Why am I not surprised that Labour now has no lead over the Conservatives? In ordinary times the left might expect considerable advantage at a point where the ConDem coalition is patently under strain, ill-considered changes to the NHS are headlines on a daily basis, and joblessness continues to rise, alarmingly, along with inflation. But public indifference is evident, and few people have caught on that the Conservative’s agenda is actually degovernance – effectively the destruction as rapidly as possible of most aspects of the state.
This is dire. Now is not the time for Labour to concentrate on looking inwards. There are desperately urgent tasks to be accomplished – such as stopping the destruction of state social and health provision and much else, before it’s too late.
Yes, of course the party must strive constantly to keep its policies up to the ever-changing mark. And yes of course there must be consistent efforts to include new and enthusiastic members along with the old hands. These things should happen routinely, regardless. They don’t require special initiatives; they must be standard practice anyway.
But the Labour leadership’s eyes seem to be off the ball.
Ed Miliband and his team must wake up to this reality:
the Tories are entirely content to present unworkable policies, as long as they have a clear run at securing degovernance.
Most Conservatives don’t know much, at least experientially on the ground, about social policy matters, and they also don’t much consider (unless really awkward presentational issues arise) whether these policies will work in the longer term. They just want the state off their backs; and they want to achieve this before anyone can stop them.
Playing the complicated policy game at the moment is also playing the very game the Tories want Labour to play.
It’s sometimes called ‘fiddling whilst Rome burns’; it’s diversionary tactics on the Conservative’s part; and Labour , encouraged by the media, getting bogged down to the exclusion of the bigger picture in these (literally) meaningless policy proposals is exactly what the Tories hope will happen.
Labour at the top needs to grasp what’s going on and urgently to demonstrate pride – of course in addition to analysis of lessons learned – in the many things Labour delivered during its decade holding office.
That’s the real bigger picture, and not to see this is a senseless and demoralising rejection of what many Labour members worked so hard to achieve.
And Labour must also as a matter of urgency go steadfastly on the attack. This is not a matter of posturing. It’s a matter of fighting for the essence of what’s equitable and decent about British society.
The Tories want unrestrained laissez-faire in their own interest and they are determined to secure it, soon. In response Ed Miliband and Labour must show genuine leadership right now in fierce defence of what’s really fair, for everyone.
Of course Labour must be reviewing policies, acknowledging changed economic and demographic circumstances, and revisiting matters of governance; but that’s all backroom stuff.
And along with this backroom activity, always, should be the requirement too to rally the troops, to make accentuate the positive in the many things that Labour has achieved, as well as those it has not.
If the current Labour leadership wants loyalty from its long-time, steadfast members, that loyalty must be returned by proper acknowledgement of the huge amount of unsung, unpaid effort which Labour supporters on the ground have put in over many years to securing a better NHS, a fairer deal for children and their parents, a change in perceptions on climate change, and much else. Balance please; not many of us want to be told repeatedly what we got wrong, and almost never anything about what we got right.
But, most importantly of all, what’s absolutely essential right now is focused, intense, unremitting fire-fighting, before the Tory right completes its long-yearned-for scorched earth campaign. If that ambition were achieved, all else would become irrelevant.
Ed, let’s please just get on with it. As grown ups all know, neither life nor politics is a rehearsal.