indeed your back benchers and other party members are! To quote a well known Scottish National Anthem – “and sent him homewards to think again!!!!!!

  • Alan Sneddon

    The danger for the Labour Party is that it turns inwards and so fails to present itself as a credible alternative. This is what happened post 1979 and to the Torys post 1997. The result was that both parties consigned themselves to a long period in opposition before they became electable again. If they can get a new leader in place quickly and then focus on being an effective opposition they stand a good chance of success at the next election.

    Incidently, I am not convinced that there will an election before the 5 years is up. I feel this is as much a trap for the LibDems as it is for the Torys. The LibDems will be crucified in an election any time soon and their only chance is to make sure that the coalition lasts its full 5 years and that people have short memories.

  • Tony C

    I think you have to accept that Tony Blair was the reason Labour came to power. He was back-stabbed out of office by Brown and his mates and they now have the result they deserve.

    Winning elections is all about personality and Labour will win again when they have a leader who is seen as “Like us” and not like Stalin.

  • Graeme

    A week is a long time isnt it! The electorate said we dont like any one of the parties- and I repeat parties as it has been too much of a presidential parade. History will show this 13 years in its true perspective but as with all things it will be a balance of good and bad. The voters have said no one should unfettered power in parliament as they dont trust them. I changed to vote Lib-Dem and am very happy as I believe we will remain a caring society but will now attack the monster defifict and debt that has been left to the nation- we borrowed last month £35 PER DAY FOR EACH WORKING PERSON- mad economics from a government keen to spend to the maximum in a wholly gerrymandering fashion and not focus on the value and tax generation part of the economy. I know there will be dewy eyes and there were successes, but lets not pretend that the dire level of inability to read and write is acceptable nor the dumbing down of exam standards- it is all relative to our competitors- nor have we got value for money from the laudable trebling of spending on the NHS, but we should be proud of minimum wage, forces efforts, aspects of equality and so on. My personal verdict is a mixed one- people tried hard and with principle, were dealt some good and bad cards. Cameron and his party could not get a majority despite the out-of-control spending and we must conclude that he and epsecially Osborne, do not convince. If Labour gets back to balancing the books as a core-policy and stops interfering in our lives so much, supports not just the poor but the middle classes then it will get back in. We all know this government wont last long.

  • Ian Scott

    You run rings around the Tory press and prevent them spreading their misleading word which is why thet get so agitated with you. Thank you. I greatly appreciate what you have done for the party and I sincerely hope we haven’t heard or seen the last of you. This hasn’t been a bad defeat. You are right, we can win again!

  • KateR

    Seriously, how can you claim NuLabour as a progressive party given your record on civil liberties. It says something when everyone (including the Tories for crying out loud) are to the _left_ of you on that.

    If you are serious about rallying people to the Labour standard as a progressive force, then a great deal of mea culpas need to be uttered and a firm purpose of amendment shown before anyone believes you. The Lib dems might be finished as a progressive force, but there’s a huge yawning gap now that Labour isn’t yet fit to fill.

  • Jacko10

    Don’t be too dismissive of Cameron & the Tories too soon Alistair. The modernising of one of the “old firm” parties sounds vaguely familiar does it not?! Cameron talks about the need for change; he’s already shown this needs to come as much from within during his negotiations with the Lib Dems.
    Notwithstanding Gordon Brown making a dignified exit from no.10 his recent track record showed a PM out of touch with the real public. Reference Mrs Duffy in Rochdale – she had real views mirrored by many of us in the UK but was dealt with in dismissive fashion as a “bigot”, largely because GB was out of touch with reality.
    Not enough was made in the election campaigning about GB’s record as Chancellor; yes the UK has advanced since 1997 (Bank of England/NHS/Schools) but where are the reserves from the boom years?
    Let’s give Cameron a chance, we’re all ready for a change.

  • Marcus

    I have a sad feeling GB was led into an alley by smooth people promising him magic powder to instantly restore sunshine to his life and policies, and then was mugged and stripped of his dignity. Was this the only way he could be perusaded to leave? Why, oh why, did he agree to support the doomed coaition negotiations if so many influential Party members were against it from the beginning? Who tricked him into this alley, in order to get him finally off hiw Party perch? Or who sabotaged the talks for personal interest, do you know? I bet you do.

  • David Parker

    If the Labour party is to renew itself and attract back the many former labour voters who voted liberal then, amongst many other things, it has to reject spin, manipulative politics, savagely reduce the influence of un-elected advisors and embrace transparency. In other words Alistair you need to find something else to do.

  • David Parker

    If the Labour party is to renew itself and attract back the many former labour voters who voted liberal then, amongst many other things, it has to reject spin, manipulative politics, savagely reduce the influence of un-elected advisors and embrace transparency. In other words Alistair you need to find something else to do.

  • Peter Greenhill

    From Steve Richards’ article in today’s Independent.
    There is much talk among Labour MPs of the need to regroup in opposition. I wonder whether they will feel quite so sanguine if they are out of power for decades. There was a similarly complacent mood among some Labour MPs after their defeat in 1979: let the Conservatives take the unpopular policy decisions and we will be back under a new leader at the next election. They returned to office in 1997.
    I agree with this. Let’s be optimistic but not forget that it is possible to be in opposition for a long time. Sadly, tired Labour MPs prefer the warm glow of oppostion rather than trying to stay in power.

  • CL

    thanks for this blog.

    values are key – and tory values are tory values – and from the progressive perspectve, that makes the Lib Dems “collaborators”. Clegg will be waiving his white piece of paper (aka the coalition agreement) later.

    although the collaborator reference maybe pushes it too far, no true progressive could sign up with a party aligned with a group of “nutters, climate change deniers, homophobes and anti-semites”. Some points are transcendental. That’s not a tribal point, it’s a values point. Ask Churchill.

    That’s even before we get on to policy. Freedom schools will show itself to be a ludicrous, divisive, socially unequal idea.

    And that’s before we get on to competence – I think Cameron and Osbornce are genuinely still to understand that the economy is international.

    The Lib Dems have been Conned.

    differences between this morning and yesterday morning: values According to the BBC Weather Centre, last night was the coldest May night since 1996, with temperatures dropping to -6C in the Scottish Highlands, -4C in Wales and 0C in London.

  • Sam

    I know a Bangladeshi family in London, N15. The old lady of the house (a divorcee), who came to UK as an immigrant, now owns the 4 bedroom house given to her for free by the council. She has 7 kids, 4 of whom have moved out. She rents the extra bedroom and spends 6-8 months a year in Bangladesh having a good time on her pension and rental income.

    Her eldest daughter, who is also divorced with 3 kids, lives in a 2 bedroom council flat in Brick Lane in London Zone 1. She claims unemployment and child benefit whilst doing odd jobs for cash. She also owns a car. She is now asking the council for a 4 bedroom house as her kids are growing up.

    Daugher No 2, a divorcee with a 14 year old son, recently got a 2 bedroom council house from the goverment which she barely occupies. Instead, she prefers to live in her mother’s house most of the time (as it helps save on utility and food expenses). She is now gone back to University for a diploma at the young age of about 35 years, on taxpayers expense ofcourse as she doesn’t have an income. She receives unemployment beneift or income support and child benefit.

    Daughter No 3, happily married with 3 kids to a Bangladeshi immigrant, lives in a council house in Stepney Green. She does odd jobs, but her husband is frequently out of work and claims unemployment benefit. Being on low income, they also receive child benefit.

    Daughter No 4, perpetually ill with Crohn’s disease, which supposedly restricts her ability to bear any kind of stress. She is therefore unemployed for lengthy periods of time and has to take 2 holidays a year. She lives with her mom so doesn’t need to pay rent.

    Daughter No 5 lives in a one bedroom flat in a nice area in North London, which she is renting for £700 a month. She earns a cash salary of £1000 a month from her job in a real estate business owned by her boyfriend. However, she declares an income of only £300 a month from her job and claims £900 support for rental payment from the council on the basis of a false rental agreement. Thus she has a total income of 1200 a month, tax free, with no rent to pay! Not bad for a young single girl.

    Daughter No 6 is the only one not on any benefits and who has held a steady job as a hair dresser for many years now. However, she doesn’t have a rent to pay as she lives in her mom’s council house. No wonder then that she can afford to own a car.

    The last is a Son, about 16, who dropped out of school. He does odd jobs and claims unemployment benefits in between. Ofcourse he doesn’t have to worry about rent as he lives in his mom’s council house.

    And despite being a highly educated professional myself, paying income tax at the highest rate, I’m unable to afford within a reasonable commuting distance from my job in London. I can’t afford a car either as I have a big rent to pay each month. My wife hasn’t been able to find a job since the recession, but she doesn’t get any income support as I have job.

    This could’ve only happened in the 13 years of a Labour govt. Well done Labour!

  • Megan

    Alastair, I have voted Tory all my adult life despite coming from a socialist working class background. I know that in your viscerally tribal mind-set that makes me a traitor & someone not to be trusted – but let me make a couple of observations that might be useful.

    1.People like Mandelson, Whelan, McBride and, I’m sorry to say, you put decent people off Labour.You all come across as bullying, aggressive and disingenuous and are not helpful to your party.

    2.As someone has already remarked, you seem rather graceless in your reaction to Labour being out of office. Nobody likes a sore loser – it’s not attractive.

    3.I genuinely feel that putting Lord Mandelson up as the public/media face fronting the campaign was a big mistake. I’m sure he is a great organiser & strategist, but his place is behind the scenes.

    4. It seems rather hypocritical to complain that the press supported the Tories when you didn’t complain about their support of your party for the last few years.

    I could go on, but I think I’ve probably said enough.There are many Labour party politicians that I admire including Hilary Benn, Tom Harris, Charles Clarke & Alan Johnson. I think it’s healthy for our democracy to have a strong opposition with a broad church of ideas. With that in mind, I hope you all cast an honest and critical eye over what went wrong and come back a renewed and stronger party.

  • WahJnr

    Megan, this is obviously an issue but what has the family being Bangladeshi go to do with anything?

    There will be always people taking personal advantage of any system but I prefer the poor to be the takers rather than the rich because by trying to help the poor, society is better balanced. The riches gained by this East End family are but a tiny scratch on the surface of tax avoiders such as Ashcroft and bankers who sold CDO’s, CDS and dodgy derivatives to the pension funds.

    Be careful of using race to make a point and think about a reactionary view of the world given you are a higher rate taxpayer.

    The progressive left has done wonders but have undoubtably left a huge gap in the economy that needs dealing with. But Labour’s instincts to focus helping the poor instead of appeasing higher rate tax payers will always be just.

    I too am a higher rate taxpayer and very happy to pay my bit to help promote a more balanced society despite the fact some will go to the wrong people.

  • Stuart

    It’s time for Labour to renew itself, quite frankly. A tired bunch being led by tired Spin Kings.

    Your recent blog entry reads like nothing more than a jealous rant and completely ignores the compromises that have been reached by this coalition.

    As a few examples, which you have singularly failed to reference: adoption of the LibDem policy on raising the income tax allowance to £10,000; dropping the increase in the inheritance tax allowance; reducing the impact of the Labour job tax.

    Labour activists are self proclaimed progressives. Self praise is no praise.

  • Billy Blofeld

    “As he reeled off the list of Labour achievements”

    I think the big wheel opposite parliament is fantastic.

  • Alexei Davies

    Alistair always voted LABOUR, so a sickening chill went down my spin seeing Cameron in no 10. How i wish we had you or someone like you to take on the right wing media both print & broadcast, that i think was the key. Even after 13 yrs we would have still won. But life goes on and we will rise again. For me this has energised me and will now register as a member, become an activist in my Borough of Bromley, recruit some of my libdem friends. The struggle continues. GOD LUCK AND ALL THE BEST TO GORDON THE BRAVE HEART BROWN. The value of a tree is never known until it has been cut down

  • craig thomas

    I must put Graham right on ‘dumbing down of exam standards’ under Labour.

    I’ve just begun coaching A level students after leaving the teaching profession in 2005. The nation’s 16-18 year olds are now following new A level syllabus’s (which began in 2008) where exam papers at the end of the first year are more rigorous, i.e. difficult, than those under Curriculm 2000. So I make that a toughening of standards. And indeed, the students have it all on to show deep knowledge and understanding of their subject in too short a time. The only mistake here is for the last Education Secretary to have sanctioned a return to a style of essay questioning that has been in place since Victorian times. Hence me picking up floundering students who aren’t taught how to write and having to teach them, not History and Gov Pol content but essay techniques. And also to have exam length too short.

    Which is what you want, isn’t it, Graham? A tougher system. Well, it’s there.

    It’s also the case that during the last decade the A level Maths syllabuses were considerably tightened up, ‘i.e. made more difficult.’ It’s also the case that languages at A level remain very difficult; it’s harder for language students to reach the highest grades than in any other subject area except Physics. My wife is a head of languages in a school in Derbyshire so I know this to be true.

    This is a subject, Graham, where you’ve got your information from the Tory press who spent the entire New Labour governing period sneering malodourously at the achievements of pupils who were working harder and being taught by teachers who worked harder than ever before.

    Thus, you know nothing about this subject, so why don’t you stick to areas where you have some real knowledge and expertise.

    Oh, and by the way, the education system was a train wreck after 18 years of Tory government. On the whole, Labour did a truly splendid job in solving its problems. This is why Cameron’s ‘Broken Britain’ was an insult to Britain’s public services and to those who work in them.

  • craig thomas

    I meant, of course, ‘Graeme.’

  • John

    Megan, you write as if to one only needs to disagree with right wing views at the time of a right wing victory, in order to be deemed a “sore looser”.

  • Peter Robertson

    Interesting times. I beleive that this is a great opportunity for Labour to regroup and come back stronger. Given the circumstances of the last few years I think it’s a remarkable achievement that Labour wasn’t given a severe good hiding at the polls and instead escaped with a bloody nose. My worst fear was that some sort of rainbow alliance would be established, something that the country would never have forgiven Labour for.

    It’s time for the modernisers within the party to regain the the initiative make Labour a truly progressive pary. dare I say it? I think the momentum was lost towards the end of TBs reign and as a party it took a bit of a backwards step under GB.

    For my money I would like to see David Milliband become leader, but only after proving himself during a real leadership contest. It’s a real possibilty that, when it starts to come apart at the edges for the present odd allaiance in number 10, there could be a unique oportunity for Labour to regain power in a very short space of time.

    Lets hope it’s ready!

  • Evan

    Alistair, hello from Australia!
    I thought you completely wiped the floor with Adam Boulton! No doubt he and the other Murdoch Conservative media hacks are still wetting themselves with orgasmic excitement over the dawn of the new Cameron/Clegg era!
    The Lib Dems have signed their own death warrant, and they’ll be destroyed at the next election. Not that I was surprised Clegg got into bed with Cameron, because I always thought he was a closet Tory.
    A very dignified exit from Gordon, an unfairly maligned man! I wish him, Sarah and their two boys all the best for the future!
    I grieve more for my friends in the UK, who are now to face the full misery of a Conservative administration(forget the BS about the Lib Dems tempering the worst excesses of the right wing Tory nutters).
    Let’s hope Labour selects a great new leader, and soon, because I sense that the Cameron/Clegg marriage of convenience won’t last too long before the inevitable divorce!
    Alistair, love your work!

  • sharif moran

    Dear Alastair

    I am hugely disappointed with the Lib -Con coalition. It seems Clegg and Cameron are claiming to know what the electorate intended by voting for a hung parliament and that we all wanted this end result. The assumption that the Conservatives won more votes therefore the Liberal Democrats had to make a coalition with them is not an automatic one. In the end a coalition seems to have swallowed the Lib Dems whole with only a few concessions that will ultimately I fear amount to not very much, effectively leaving the Liberals with their hands tied behind their backs. And as for the next election, I’m wondering how the Lib Dems will disentangle themselves from Tory policy when electioneering starts. It seems to me that Cameron is now in a position to blame everything that goes wrong from now on either on us for not giving him a clear mandate or the Lib Dems for muddying their policies. And do you think Clegg will be able to justify sharing a bed Eric and Ernie style with a party who thinks nothing of making alliances in Europe with the homophobic far right? Not sure the love-in’s going to last long…

  • Patrick Hanlon

    Alastair, well done with Bolton he lost it!! I think we should take our time over the leadership and look into how we can beat the coalition, I think a new name should be put into the short list just to give us a choice, how about Tristram Hunt MP for Stoke-on-Trent or Bridget Phillison MP for Houghton and Sunderland South?

  • Graham Jones

    What has become crystal clear, is that we are now being governed by two desperate parties. Both were prepared to do a deal, no matter what. Two public school boys, desperate for power, that they feel entitled to. Cameron has had a lust for power since Eton, the wrong sort to wield it safely, and Clegg can.t believe his luck, at the chance of a title. How he’ll fair, as minority-dave’s dog’s body, I have no idea. He’s probably had hands-on experience of the roll, as a well groomed fag at Westminster school.
    Let’s be real here, the Lib-dems are finished. They have no currency left, with either their party members, or the people who voted for them. They will be wiped in the Scottish election, and certainly at the next election.
    Power can be extremely seductive, and can corrupt. It appears to have worked its potency, extremely quickly with the Lib -dems. They can’t duck-out of the mistakes they are about to make – THEY ARE ALL TORIES NOW.

  • Andrew Fyffe

    Excellent blog,

    Cameron and Clegg look like Trinny and Sussanah in the silly press conference.

  • Paul stott

    Not some one who sends messages like this as a rule
    but felt i had to comment on the sky news thing with
    Adam boulton . Did he have that coming well done
    alastair, the calmer you were the more wound up he got
    great! I thought i was the only one who saw the bias
    from Boulton and co in the election . I thought they
    lost a lot of creditabilty .

  • J Smith

    I have seen my children able to work under the tax credid system and my grandchildren flourish with the sure start programe. I have seen my whole area regenerated throught the local area partnerships and now the local area agreements. All this down to Gordon Brown and the labour party. I wish good luck to him and hope the labour party soon elects a new leader and gets behind him or her so tha they can soon be in government again. The conservative lib dem allience will not last and after all the cuts the public will not want to vote for them again. J Smith

  • Megan

    @John – I accept that Alastair can express a distaste for right wing views without being a sore loser. However, having seen his attitude in various media interviews since May 6th, he seems unable to accept that although they did not get a Parliamentary majority, the Tories outperformed Labour both in terms of increased number of seats and share of the vote. He keeps insisting that no party won. Technically speaking, that may be correct. However, if the public were telling the Conservatives by the way they voted that they did not want them to have an overall majority, then it should also be accepted that they were also telling Labour they no longer wanted them in government. Alastair seems to be in denial about this and that makes him a bad loser in my mind. Further evidence of this can be seen in his efforts with Mandelson to cobble together this so-called rainbow alliance of losers. Apart from it not being viable in terms of numbers & stability, I think most of the electorate would have viewed it as highly undemocratic & an ungainly attempt to illegitimately cling to power.
    I make no bones about it, I did not rate Gordon Brown as Chancellor or PM. However, he conducted himself with far more grace than Alastair when he gave his resignation speech in front of No10. He didn’t resort to invective against the next party of government & that to me is a far more gracious way of behaving.

    @WahJnr – I think you’ve got the wrong person. I didn’t mention Bangladeshi in my post!

  • Stan Rosenthal

    Megan, one has every right to be “sore” about the election result when the losers will be the most vulnerable in our society.

    You say you are from a working class background and have voted Tory all your adult life. As such it seems to me that you are more concerned about your own welfare than the welfare of others.

    Methinks that you are so hard on Alastair because he may be pricking your conscience on this matter..

  • David

    You’re all in denial. The wish is father to the thought. As Harriet Harman said today, you need to be gracious. Graciousness is not a virtue readily associated with New Labour but it is one you had better start learning or the new politics might leave you floundering.

    To quote St.Tony – a new dawn ?

    Bye bye New Labour. Hello – what ?

  • David

    Early days of course but I would counsel you to adopt a more gracious approach to your resounding defeat. The longer you go on saying “the Tories didn’t win a majority”, the longer you’ll take to come to terms with the fact that, at least for a while, your views don’t count. Labour should remember 1979 and 1997 when the losing side in both cases stayed in denial for too long and as a result condemned themselves to opposition. Get used to your grief and move on. The first thing you guys could do is lose this “CONDEMNATION” thing. A very good example of an in-joke put about by a clique; you won’t reach outside the clique by carrying on like that.

    Alternatively, you can rage against the dying of the light – I shall enjoy watching that.

  • John Clayton

    Why the stuff about Murdoch? Everybody knows Labour were courting him in the Blair era, so why the double standards? Isn’t that the ‘old politics’ people are so bored of?

  • Pennington Splash

    Look, let’s be realistic. Nobody thought the rainbow alliance would work and the PLP wouldn’t have agreed without much dirty laundry getting aired anyway……. but that is by the by.

    Gordon’s 1st announcement to stand down as leader was a true masterstroke of timing and tactics. It forced the Lib Dem’s to be seen to be negotiating with Labour. Ashdown, Menzies Campbell and others would no way have allowed slip a chance to at least talk to Labour formally. Labour (at this stage) offered nothing more than the manifesto, as I would expect. Simultaneously these ‘talks’ with Labour put the wind up the Tories SO much that backbenchers start to mutter to the press about “grubby” and “devious” blah, blah etc etc….and their negotiators offer even more huge concessions to Clegg. So the Labour party has in fact ensured that maximum damage limitation has been applied to the Tory manifesto without ever believing there was going to be any other result than a Lib Con agreement of some description from the off. I wouldn’t mind betting Mandy or Alastair came up with this. Excellent work I say.

  • anna

    Have just joined the Labour Party….had to do something.

  • Alan Quinn

    Alastair, have you ever been an angler? You certainly landed a fat carp the other day after he took the bait.

  • Graeme

    I must take issue with Craig re education standards which is, contrary to his little snipe, something I know a great deal about and am heavily involved in.

    I dont believe any of the Labour, Lib-Dem or Tory press, most of which have distinguished themselves with tripe and hyperbole this election so put that one to bed.

    1. The statement that the syllabus is “tougher” remains illusory. It is relative to our competitiors that you should focus on and not a discredited earlier system. We continue to fall down international league tables however you measure “education”.

    As Craig states, the increased essay element was a mistake by the Education Sec. I agree there are very different standards across subjects and this is influencing students choices adversely.

    2. A rising proportion of pupils can neither read, write or perform basic maths. All surveys back this up. They are being failed rather than failing. We all know teachers who are poor and should not be in the system- as evidenced by the need for external tutors- why should kids have to deal with that drawback as well as the elements of the subjects themselves- it should not be a lottery for them!

    Of course, there are some excellent bits of education to be proud of and cherish, as well as a majority of very devoted and enthusiastic people in our sector.

    The real shame to me is that those with money buy good education and opportunity, whilst the state system tries hard but delivers in a patchy way. Not least among the problems are that so much time is lost to indiscipline problems that children are often “swimming against the tide”. Parents also need to shape up and assist the schools.

    Employers complain about standards, studies show they continue to fall at the lower end and even kids know that the per cents getting grade A for example are laughably inflated. Until this profession stops its self-delusion and raises its game our relative fall, which is my main point, will continue to our childrens, great cost.

  • Jim White

    I think you’ve just seen something really progressive happen (admittedly borne out of necessity). It didn’t come from our side. Whether it works only time – and the wind of events – will tell.

    This coalition not only blends left and right, it now occupies the whole of the centre. Sound familiar? That leaves Labour with two options: A) move to the left or B) mimic. The former renders us unelectable and the latter leaves us without credibility – and therefore unelectable. But it’s likely – sadly – that we’ll react by taking option A) regardless and put ourselves well and truly in the hurt locker. For a long, long time.

    If this coalition works – and it’s a Big If – we may all just have seen the birth of the Liberal Conservative Party. For us, that ultimately and inevitably means accepting an outrush of purist left wing LibDem refugees that will further entrench an electorally unattractive, left-of-the-dial position at Victoria Street. In that lies our electoral doom.

    We have more than a repair job to do. We need to knock it all down, clear out the rubble, exorcise the foundations and salt the earth – then start afresh. It’s a bigger job that even TB managed. The question is, does the Party have the bottle – and the people – to do it? Because I’ll tell you something for free, we’re out for a minimum of two parliaments, possibly three – that’s the scale of problem we now have. When the numbness wears off, I think a lot of other people will realise it too.

  • craig thomas

    Where do you get this ‘continuing to fall down league tables’ stuff from? Don’t be selective with stats. It wasn’t long ago that in the time of the Blair govnt the UK rose to a very,,very high position in international tables. 4th, wasn’t it? As I understand it we had – around the early 2000s, I think – German educationalists or politicians involved in education coming over here to find out what we were doing right.

    I’ll have to find some stats on literacy online, but I’ll be utterly amazed if I find that all the money that has gone into primary education since 1997 has meant rising illiteracy. I think you must have got yours from the Adam Smith Institute or the Satanists for a Huge Increase in Grammar Schools Society. By the way, I wouldn’t hang a dog on the opinion of any employers’ group about education. There’s also a lot of snobbery about the modern product of the education system. Though there are real problems with Sixth formers coming through with an alarming level of ignorance about culture, politics and geography, but they have skills which my generation (leaving in the mid-70s) never had. They can actually problem solve and oh, no! DO THINGS. A society which measures the success of its education by the level of accuracy of spelling is one that needs to come out of the nineteen-fifties and into the modern world.

    Next. The major reason why more kids are getting more A grades is because more effort and thought is put into studying and teaching than ever before. Teachers are pressurised to work long hours thrashing their kids through the system. More kids now are desperate to succeed. You cannot turn around and rubbish the whole system (in particular in your case, make a claim about dumbing down) just because schools, teachers and pupils find ways of succeeding. To say or even suggest that exam boards are waving through loads of mediocre students with A and B grades in their grubby hands is just pure ignorance.

    You might say you’re not influenced by the press: then you’re an exception. The attacks on so-called grade inflation by the right-wing press have been hysterical, driven by their mad obsession to discredit the comprehensive system and laud grammar and private schools.

    Back to the real rub. The tremendous improvements in education between 1997 and 2010, statistically, are impossible to deny. I worked in the secondary education system, the comprehensive system, through the Thatcher, Major and Blair years and I’m right. Any deniers of this truth are either Tories, Labour-hating Lib-Dems or some other kind of fanatics. Are you a teacher? Did you teach during the same period? If you were and did, you must have gone through it with your eyes shut and your brain switched off.

    That is not to say that there haven’t been educational policies that I disagree with; there have. But glib statements about a massive sector of state work/action like the ones you’re making are simply bang out of order if we’re trying to have an intelligent discussion here.

    What in fact are you saying: that you want to go back to the 70s (and earlier) when the secondary education system was designed to purposefully fail 60-80% of school pupils? I went to a grammar school where its exam results at O and A level were pathetic. The curriculum was boring, the staff were boring and the work ethic was at a risible level compared with today’s ultra-motivated generation.

    Funny how the media only gives us the bad news stories. Oh, and that would be the right wing media.

    What were saying about that, Alastair?

  • craig thomas

    I’ve had a look at a bunch of websites online and I can find no evidence whatsoever of declining literacy. There was a fall in Y9 % grades in English from 74% to 73%, from one year to the next which of course means nothing.

    I should have mentioned in my last post the absolutely MASSIVE drop in the number of failing schools during the New Labour years by OfSted. I suppose Alastair fixed those, did he?

    Hope you’re as happy in a year’s time with the New Tories as you are now.

  • Steve Campbell

    Yes Minister and its sequel Yes Prime Minister portrayed the senior civil servants as holding the whip hand over the political advisers when it came to influencing politicians’ decision making. To what extent do you feel you reversed this trend and did it lead to friction between yourself and the real life “Sir Humprhey”s.

  • craig thomas

    For Graeme

    “According to an international survey testing the mathematics performance of ten year olds, England was the highest placed European Union country in 2007 and has continued to improve over time.”

    “At school level, many more primary schools in England are now meeting or exceeding the Department’s minimum expectation that at least 65% of their pupils achieve the expected standard in mathematics at Key Stage 2. In 2008, 1,648 schools were deemed to be underperforming in mathematics compared with 3,570 in 2003, which represents a reduction of 54%.”

    From Public Accounts Committee Report on Standards in Primary School Maths 2008-9

    Clear proof, Graeme, that Maths standards in Primary Schools improved marketedly under Labour. Go online and find the line graph on page 9 (in the attainment section). Very striking.

    So you can appease your ballot box choice with the belief that in terms of education, the Labour government failed, but it’s fiction, I’m afraid.


  • martin

    Harman said graciuos, well thats not been labours tack for the last13 years,bully/bully. anyone in their way and they were bullied,scientists/old lady in hospital, hecklers at a conference,we now need to calm down and be human again with some decency.

  • Shelley

    After watching the Tories enter No 10 I immediately signed up as a member of the Labour and since doing so I have enlisted seven others. The fight does indeed continue.