We need to stop using the word ‘progressive’

george-osborne-bullingdonThe vocabulary of the Labour moderniser is narrow and confusing. To start with there’s the word “moderniser” itself, denoting members of a kind of desperate tribute band to the original mid-nineties New Labour gaggle. “Reform” is another favourite – it’s a polite word for “destruction”, or at the very least wholesale privatisation. Welfare “reform”; public sector “reform”; student finance “reform”: to “reform” something, in Westminster slang, is to pound it into a smoking mound and then sell its parts as scrap.

It’s a fool’s errand trying to stay on top of all of these verbal weeds in our political garden. But I do make one exception – there is one weed so pervasive, so threatening to the garden’s diversity and vitality, that it must be uprooted at any cost in time or effort. The word “progressive” should cease to be used at all future Labour Party events. Continue reading

Blair’s covert party machine and culture of manipulation to be exposed in new book

Blair SupremacyLast year a book was published – Power Trip A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin which promised to reveal “the personal feuds, political plots, and media manipulation which lay at New Labour’s core“. It would be, promised its publishers, “a fascinating, funny, and at times shocking account of how government really works“. At the end of this month, a book is to be published which makes a similar promise, though about the party machine at New Labour’s core, rather than the government machine, and it is likely to reflect badly on Blair rather than Brown.

Unlike Power Trip, however, The Blair Supremacy is written not by a discredited spin doctor but by an esteemed academic, Lewis Minkin, Visiting Honorary Professor in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds. He is the author of two seminal works on Labour party organisation, The Contentious Alliance (the definitive study of the relationship between the trade unions and the Labour Party) and The Labour Party Conference (the definitive study of Labour’s intra-party democracy prior to the changes of the early 1980s). Continue reading

Obama could yet make New Labour’s mistake

MOST liberal post-mortems of the US presidential contest have been pretty upbeat; many comfortingly assert that the Republicans can never win again.

The GOP is said to be irretrievably out of sync with the new America of openly lesbian senators, women who know their bodies cannot shut down rape pregnancies, and ever-increasing numbers of Latinos with no plans to ‘self-deport’ any time soon. Continue reading

Scotland: at least Labour could oppose independence independently

In a part of Britain in which the population still gets overly excited about the ideological alignments of its football clubs, the British flag is not just a neutral patriotic symbol.

Thirteen-year-old Lee Heron was earlier this year sent home from his high school in Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, for wearing a Union Jack T-shirt his mum had bought him at Primark. This attire, his teacher deemed, was likely to inflame sectarian tension among the pupils. Continue reading

The Wilderness Years

If you haven’t seen The Wilderness Years, a BBC series of four hour-long documentaries broadcast in 1995,  it’s well worth watching – and you can by following the links below. Documenting the period of Labour’s history from losing the 1979 election to the election of Blair as Labour’s Leader, it relies entirely on archive footage alongside in-depth interviews with those most closely involved in the events, a format which really does allow the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Continue reading