John McTernan on the cant of an honest debate in the Labour movement

There are two great mistakes that parties make when they lose elections. First, they blame each other, then they blame the voters.   Each in its own right is disastrous. Together, they are toxic.
Thus far, the emergent leadership campaign has been more benign. There is a refreshing willingness to concede that we made errors in office and need to reconsider before we rebuild.
But the biggest trap awaits – the false consciousness of an “honest debate in the party/the labour movement.” This is cant, and dangerous cant. A debate with ourselves is a conversation with the already convinced – we all voted Labour. We lost, not amongst the 29% who voted Labour or (generously) the 10% of voters who pay the levy or join the party. We lost among the middle-ground decent folk of Britain. If we were serious we’d let voters in Brighton, Redditch and Redcar choose our next leader.
I’m not suggesting that we have primaries. There is a very good reason that parties have members: the collective discipline provided is crucial for effectiveness in campaigning and ultimately in governing. What I do believe is that unless we understand not just why we lost but also what our people want, then we are doomed to a treadmill of defeat.
Let’s be clear, we were liberated by New Labour because it was a set of policy ideas based on analysis. The example set by Philip Gould was finally copied by the Tories when Lord Ashcroft funded the work that underpinned his polemic pamphlet “Smell the coffee.” What we need now is an equally detailed and compelling assessment of where public opinion now stands. We will differ about how to respond to the facts, but can we have the sense to gather them first?
John McTernan was Political Secretary to Tony Blair.

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5 Responses to “John McTernan on the cant of an honest debate in the Labour movement”

  1. Claire says:

    I have been a Labour party member for some several years now, and I am proud to say that I did not vote Labour at #ge2010. My conscience could not countenance it, because of Labour’s shocking, shameful and disgusting conduct while in office. I think Labour *does* need to have a conversation with itself, a very frank and honest conversation, if it hopes to regain any kind of viability with the electorate. A good starting point would be to clean out those responsible for Labour’s appalling conduct in government (which represented a gross betrayal of Labour values), and a return to decency within the party.

    I don’t know if that’s realistic, especially given the rather telling dichotomy you have set up in your post, between middle-ground decent Britain on the one hand, and Labour on the other…speaks volumes.

  2. Claire says:

    If half the effort that’s put into spin, double-speak, and manipulating the electorate were put into getting your house in order, and doing a good job in government, Labour would be back in Downing Street. When you break people’s trust, it lasts a generation. Unless you face up to this, you’re looking at a nice long stretch in the wilderness.

  3. Andy says:

    I think party members who don’t vote for the party should be expelled! Spot on john….

  4. Gerard Killoran says:

    This ignores, just for one example, the million voters who deserted the party over Iraq to vote Liberal in 2005 and didn’t come back.

    I see John McTernan is against an honest debate in the party – how very New Labour! I see his version of politics s still ‘finding out what the public wants, and giving it to them good and hard’. Thirteen years of such shallow populism nearly left us worse off than in 1983.

    Labour won in 1997 when just about any leader would have succeeded but the myth was created that ‘it was Blair wot won it’. We lost millions of votes at every succeeding election, but the New Labour cabal that ran the party pretended that our policies in government were popular with the voters we needed to attract. In that case, why did they leave us for parties that were for another example, to the left on civil liberties?

    Illegal wars, privatisation and authoritarianism were a toxic mixture which have to be rejected. Those who promoted these policies have to go too. Alistair Campbell, Peter Mandelson, Philip Gould and yes, John McTernan, ‘Political Secretary to Tony Blair’ are part of the problem. Their disappearance would be the best contribution they ever made to the party.

  5. mike says:

    re posts one and two
    I wager

    1) Clare is not her real name
    2) claire is a he
    3) He has never ben a Labour party member
    4) He is a troll

    You should check your statements before posting
    been a Labour Party member for several years !!!!
    My ****

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