Monday, 24 May 2010

Labour’s Own Form Of Fertility Treatment

[with apologies to the Lamb family, but the metaphor was too good to pass up]

Nu Labour (or whatever it will now be rebranding itself as in order to make itself re-electable) is currently undergoing a modest bout of soul searching, catharsis-lite if you like, in the form of an emergency bout of fertility treatment, which has thrown up its own set of sextuplets. And a very rum bunch they are. The four ex-party researchers and policy wonks [1] are more or less to be expected - the identical quadruplets of the bunch; but then there are the two odd mutants - the runts of the litter, a regressive recessive cross that has thrown up Old Labour genes.[2]

However, this is not destined to be a normal full-term pregnancy, this is some Alien version with a fast-track gestation lasting only four months; where only one bright shiny new leader will be revealed to the doting parents come the party conference, for the new leader will have devoured the other five siblings in a fight to the (political) death – no doubt the announcement of the death of some of the candidates will prove premature and they will potentially fight to live another day, even if they do so in the zombie-like state that Brown was left in after he failed to beat off first Blair and then, much later, Dave.

So who do we have to thank for this strange litter? Blair and Mandelson [3] certainly: they are mainly responsible for introducing Alien DNA into the Labour gene pool to try and breed some new super ‘fit’ Party capable of occupying the middle ground in politics and usher in their own version of the Thousand Year Reich. Yet it is the Dave and Nick show that is the real initiator [4] of this pregnancy, that and the fact that the family patriarch left home and thus a quick course of artificial insemination was the only option available to birth a new party leader.

And just as the new Tory-Whig coalition, this Lib-Con chimera, is largely responsible for Nu Labour being ‘up the duff’, when the new Labour leader springs Athena-like fully formed from the head of the National Executive Committee-organised election,[5] he will arrive with his own massive Oedipal complex already in place, ready to take on the Dynamic Duo in political combat. Unfortunately, this Oedipal complex could also result in some very nasty consequences for us all.

To further labour our metaphors - we already know the genotype of the potential new leader, the possible political genes that will make up him (or, very unlikely, her). What we don’t know however is how those genes will combine and interact with the political environment to produce the new leadership phenotype. Already, the foetal monitors have been picking up the sounds of electoral recriminations and potential future posturing: over the Iraq war; over not ‘listening’ to the voters; over ‘civil liberties’; over Nu Labour reconnecting with Old Labour’s ‘core values’ (whatever they were).

Thus, we have had the less than enlightening sight of the two Mr Eds talking about the ‘lack of trust’ in Nu Labour over the Iraq war, bemoaning how spin was used to take the country to war. Whatever next? Promising to abandon spin altogether just like Dave and Nick had promised to but singularly failed to do so since being joined in politically expedient bliss. We have also had Ed Miliband bizarrely talking about getting back to the essence of Beveridge and (slightly paraphrasing him) reintroducing a contribution-based welfare system where the middle classes could receive state aid without the need for those nasty discriminatory means tests. Hasn’t he heard? The country is sort of on its uppers and there’s ‘no money left’. It has also long since reneged on the ideal of universal benefits, with even a means-tested benefit such as the state pension (which pre-dates Beveridge) having long since lost its linkage to average earnings in order to save money (a Thatcher legacy). So how he intends to roll out benefits to everyone in the face or the proposed swingeing deficit-induced cutbacks, short of cutting back even more of the meagre welfare provision still available to the poorest in society, is anyone’s guess (shades of Blond’s inane ‘big society’ non-idea?).

Ed Miliband also had a bit of a rant about the need to get away from Nu Labour ‘orthodoxies’, just as they did from Old Labour ones. Really? Then why are he and his fellow apparatchiks still banging on about the ‘need to be tough on immigration and tough on the means of immigration’ [but note, not tough on the causes of (im)migration]? Andy Burnham, for example, seems to be labouring under the delusion that immigration, which he claims was “the biggest issue at the election”, wasn’t being talked about by the Labour Party at all, leading “some people (to feel that) we were either in denial or just didn’t want to talk about it." Obviously he didn’t watch any of the TV debates where immigration was the only issue broached in all three (but it certainly won him plaudits in the Daily Mail, which was no doubt the sort of the demographic he was targeting anyway).

Burnham is right in one thing however and that is that immigration will be the key defining issue dictating which direction the new Induced Labour Party takes (and, given that it involved sextuplets, that probably should be Premature Labour). The big danger remains that Labour’s Oedipal complex will result in them not moving to the Left in order to redefine themselves as separate and distinct from the new homogeneous politics of the Dave and Nick Show, but rather the party trying to regain the middle ground from the Right by turning Blair’s mantra of 'education, education, education' into one of 'immigration, immigration, immigration'.

[1] As John Harris aptly put it in the Guardianfour ex-wonks with limited life experience (who) may not be the best people to divine what exactly it is that the fabled white working class is after.
[2] And this was always likely to happen when one lets mad political ‘scientists’ like Mandelson meddle with the Labour Party gene pool.
[3] The Mengele and Goebbels of Nu Labour?
[4] It is difficult to tell whether they are acting as fertility doctors, midwives or mere sperm donors in this enterprise.
[5] Or should that be the chest?

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