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Time for all the Labour contenders to pile in

Posted on 21 June 2010 | 12:06pm

When John Major put himself up for re-election as Tory leader, whilst still a serving PM, it was on one hand an act of desperation, but on the other a chance for him and his Party to show they had a bit of fight left in them.

As Prelude to Power records, TB and I were a little alarmed by the extent to which we were suddenly written out of the main political script, and how the various Tory factions fought for attention, not least by showing which could best attack us.

Today’s political situation is different, with a new coalition government in power, and Labour’s leadership election taking place from Opposition. But the leadership contenders need to take a leaf from the Tory book of a decade and a half ago.

Because among the judgements Labour members need to make is who is best at attacking the Tories. Yes, the positive forward agenda for Labour is important. But in opposition, you need a strong and credible critique of the government.

So tomorrow, when George Osborne puts the fragile recovery at risk with his ideological onslaught on public services, by pretending the economy is worse than it is, and using the quisling Lib Dems as political cover, it will be up to acting leader Harriet Harman and shadow chancellor Alistair Darling to lead the Labour response.

But it is also important that the David and Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott pile in, and do so with real impact. Not just as a way of highlighting the risk Osborne and Co pose, but as a way of showing party and country what they have by way of argument, strategy and fight.

It is harder to get heard in Opposition. But all of them have to rise to the challenge of showing they can analyse a complex situation, mount an argument about it, and make sure it cuts through to the public. On how they fare in that, a lot will depend.

*** Buy Prelude to Power here at Amazon.

  • Richard Burnell

    “QUISLING:- A traitor who serves as the puppet of the enemy occupying his or her country.”

    Your loose use of language is disgusting, and you should be ashamed.

    You should grow up and respect that others may disagree with your views and aspirations. The electorate kicked your Government out: YOU LOST.

    Accumulated debt will soon be £1.4 trillion, Alastair: get that into your head and stop your vile, ignorant rubishing of those who have the job of turning round the fortunes of the Country, after 13 years of your care and attention.

  • Badlydrawnboyo

    Or, in shorthand, vote Balls.

  • Cassandra

    I would like to see the leadership contenders coming up with new ideas rather than either distancing from the past (the Eds) or defending the past (David and Andy) or talking nonsense (Diane). I agree that attacking opponents is part of it but this ideas part of the debate is what it needs most

  • Jane

    I am not so sure about this form of attack. We are all aware of the massive debt the country faces and the need to bring it under control. So far in the debate only David Miliband has acknowledged the difficulties and offered a rational argument as to what should be done. Everyone else attacks and it is not going down well in my neck of the woods. The response to the unfunded projects is an example of how not to behave. It should have been asked what support the government is providing to those in need of capital such as Sheffield Forgemasters. There will be little sympathy for anyone who just attacks without providing an alternate to what is proposed. John Prescott was at it yesterday again even though sosme years ago he acknowledged that pensions were a matter of urgency for the government.

    I am not getting a clear message at the present time. All I am hearing are gripes and I am getting tired of it all. We should never have permitted a 15 week leadership campaign.

    Anyway, I love having a coalition government. I look forward to the referendum as I believe the country comes first before tribal politics.

  • TomTuxworth

    Any chance of a few less plugs about your books? Your insight is interesting, but the sales pitches are less so.

  • Ned Clarke

    Alastair, it may be useful for you and the rest of your Party to understand that Monetary Theory is imprecise at best. Policy cannot be changed with a scalpel, only a sledge hammer, sadly. I would remind you that according to all the respected theorists Roosevelt was completely wrong in 1936 and yet what should have plunged the US into an even worse slump actually acted as a stimulus.

    With regard to today’s blog; whilst I always know that I will disagree with you I always enjoy reading your work. I thought, however, that you’d got past red top journalism and moved on to respected lobbyist. Today I was wrong.

  • Jacquie R

    Richard Burnell

    I think the word “quisling” is a very apt description of those Lib Dem MPs who have signed up to the opposite of what they proclaimed a few weeks before. They may kid themselves otherwise but, in the hearts, they know they have betrayed their principles.

    And why shouldn’t Alastair or anyone question and criticise the government? We don’t live in a dictatorship.

    As to the country’s debt, well some of the world’s leading economists both question the wisdom of Osoborne’s policies and support Labour’s strategy for dealing with it. Moreover, many experts agree that Osborne is taking a huge gamble. The truth is, no one has a crystal ball.

  • Nick

    I spoke to two senior political journalists from left leaning papers last week, both of whom Campbell would be very familiar with. They were both scathing about the quality of the Miliband brothers -“wont be able to land a glove on him” was just one comment about their potential effectiveness against David Cameron. They also both commented on the chances that Ed Balls will come a poor third in this election, and that were he to win the contest, he would sink Labour to depths of unelectibility that even Foot, Kinnock and Brown would have been proud of.

    The sub text of Campbell’s original post is simple-frustration. As my jouno colleagues both said, David Cameron has taken to the Premiership like a duck to water. The Liberals won’t risk the coalition for at least four years (see Clegg’s treatment of Simon Hughes Shadow Cabinet idea) for fear of losing votes to Labour before the recovery is fully embedded in 2014/15.

    Labour is doomed to the hard grind of 4/5 years of irrelevance and hard toil in opposition. Campbell’s thread suggests that he has yet to come to terms with that fact.

  • olli issakainen

    David Miliband has said that New Labour is finished. New Labour worked well for ten years but as John Denham wrote in the Guardian, New Labour´s model of state action plus free market is broken. Neoliberalism has failed and “there´s no money left”.
    New Labour was a response to what happened in the 1980s. It was also a response to some core social and economic trends. Its aims were social justice and decent public services.
    New Labour reorganised society around the imperative of the free market. It inserted market mechanism into the NHS and the schooling system.
    New Labour was not based on social democracy. John Gray has classified Tony Blair as a neoconservative.
    New Labour encouraged the financial sector and the financialisation of economy. New Labour believed in neoliberalism.
    But the neoliberal paradigm was based on a double fallacy of self-regulating market and rational economic actor. It was based on belief in perfect information, perfect competition and perfect risk markets.
    But in reality markets had limitations. Information is always incomplete. So neoliberalism was not based on solid empirical or theoretical foundation!
    After the so-called “dotcom bubble” burst Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates. This caused the housing bubble which in turn fed the subprime bubble. Then the US authorities let Lehman Brothers to collapse – a mistake. And the rest is, as they say, history.
    Neoliberalism has caused inequality, unemployment and diminished output. And debt to governments which had to bail out the banks.
    In the end private greed of hedge funds and investment banks did not benefit public.
    So, what next for the Labour party?
    After the worldwide recession we need a wholesale review of system and values. New capitalism must be based on fairness.
    Labour must change. Labour must ask why it is no longer considered to be the party of the poor. A new, green economic model must replace the old finance sector based one.
    We need ethos of care and service instead of competition and managerialism. Public sector must work in alliance with voluntary and charitable sector. Smaller state is not an answer.
    Labour must emphasize civil society again. Decent behaviour and responsibility are important.
    Labour must position itself as a centre-left progressive alternative instead of opting for the already crowded centre ground. Idealism should be back after the post-ideological and post-ethical age.
    We need new aims, values and ideas. Labour must make a radical shift to new fairness agenda.
    We are on the brink of a new era. Selfish decades are over.
    We need a new and improved social democrat formula for reconciling social justice with economic efficiency.
    Much of politics is now moving towards social democratic direction. Labour must once more be a party of social democracy. Labour must choose a path between ultra-free market capitalism and illiberal anti-capitalism.

  • Caroline

    “You should grow up and respect that others may disagree with your views and aspirations”.

    Richard Burnell you are priceless. Perhaps you should take your own advice. Or are you saying that those who don’t agree with your own views and aspirations do not have the same rights? And we have to marvel at the depth of the intellect of the sort of person who goes to the trouble of finding someone’s personal blog, not to debate or bring any kind of coherent argument against the views opposite to his he is decrying, but launch a personal attack.

    What was that word again? Oh yeah. Hypocrite.

  • Jan Rees

    Couldn’t have put it more succinctly myself. I wonder how many people is Sheffield would take exception to the use of “quisling” in relation to Clegg and co?

    Totally agree on the need for strong response tomorrow for all the reasons you have stated.

  • Brian Hughes

    I disagree. Most Labour members, and all the leadership candidates, would do better to keep quiet and let events unfold for a while.

    Harriet Harman and Alistair Darling are well qualified to point out the flaws in the Lib-Con strategy and to explain Labour’s current policy but no one wants to listen at the moment.

    With no elections other than the leadership contest on the horizon, the party has an opportunity for a spot of navel gazing whilst the media spotlight is largely elsewhere.

    As well as clarifying their own political philosophies, the candidates could usefully explain how they would mend the party’s campaigning machine which, until quite recently, was so effective but is now, at least in the south, horribly broken…

  • Simon

    It would be great to see not just the end of New Labour but the end of the Labour Party. We do need an effective opposition and as Labour now have no integrity or ideas it is time for this failed party to fade away and let other people who care for this country and not just for themselves to be given a fair chance.

  • Andrew Baker

    Ref: Your post “Time for all the Labour contenders to pile in”
    Apart from whats good for Labour is what is required urgently by the country in exosing ideological opportunism that will be exploited by the budget. So far this Monday morning I have heard from 12 people who I know who have lost their jobs in West Sussex as a result of cutbacks so far. These are people who work in services to the elderly, mental health and children with disabilities. These are not the profiles of people who benifited from the credit boom which has led us to this juncture and yet they are now paying the highest price.
    AS to myself I was made redundant at the turn of this year and have been busy trying to set up my own business in providing services to Children with disabilites. The money for this has now been cut and at the age of 55 I wonder how we are going to cope.
    A talking point for some and a real life issue for others who are ever growiing in number.

  • zeireen

    So tomorrow, when George Osborne puts the fragile recovery at risk with his ideological onslaught on public services, by pretending the economy is worse than it is, and using the quisling Lib Dems as political cover

    love this!

  • Pat Morgan

    If we slip back into recession we know who to blame – Gordon Brown.

    You are all on message at the moment – I’ll give you that.

    What comes across most of all is your jealousy of George Osborne.

    “Get a life and deal with it”.

  • steve brundish

    Alistair you are totally right. The Labour leadership must work as a team to defend the welfare state as the Tores have said this is a once in a generation opportunity to re organise public services and reduce the size of the state. This means post credit crunch public services will be trashed not cherished. The Labour party’s communications team needs to start getting the message over before its too late and the public start to accept the Tory spin as fact. Clearly cuts are going to hurt and Cameron was telling porkies when efficiency savings were the name of the game. Labour clealy have the polices to put the economy back on track they just need the message to be put across in a more professional way.

  • Gavin

    i have just worked out why david cameron bangs th desk in the house of commons, its so nick clegg knows when to nod

  • Graham Jones

    The Labour party have a real chance of gaining the hearts and minds of a disillusioned public tomorrow, and it’s also a gift to the leadership candidates to show they have the stomach, as well as the skills to take on the tories, and hold the coalition to account.
    The mission that George Osbourne has embarked on, is both fiscally and morally wrong. He has seriously miscalculated what his actions will do to the economy. We are living in an economic paradox, like we were in the 1930’s, where the instinct was to cut immediately; and we paid for it. Unemployment lines, soup kitchens, and the economic turmoil that laid the ground for a catastrophic world war, were some of the consequences.
    Of course, there were other significant reasons for the onslaught of the Second World War, but the calamity of the depression provided the conditions in Germany, that triggered the election of Hitler.
    The history books of the 1930’s tell us that the tories are set to lead us into oblivion, and the economic experts commissioned by Osbourne, also tell us that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling had stabilised the economy and returned it to growth, with a sound and fully costed programme for deficit reduction.
    These are the reasons that the Millibands, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott, must join with Harriet and AD, in dismantling the government spin machine tomorrow, because Labour were right and the tories were wrong. It’s the time for Labour to turn the house into El Alamein tomorrow, and wipe the floor with them – for all our sakes.

  • Janete

    Pat Morgan

    You totally misunderstand the motivation of Labour Party members and supporters. We have contempt for Osborne & co because of the damage they will do to the British people, especially those least able to defend themselves.

    I am amazed how many Tory supporters submit negative or downright abusive comments on this blog. It’s as though it’s more important to shout down left wing arguments than to get on and support their own cause in an appropriate forum.

    When Labour came to power in 1997, I didn’t need to seek out Tory supporters to shout at, because I was confident that we had the right programme and good years would follow.

    I get the distinct impression that those on the right who are still shouting, despite the election outcome, are really fearful that what we say about the ConDems will turn out to be true. Lib Dems among them may just be trying to suppress their own conscience.

  • Phil Bourne


    Great point!

    I have to say that I am a great believer in free speech… but Mr Burnell is certainly questioning my belief in the principle.

    ..and yes I do agree that this is the time for the contenders to ‘pile in’ However, I am concerned that they will pile in with rhetoric aimed at the labour members and union leaders who will decide their fate. I for one will vote for the contender who, in my view, forgoes the opportunity to electioneer (in their own personal sense) and takes the opportunity to gain common ground with the wider electorate – not least those liberal democrat and even conservative voters who must now be feeling a little uncomfortable!!

  • Pat Morgan

    Oh we are sensitive aren’t we.

    I haven’t got a “T” on my forehead saying I am a Tory. I believe in right and wrong.

    In 1997 I voted for Tony Blair. I didn’t vote for Gordon Brown so why did we end up with him.

    I really think that you have become bitter. New Labour is finished. We have seen the light and realised we have been lied to all these years.

    And as for Adam Boulton – all the Labour leadership candidates now agree with him. Labour lost the election. It’s a shame you couldn’t be more gracious in defeat.- get over it.

    And as for supporting the Tories and abusing you. I am a woman and we can multi-task.

    And as for posting on Labour blogs. You have set yourself up. Besides you post on enough Tory blogs.

    It’s true you are obviously very jealous of George Osborne. Else why wouldn’t you post my comments.

  • Valleysmam

    I think that there would be far more impact from a shot gun rather than a scatter gun approach. It has far more impact especially if it’s televised
    Precise and authoritative dissection accompanied by hard facts delivered with steely eye contact would be ideal
    Mandelson is great at that

  • alan

    For me Darling has been a star since the election a voice of reason that frankly at this moment in time I’m not hearing from the leadership candidates whoever wins that election has to get Darling back on board in the shadow cabinet and do so as their first act of taking power.

  • Rob

    I feel sorry for you Pat, it must be hard to admit you get your political education from the Daily Mail, must be hard to admit you know nothing other than what they tell you, but it’s ok, we will help you.

    Gordon Brown did not cause the recession, The recession was caused by the collapse of the Capitalist system. Now let me explain this to you. Capitalism works by continual highs and lows, it must do this. It needs war, crisis and most importantly booms. Thats the natural flow of capitalism on a world-wide scale. Every few years it has to reinvent itself, it’s how they keep the idiots following and how it keeps the wealthy wealthy. Now, this is a hard bit for those to understand who can’t look past the vile right wing spew the scum of the Daily MAil write, it was a world wide recession, world wide get it? Do you understand World Wide? IT was caused by the banking systems doing what they do best, rip of the customer (thats you) and make huge profits for their shareholders( I doubt that’s you) and for the top management who are all on share options.

    THey lend too much money, because debt creates wealth for them. Don’t be fooled by the notion they want people in credit, they don’t. It’s the debt that makes the money, your debt, countries debt and word wide debt.

    SO we had a world wide recession based on the collpase of the banks and due to the fact the big countries like the US and the smaller has-been countries like the UK don’t make anything anymore. We don’t have a manufacturing industry anymore, because (oh how spooky), the Tories destroyed it, wonder why that was Pat, on yes it was ideological. Ironically all the money assets the UK had, the Tories sold off to raise short term capital which they then give back to their mates in tax breaks. Are you following yet, your Tory cronies rip you off, they take money out of your had, out of your children’s mouth – and people like you lap it up, Feel stupid yet, you should do.

    Anyway so there we had a world wide recession. NOw unlike the notion put out with the lies, venom from the Tory scum like you, Gordon Brown actually managed to get us through it. WHat this country needs is slow growth and slow cuts, to keep the growth going. It not hard to explain but I make it simple. You take money off people they cant spend so much. Now we haer from the Cons that we are all in this together, whioch means exatly the opposiste. For example you take £10 off someone earning 50K a year it is a lot less of a problem than to the person losing £10 from the £86.50 per week they get in benefits and before you spout the get a job you lazy benefit scroungers straight out of the Daily Nazi there is only 1 job for every 5 unemployed, so perhaps we should create some jobs for them first instead what the the Condems have done is cut most of the job creating schemes. Were they perfect? No. But were they better than nothing. Yes. You see. you create jobs for the unemployed they have more money to spend. You cut their benefits they have less. It is very simple and its why these cuts are not financial but ideological. JUst ask the Economist magazine who said this Budget is a disaster, or how about the IMF who contrary to that lying scum Osbourne who said they supported his Budget plans actually said the proposed budget will be a disaster for the economy of the UK and the gradual recovery that is already taking place. THis budget will cause a double dip recession, which means the reccesion will be like it was in the 80’s WITHOUT any growth. What I really hope is this PAt. I really do hope you loose your job, your home and everything you have because a lot of good intelligent people are about to have that happen to them. They did nothing wrong, they are not politically stupid, they don’t get their political education from the Daily MAil or the Sun, the voted the only way and working person can vote if they use their brain and idiots like you who are selfish greedy and ignorant voted for them to loose their jobs and hopwfully your own jobs. I seriously hope that a lot of you Tories really suffer.

    I know you will just dismiss everything I have just said but thats cause you are stupid PAt, ignorant and a fool. But hey you can come on here and smugly write your crap showing to the rest of us what a fool you are. Have a great week, lets hope your P45 is on it’s way.

  • Nicky

    Quisling is an entirely appropriate word regarding the LibDems’ inversion of everything they said they believed in. Can’t they see how the Tories are cynically using them?

    Graham J: absolutely right that Osborne’s aims are both morally and fiscally wrong. That’s evidenced in what Andrew was saying about the shocking cutbacks in his area which affect the most vulnerable – the elderly, mentally ill and disabled children. And yet before the election, Cameron would get on his high horse and say how much he cared about the vulnerable. Indeed, because of his own son’s disability his family found (for the first time ever) that they actually had no choice but to rely on the NHS, social services and special needs education.

    I do feel a lot of sympathy for what he and his family went through, and can only hope that Cameron is mindful of what it was actually like to be dependent on these services and do something to protect them.

  • Brian Tomkinson

    I suppose you will never accept that your party left the country’s economy in a total mess. Your tribal attitude to politics is destructive and you clearly intend to create as much opposition to whatever the coalition government proposes purely as an act of spite against those who defeated you in the general election.

  • Chris lancashire

    I haven’t bothered visiting this blog for quite some time and this reminds me why. Osborne is PRETENDING the economy is worse than it is? Record defecit – structural and cyclical, public sector wages and pensions out of control, record numbers of people out of work and/or economically inactive. And that’s just for starters.

    What does it take for you to stop spinning and recognise reality?

  • Simon

    Where is Gordon Brown these days? Has he retired?

  • James


    Wow – that was class inspired rant. On the sauce til late brooding I take it.

    Diatribes aside, spending more than you earn and making up the short fall by printing money isn’t a good way to run the economy.

    Similarly making up the short fall by abolishing the lower rate of tax for those who earn the least doesn’t strike me as fair thing to do either. Still that’s just what your man Gordon did.

    Hopefully today we’ll see tax breaks for the poorest. It will be a nice change.



  • Nick

    @ Rob

    Thank you for that superb demonstration of why the Left is so morally and intellectually dishonest and bankrupt.

  • Caroline

    Just watching the lovely Nick on BBC parliament. Not sure why it’s DP questions as he has only answered every other question. He’s just said that he think’s he knows Sheffield Forgemasters than some on the opposition bench, which is rich really. However, on the DPs reform portfolio and the review of constituency sizes. Here in Sheffield, we can confirm that we are very happy to look at the sizes of constituencies, with a view to reducing them by the number of 1, as long as we are consulted as to the boundaries
    John Bercow chastises the house for heckling the Dep PM and says that the public will not like to see this behavior – he’s wrong the people of Sheffield are loving it!