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The name of this blog changed this week, changing the ‘Blairite’ to Labourite and I feel that the Labour Party needs to do something similar in changing its leadership. I have not changing from essentially being a Blairite and neither do I want a radical realignment to left for the Labour Party. The key issue is how the Labour views itself and how it divides itself. I changed the name of this blog because the term ‘Blairite’ feels dated and that the term ‘Labourite’ feels timeless, properly representing the Labour movement as a whole.

The real point here is that terms like “New Labour”, “Blairite” and “Brownite” are pointless terms that divide needlessly, and at a time when the Labour Party needs to unite, they are not helpful. The truth is that New Labour was about the modernisers in the 1990s making themselves sound and look different to people’s fears of the Labour Party. It created the opposite term, “old Labour”. Old Labour is a term that is often used by the critics of New Labour, as a means to revert to type, and as a call for the party to move to the left.

But what is “Old Labour”? Is it the party of Kinnock? Yet Kinnock started the modernising agenda, which Blair took further, it would be hard to say he represented old Labour. I hope those that all for old Labour are not so naïve and out of touch to as to hope for a return to the politics of Michael Foot, a leader who was a step out of his time thirty years ago. So what is the old Labour that they aspire towards? The party of Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, leaders who themselves were hated by the left and were cast as betrayers of socialism. So what do they want? The truth is, I suspect they do not know, but they do not like the party as led by Blair and Brown, thus Old Labour is identified not by what it should be, but what it is not. Furthermore when Blair and co re-branded Labour as “New Labour”, it was an attempt to portray to middle England that there was no fear in voting Labour, it was an attempt after defeat in 1992 to re-assure marginal voters that they can trust the party. So by saying it was New Labour and by definition, it was not the Old Labour that voters rejected in 1992.

However, it is now a generation since Blair’s rebrand when he was elected leader sixteen years ago and the political, economic and social environment is now different. Thus the Labour party does not need the distinction anymore. It has been in power for thirteen years and it no longer needs to perpetuate the myth of ‘old’ Labour in order to be trusted by the British people. The challenge to the Labour Party has changed significantly, it has to do two things; show that it has learnt from the lessons of power and build a new agenda for the next ten years and more. It is clear now that “New Labour”, is now old Labour.

Yet the same overriding principals need to be maintained in so much as we must not be dogmatic about the means and always focus policy around the core aims and principals of the Labour Party. We need to be focused on social justice and fighting poverty. There is a lot of talk about inequality and fairness, but it is my view that this language clouds the core issues. We should not be interested in whether people at the top of society are getting richer, but be deeply troubled about low incomes. The issues do not change, but the means do, that was the core lesson of New Labour and that has not changed.

And so moving forward the party needs to unite, not be scared of new ideas and debates on how to tackle the core issues. What the Labour needs to do is open up and debate new ideas,  stopping the over centralised power in the party that has been so damaging. New Labour was about renewing and modernising the party, but it failed, and effectively died by not renewing itself. With the leadership contest the party now has the opportunity to renew and challenge itself, in essence the party is going through the process that it was denied in 2007, when the party refused to challenge Gordon Brown. That is the reason that, despite disagreeing with much of what Dianne Abbot says, I hope she gets the nominations required to get on the ballot. I have also changed from endorsing David Milliband, to having a more open mind and will assess all candidates based on what they say over the course of the campaign.

Watching Gordon Brown’s attempt at a premiership is becoming embarrassing. You can’t help but feel sorry for someone that has wanted the job for so long and yet is struggling so. Brown is like Derby County. He has got to where he wants to be and being there is enough: being in power, being able to go on television as the Prime Minister and stand as a world figure. He can stand in front of us as the father of the nation. Just as Derby County can boast to be part of the greatest league in the world. Boast to be among the big boys and in doing so kid themselves that they are important. They can kid themselves that they are successful.

In both cases they are failing because they achieved their aim without any clear-cut vision and idea of what they want to do there. Having spent his first ten years of power plotting against his own boss, aggrieved after being shunted at Granita, he has spent this time waiting to get in. Waiting to replace Tony. Waiting to be the one that struts the world stage and goes in the Today programme as the Prime Minister. Waiting to do what exactly? It is approaching a year of the Brown government and what has it done constructively since?

This lack of vision and direction is a result of Brown’s desperation to get into power. Effectively he tried to cheat the system. He didn’t become Prime Minister in the way that Tony Blair or Margaret Thatcher did. Or indeed how David Cameron would like to. He was already in government. He was in government because he was a chancellor of a Labour government in its third term. He did not face the test of election. Without this he skipped the first test of a politician’s vision for power, i.e. get those you’re going to rule agree first. The other major step that Brown skipped was a challenge to the leadership of his party. His vision and ideology were assumed from his time as chancellor, he did not have to prove this vision against another. Brown was desperate to get into power, yet he actively skipped the usual routines that test a candidate’s ability to rule. As his premiership shifts from crisis to crisis, from one attempted comeback to another, what is happening is the sort of test that he skipped before he got to power.

The usual tests for those that want to be in power are tested before the candidate gets to power. Brown tried to cheat the system, by getting into government on the back of another man’s leadership and by bullying the Labour Party into supporting him and no other candidates. Yet he cannot face the same tests. He is now facing the same test and failing. This is happening in a reverse of the usual process. Usually if a candidate fails these tests power is denied to them at the ballot box, either within a party or nationally. This time he has power first and is being tested later. The consequences are the same, he will either lose if and when his party forces him out or he will lose a general election.

This cheating attempt at power is why his leadership is failing so miserably. By embedding himself in power he is not embedded with the problems that affect people’s lives. He is embedded in Westminster, a surreal land that is not part of the real world. He wants to appear green, so he announces proposals and targets on plastic bags. He wants to appear as a tax cutter, so he abolished the ten pence tax rate and cuts the basic rate of income tax by two pence. He wants to appear tough on terror, so he proposes extending terrorism laws by fourteen days. These are the measures that have Brown in trouble and have resulted in the worst election results for a forty years. This has happened, not necessarily because the consequences are catastrophic, but because they designed to enhance Brown’s appearance. This is why the national leadership of the Labour Party is so out of touch.

They have no capacity to connect with voters, because Brown has sought to avoid connecting with voters in his obsessive quest for power. So suddenly he gets a shock when voters are telling him they are struggling to see why they should vote Labour. Brown has lost the base of the Labour heartland because his hubristic quest for power has taken them for granted. Brown will no longer be in power, just as Derby County will no longer be in the Premier League. They both got the ultimate goal, but once there had no idea what to do.

Watching Gordon Brown’s attempt at a premiership is becoming embarrassing. You can’t help but feel sorry for someone that has wanted the job for so long and yet is struggling so. Brown is like Derby County. He has got to where he wants to be and being there is enough: being in power, being able to go on television as the Prime Minister and stand as a world figure. He can stand in front of us as the father of the nation. Just as Derby County can boast to be part of the greatest league in the world. Boast to be among the big boys and in doing so kid themselves that they are important. They can kid themselves that they are successful.

In both cases they are failing because they achieved their aim without any clear-cut vision and idea of what they want to do there. Having spent his first ten years of power plotting against his own boss, aggrieved after being shunted at Granita, he has spent this time waiting to get in. Waiting to replace Tony. Waiting to be the one that struts the world stage and goes in the Today programme as the Prime Minister. Waiting to do what exactly? It is approaching a year of the Brown government and what has it done constructively since?

This lack of vision and direction is a result of Brown’s desperation to get into power. Effectively he tried to cheat the system. He didn’t become Prime Minister in the way that Tony Blair or Margaret Thatcher did. Or indeed how David Cameron would like to. He was already in government. He was in government because he was a chancellor of a Labour government in its third term. He did not face the test of election. Without this he skipped the first test of a politician’s vision for power, i.e. get those you’re going to rule agree first. The other major step that Brown skipped was a challenge to the leadership of his party. His vision and ideology were assumed from his time as chancellor, he did not have to prove this vision against another. Brown was desperate to get into power, yet he actively skipped the usual routines that test a candidate’s ability to rule. As his premiership shifts from crisis to crisis, from one attempted comeback to another, what is happening is the sort of test that he skipped before he got to power.

The usual tests for those that want to be in power are tested before the candidate gets to power. Brown tried to cheat the system, by getting into government on the back of another man’s leadership and by bullying the Labour Party into supporting him and no other candidates. Yet he cannot face the same tests. He is now facing the same test and failing. This is happening in a reverse of the usual process. Usually if a candidate fails these tests power is denied to them at the ballot box, either within a party or nationally. This time he has power first and is being tested later. The consequences are the same, he will either lose if and when his party forces him out or he will lose a general election.

This cheating attempt at power is why his leadership is failing so miserably. By embedding himself in power he is not embedded with the problems that affect people’s lives. He is embedded in Westminster, a surreal land that is not part of the real world. He wants to appear green, so he announces proposals and targets on plastic bags. He wants to appear as a tax cutter, so he abolished the ten pence tax rate and cuts the basic rate of income tax by two pence. He wants to appear tough on terror, so he proposes extending terrorism laws by fourteen days. These are the measures that have Brown in trouble and have resulted in the worst election results for a forty years. This has happened, not necessarily because the consequences are catastrophic, but because they designed to enhance Brown’s appearance. This is why the national leadership of the Labour Party is so out of touch.

They have no capacity to connect with voters, because Brown has sought to avoid connecting with voters in his obsessive quest for power. So suddenly he gets a shock when voters are telling him they are struggling to see why they should vote Labour. Brown has lost the base of the Labour heartland because his hubristic quest for power has taken them for granted. Brown will no longer be in power, just as Derby County will no longer be in the Premier League. They both got the ultimate goal, but once there had no idea what to do.

So the penny has finally dropped for Polly Toynbee, the long-winded and sometimes irritating comment veteran for The Guardian, that the great revival of socialism was not coming with the Brown premiership. Brown is in what can be informally termed as a spot of bother, both the economy and his opinion polls are only giving him bad news, whilst there is much discontent amongst his backbenchers. This all culminates in another national poll, which gives David Cameron’s Conservatives a 14 point lead and would send him straight into 10 Downing Street without the need to go begging to Nick Clegg to guarantee a working majority.

Wait a second there. I was told, not just by the weather vain Toynbee, but by others on the Labour left too, the likes of Diane Abbot, Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander, Peter Hain and others all gave assurances that “Gordon was the inevitable leader, who would be a great Prime Minister”. This message or variations on it were constantly spouted in political interviews and features, aligned to the assumption that Blair was an electoral liability.

That’s right. The only Labour leader to win, not two, but three consecutive terms. It was his leadership that took on the early confrontations and won them early on; because dropping clause four and taking on the hegemony of the unions in the Labour Party were long overdue reforms, where other “real Labour” leaders lacked the courage. These were not moves that made him popular because they were popular per se, but because they were the right things for party and country. Britain needed a moderate and effective Labour government after two decades of Tory rule. Blair delivered it and his popularity reflected this. Even in the latter days of this leadership when Iraq dominated his political image, his personal ratings dropped, he still lead the party to an unprecedented third term and saw off David Cameron’s honeymoon to hand over the keys to number 10 with Labour back in command of the polls. Toynbee, still clinging to assumption that Brown is the great socialist leader in waiting, credits the summer’s double-digit poll ratings with Brown. But how could they be Brown’s, he had barely put his posters on the walls when these polls were coming through. Last summer nobody knew what a Brown premiership would be like. How could they be his ratings? All he did in the summer was go on a dinghy in Gloucestershire and tell Andrew Marr that he would deal with the terrorist incidents in Glasgow. That’s it. There’s nothing to indicate how good or bad a PM has is from that.

The autumn was the first major test of Brown as a PM and he failed every test going. He thought and thought and thought and thought some more on whether to hold an early election, to the point where everyone, including those high up in the Labour ranks thought the election was inevitable. Northern Rock collapsed and he threw millions upon millions at it before making the inevitable decision to nationalise. Ok, I could go on, anyone who so much as glances at the Sun every now and then knows this. So what does this mean? It tells us that Brown was not responsible for good poll ratings at the end of last summer, but is responsible for the current disastrous polls.

So has Brown been unlucky? The government could pick up once events are more favourable. But how favourable do events need to be? All leaders have crisis when they are least expected. The only time William Hague edged ahead of Blair was during the fuel blockages. Hague backed the blockages and argued against rises in fuel duty and was duly rewarded in the polls. Less than a year later and a foot and mouth outbreak later, Blair was re-elected with the same size of majority; Hague resigned. They didn’t call him Teflon Tony for nothing. Then two years after a million voters protested over the invasion of Iraq, he won a third term. Blair had many a crisis and each time his leadership enhanced. He had many events go against him, but he weathered each storm and won elections.

This is not the work of an electoral liability that the Labour Party fooled itself into believing: Brown’s propaganda clique fooled it. It took six years of Blair government to suffer resignations over policy. He was undefeated in the Commons in his first two terms. Brown has a spilt cabinet, ministers who wouldn’t vote for him and commons defeats in waiting after less than a year. Blair suffered regular revolts from the so-called awkward squad, a bunch of old leftists who wanted a return to the myths of old Labour. Who is revolting against Brown? Stephen Byers and Stephen Pound; a centrist reformer and the most loyal of loyal MPs. And what are they revolting over? Gordon Brown’s decision to raise income tax on the lowest paid, in order to pay for a middle class subsidy. The lowest paid workers struggling so that middle income voters will be more inclined to vote Labour. That must be the great principal that Toynbee talks about.

The more of a Brown government we have, the more we see the worst of New Labour. The spin, the pandering the Daily Mail, the unprincipled pursuit of middle England, the lack of an overall vision and the opportunism. These have increased under Brown as we watch Cameron waltz’s into Downing Street. Oh, but don’t worry because it was Blair who was the electoral liability.

Last week saw an email appear in my email inbox from the Downing Street petitions website regarding the Right to Stand petition calling for a return to safe standing at football matches in the top two divisions of English football. As any who knows anything in this area, standing terraces were abolished in all stadia in the Premier League and what is now the Championship, in the aftermath to the Hillsborough disaster. I state that, at the time, this move was right, as a measure to ensure proper crowd control and maintain the safety of those thousands that attend football matches in this country.

However, football has changed considerably since 1989 and it is the time to look at reinstating safe standing terraces. The government response claims that the all seater policy was the crucial factor in maintaining the safety of football supporters. This is a response that both ignores what the petition has to say and ignores all the other factors that led both to the disasters of the 1980s. Along with the subsequent improvement in safety and the behaviour of British football fans, it neglects to even recognise many of the other factors involved in incidents such as Hillsborough and Heysal. It neglects to mention the attitude of the authorities towards football supports, the behaviour of the supporters and the condition of the stadia in those respective tragedies.

Taking the latter point as an example, it is a significantly higher factor than the fact that the fact that the supporters were stood upright. Heysal in Belgium was a decrepit old lump of a stadium and the obsession with fencing in the 1980s were far more crucial factors in the tragic events, which are ignored in the government response. The other factor ignored is the behaviour of the supporters in both incidents. The charging towards the Juventus fans and the Liverpool supporters travelling without a ticket and charging the decrepit turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough were the inciting incidents of both tragedies. Had those two acts not have occurred neither tragedy would have occurred. Furthermore, what is rarely mentioned when Hillsborough is discussed is why Hillsborough was being used in the first place. In previous seasons Highbury had been used to host FA cup semi-finals, but lost this status after Arsenal refused to erect fences after a series of pitch invasions in the mid-1980s. A point that Nick Hornby makes well in Fever Pitch. The point that Hornby makes, after he himself was involved a pitch invasion from Highbury’s North Bank terrace. Here a surge at the top of the stand resulted in him being forced onto the advertising hordings and inevitably onto the pitch. The point he highlights is that had there been Hillsborough style fences they would have been in serious trouble. Here we have the same incident, as at Hillsborough and the only difference being the absence of fences, thus they were safe.

Furthermore the much-quoted Taylor Report did not call for the all-seater policy and stated that standing is not intrinsically unsafe. The condition of football stadia and the behaviour of supporters have improved immeasurably since 1989 and these are the biggest factors in such incidents not recurring. With these factors, I believe that we now have the infrastructure to re-introduce safe standing terraces in football stadia across the Championship and Premier League. Standing is an intrinsic part of British footballing culture and crucial in maintaining its atmosphere and thus its identity. The example of German stadia shows that it is possible to introduce safe standing terraces, aligned with proper ticketing and proper stewarding, to maintain the safety and experience of attending British football matches.

As a staunch Labour party supporter, there is another factor that dismays me in the government’s response and that it implies that they are listening whilst ignoring what is said. This is exactly the sort of act that distances people from politics and diminishes public trust in politicians. Anyone who signed the petition and has been involved in discussing the issues will be aware of the points I raise, none of which are acknowledged in their response. The only point it addresses is the issue of ticket pricing and claims that safe terracing would not reduce prices. The government cannot control ticket prices, but it can, if it wanted to, start a return to safe terracing and it clearly has no interest in the campaign. A return to safe terracing would undoubtedly be extremely popular. In the aftermath of the Labour Party’s worst opinion poll in two decades it is dismaying that an area where they could substantially improve the situation is ignored.