8:30 am - June 18th 2009
Michael Ellam, the current spokesman to Gordon Brown, declared the news on Tuesday that he is being replaced by Simon Lewis – the former spokesperson to the Queen. Good communications with the public is the sine qua non for an incumbent whose party’s latest show that they are 15% behind the main opposition on the question of cleaning up the political system.
But communications is not the sum total of Brown’s problems.
On Sunday morning I thought everything would be OK. I had started to read the Observer and on the inlay page saw that Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman had told Will Hutton in an interview that the , and that not only are we seeing off the last dregs of the financial crisis, but Brown and Darling may well have beaten the city analysts predictions of long turmoil.
Well, I thought, aren’t we glad that the rebels bailed out last minute, that Blears apologised for leaving the way she did, that Miliband had a change of heart 9 days previous, and that despite all its talk, Compass effectively did to start a ruckus with the right wing of the Labour Party.
For that moment I thought we on the left were wrong, and for that moment it was a good thing we accepted GB in our lives. That is until the next day began.
Aside from the private Iraq enquiry – which fell in the laps of Tory critics – the question of “in-fighting” is the most important problem that must be rectified.
John Prescott spoke out about it on his over the weekend. I interpreted his remarks as this; currently there exists childish banter between frontbenchers that is only earning them media coverage – say for example, Miliband’s pointless revelation on Sunday – and it is obfuscating any real discussion on party direction, something that all in the party can agree is creating a massive void for the Tories to fill, at a time when their in-fighting is just as striking as Labours.
No fewer than 72 hours after Prezza’s message was forgotten about completely, Alistair Darling, one half of the duo that quashed city analysts’ predictions on the longevity of financial recession, failed to back Ed Balls’ plans over spending in the health and education departments.
, and during an interview with , Balls spelt out his reasons for wanting to go ahead with spending, along with why fighting within the Labour ranks is hurting the party, and giving the Tories a free ticket to political high ground.
But Balls in the interview was clearly more cautious than some have now made out – like Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, for example, who said
“We are going to decide how the growth in public spending is divided up much closer to the time. Looking into a crystal ball and understanding what the economy looks like in the year of the Olympics, I just don’t think is possible right now.”
Balls boldly stated that the moves on spending, to outdo Tory plans on 10% spending cuts
“will depend upon what happens to the economy and to unemployment and debt interest. But I think that with tough choices we can see real rises in the schools budget and the NHS budget in future years.”
Does Darling not believe his own part in the claim – now with Paul Krugman agreeing that Labour are the right party to fix the economy, and Jose Manuel Barroso limiting his focus on America, which by his predictions has not seen the worst of the recession yet – that the UK has the best chance of a quick economic recovery in Europe?
Or is it something a little deeper; does it have anything to do with the fact that, as shadow schools secretary Michael Gove questioned, Balls is the man Gordon Brown wanted to make chancellor, [and] Alistair Darling [is] the man he was too weak to move?”
Certainly with TUC’s predictions recently that , now in the public sector – previously resisting the pressure by economic downturn – public spending should be bracketed as important as debt relief – since that debt has been largely due to public sector relief, its time to focus on how to avoid public sector collapse and more economic misery for working families.
Cuts in the public sector is where the Tories are at their most vulnerable; and have both said that cuts are inevitable, and Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, has said that to commit to Balls’ needs would mean cutting other departments’ budgets by 10 per cent (earning him the pseudonym Mr. 10%, by Liam Byrne).
Labour must stay focused, cut out the deadweight and the weak, work out how to marry financial repair and public spending to curb job losses and economic misery for working families, and show the Tories that cuts will not cut it with the country’s economy.
Overall, the Labour Party with a bit more punch, a bit more direction, and a lot less media curtsying could prove a real challenge to a presently vulnerable Tory party. And it shouldn’t wait another second to attempt it.
Carl is a regular contributor. He is a policy and research analyst and he blogs at Though Cowards Flinch.
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- Liberal Conspiracy
New post: It’s not just the message, Gordon. http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/06/18/its-not-just-the-message-gordon/
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