Sunday, August 20, 2006


Labour Leadership Race Hots Up

With so much happening in the Middle East and, potentially, within our home Muslim community, it's easy to forget we have some political excitement of our own in the form of the forthcoming Labour party conference to be held in my home city of Manchester. Michael Portillo in the Sunday Times today suggests John Reid is moving up slowly but surely on the inside track while the form horse Gordon Brown fails to make much progress. I tend to agree Reid has greatly strenghened his position.

First, as someone who has served as S of S for Scotland, Northern Ireland, Health, Defence and currently a high profile Home secretary, he knows his way around the departments and probably feels confident he can conduct the whole orchestra should the chance arise. Second, he bears no love for Brown with whom he crossed swords in the brutal political battle-ground that is Scottish Labour politics. Reid has nothing to lose as if Brown gets in, as expected, Reid could quickly sink without trace. I suspect in addition, Reid would welcome landing a political headbutt on his old adversary. Thirdly Reid, on the strength of his lead role in the aircraft security crisis is flying relatively high in the political satisfaction polls, leaving not only Blair and Brown behind but the wunderkind Cameron too as the excellentMike Smithson illustrates on his tracker graph.

And so we come to the PM himself. We learn from Andrew Rawnsley that the deadline for a formal challenge to Blair before the conference has passed but I sense that Blair will face his toughest ever party experience. In the past his soaring rhetoric has won the day, however windy its content; but I feel the atmosphere has shifted fundmentally in the last year. Labour MPs and activists are by no means ready to hand over the reins to the Old Etonian just yet, but Blair has so squandered his political capital he is in dire trouble.

This he has done through aping Tory policies, invading Iraq, sitting on his hands while the Lebanese civilians were being slaughtered and generally tugging his forelock to his 'boss' in Washington. Rawnsley speculates on the impact of a call for him to go by, say, 100 Labour MPs. I never expected the formal machinery of the party to be used as the means of ejecting Blair- it is too bureaucratic and politically damaging; informal measns are just as good.

Under our flexible constitution the PM cannot survive if sufficient members of the governing party wish to see him or her exit the stage. Mike Smithson records that the MORI poll in the Sunday Times shows 47 per cent want him to go now while 56 per cent want him to go before the end of the year. He also thinks the 6.2-1 odds on him taking the latter option is a pretty good bet. I'm no gambler but think that on this he is dead right.

Reid has strengthened his position; but I just don't think the labour party would elect him.
As Michael Portillo implies, Reid has strengthened his short-term position but endangered his long-term reputation. Populism never really pays off.

So Skipper, will you be going to any of the party conference?Manchester will make for an excellent venue, and is far more accessible than Brighton or Blackpool. Moreover, Manchester represents much of what is good about New Labour: progression away from the shackles of the industrial past and towards a cosmopolitan future.

Have you applied for the "Labour Party blogger" competition? You'd make an excellent candidate.
Didn't know there was such a competition. Where can I find details? I'm sitting on a panel discussion actually on blogging on Sunday 24th and may attend some of the sessions,
SPL, do not brand Manchester as new labour or we will come and get you.

We are not old or new labour just manchester labour.

True the regeneration is new labour. But the stuff we have done for working class communities is just labour.

How about proud of our past, looking forward to an even better future.
To be fair I very much doubt any of the important people in the New Labour(and that doesn't include many of the MP's) mission see themselves as the equivalent of Manchester. It is just not cool enough is it? It's Islington or nothing baby! Do you guys even have pan au chocolat?
Hmmm look at our MPs

Tony Lloyd - not new labour

Graham Stringer - no longer new labour

Paul Goggins - very new labour

Gerald Kaufman - um labour right without being new labour
Actually I think Manchester is cool - after the IRA bomb in 1996, the centre has been completely revamped; the outskirts have also enjoyed regeneration projects in the wake of the Commonwealth Games (2002). I'm pretty sure Selfridges do a very nice pain au chocolat.

Adele Reynolds - There probably isn't a great deal to be proud about Manchester's past, from a Labour perspective. Surely its history has been typified, up until quite recently, by working-class misery?

The link is here, Skipper:
It will be interesting to see who they pick. They'll obviously want a loyal Labourite, but also someone sufficiently interesting to pull in the pundits. The blogging panel you're on sounds interesting.
Manchesters past was one of solidarity and a labour council under Graham Stringer that was firmly committed to equal opportunities for all.
So Manchester's political elite thought they enjoyed Labourite "solidarity", but for apolitical Joe Bloggs, life in Manchester, particularly in the early twentieth century, was nothing to be proud of. "Commitment" to equal opportunities in theory is very different from equal opportunities in practise.
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