The return of toytown politics

by Ian R. Stewart

Back in 1990, with thirteen million people refusing to pay the poll tax and the country in uproar, Neil Kinnock lambasted the unsavoury collection of Trotskyites in the SWP and Militant (now the Socialist Party; TUSC; Respect; Left List; take your pick) as being “toytown revolutionaries”.

He was right, as very few of them had ever been willing to take responsibility for their actions, or seriously made the kind of hard choices that even Liberal Democrats are willing to make these days.

Put simply, these people refuse to accept the reality of the world around them.

Yet toytown politics is not dead, in fact it is thriving, don’t just take my word for it, watch “The Wright Stuff” on Channel Five, or “The Daily Politics” on BBC2.

Or, closer to home, just read the blogs, tweets and articles of various hoary old “New” Labour hacks online or in the press.

Toytown has relocated to the media & Westminster village, where today we hear the nonsensical calls from some for Ed Miliband to stand down after a massive victory in England and Wales, spanning from Cardiff to Great Yarmouth.

We have won over 800 seats. We have taken seats off the Tories, Lib Dems and the BNP. Even where we didn’t win the council, odds-on we won seats. This is true wherever you look, while at the same time, the prime minister’s call for “a Boris in every City” has been overwhelmingly rejected.

Yet what did we hear on Friday morning? Channel Fives’ answer to Jeremy Kyle, and a reliable “New “ Labour supporter Matthew Wright calling for Ed M to stand down, presumably because he had  led the party to victory. No doubt the usual suspects, such as John Rentoul will follow the sage of Bayswaters’ lead…

As with the Trots, this line of thinking stems from a fundamental refusal to look the world in the face. Unlike Ed, they will not understand that post-2008, the rules of the game have changed.

The “deregulation with add-ons” model simply has no credence, either economically or politically.

They also deny political truths. In 2010, Labour lost the election, although no-one else won it. The Blair-Brown years are now not looked upon with nostalgia, unless you are Charles Clarke.

Politics has also changed – personality is no longer enough, you must have substance. The anti-Ed insurgents simply refuse to see just how unpopular New Labour had become, and posit that a simple change of leader will be enough to overcome the Tory-led government.

To this end, several likely candidates have been suggested, particularly David Miliband and Yvette Cooper. Leaving aside their obvious talents as politicians, why should we change a team that has managed in two years to change the perception of Labour so much, when it took the combined leaderships of Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock and John Smith thirteen?

“Ed  doesn’t look like a PM” they say, but what leader of the opposition ever does? In 1945, Winston Churchill was greatly favoured over Clem Attlee.  In 1970, Wilson looked like nature’s choice.

In 1979, most voters when asked preferred Callaghan as PM to Thatcher in opinion polls. Gordon Brown looked every inch the first amongst equals in 2010, yet lost.

Only in 1997 did Blair look like the real PM, against a tired, scandal – worn Major, and even he was building upon the firm poll leads built by John Smith.

It is a cliché to say that governments lose elections, rather than the opposition winning them, yet there is much truth in this. So far, Ed has played a canny game, and considering the state of Labour in 2010, he is doing well.

Ian Stewart is a Labour party member who rejoined in May 2010 and blogs at

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15 Responses to “The return of toytown politics”

  1. swatantra says:

    Ian Stewart must be deluding himself. Yes, Labour won back 800 seats , but you have to ask the reason why. And the answer is not too complementary.
    Brown had a few personality issues and was not a people person. And more important for any Leader is the likeability factor’. Then they’ll vote for you, regardless of your policies.

  2. John P Reid says:

    John Smith May have stood by laobur through the wilderness years but he didn’t give Blair a firmp polllead, at one stage it was only 1%, and let’s not forget Foot was ahead in teh polls too in early 1981,

    Charles Clarke Looks back firmly on the Brown years?

    AS for Ed not loloking Prime minesterial, and Neother Did Attlee, The world has changed since 1959 when Mcmillan presented Gaitskell as Aloof adn His as statesman like, Every election since then its’been the Media friendly P.M that one, Even if Calllaghan was a safer Pair of hands than Thathcer, the fact was Labour was Far behind in the polls, Not just 8% like Cameron is now,

    I haven’t heard after fridays results from JohN Rentoul or Mathew Wright calling for Ed to go, and the comarison that that Ed needs time to win, Like Kinnock Foot or Smith did seems untrue, Maybe Ed Will win, and MAybe Yvette will be leader if HE doesn’t

    But the fact is that it wasn’t 13million who refused to pay the poll tax,and Kinnock was calling those who were throwing rocks etc, Toy town revolutionaries, but to compare those who feel that Ed hasn’t delivered a realsitic alternative to the tories or those who feel Ed is turning a blind eye to the Loony left are infultrating the Party (Diane Abbots tweets, Karen buck “the Tories don’t want the poor to breed “etc), are hardly a cmparison with toy town revolutionaries.

  3. Rallan says:

    Doesn’t matter what anyone thinks; it’s too late to change now (for electoral gain, that is).

    Besides, theres really no one better who could realistically take on the job and the labour party as a whole would look pretty cheap if it tried.

  4. Clint Spencer says:

    Well I wont get that 5 minutes of my life back. what a load of apparatchik tripe.

  5. Anon E Mouse says:

    The reason people were calling for Ed Miliband to stand down is because as Labour supporters they would like the party to govern this country again.

    With Ed Miliband in charge it just isn’t going to happen.

    The current Labour leader is the greatest electoral asset the government has as the polls still show.

    Cameron still polls ahead personally – best PM by 10%, preferred PM with the Tories by 7% and doing well by 5% ahead.

    Tony Blair regularly polled by 20% ahead and all people are doing writing these sorts of unrealistic articles is helping the government to stay in power…

  6. Stuart Bruce says:

    Interesting analysis, which you undermine somewhat by claiming Gordon Brown “very much l looked the first among equals in 2010, yet he lost”. One reason we’ve ended up with a coalition is that none of the party leaders looked liked leaders or prime ministerial material.

  7. Ian Stewart says:

    But Stuart, Brown’s most convincing argument in 2010 was that “this is no time for a novice”.
    Oh, and Clint, sadly I am no apparatchik, just an ordinary South Londoner in the Labour Party. Tripe it may be, but at least it is all mine.
    On the other hand, comparing my last two years’ experience in the party with the period between 1987 and 1996, I have to say I can see very little far left infiltration, other than Socialist Action around Livingstone. I would say that it seems to me that it is the right of the party has spent more time undermining party unity than the tiny and powerless far left.
    Although, of course, many of the elders on the right did spend time with the tankies in the old CPGB.

  8. Anon E Mouse says:

    Ian Stewart

    If Brown’s most convincing argument was “No time for a novice” why did Labour suffer such a massive election defeat?

    It was better than his “End to boom and bust” nonsense I suppose but hardly convincing…

  9. john p Reid says:

    Ian stewart, Some people pretending not to be Left futures and John Lansman sent a letter to All constituency secretaries detailing their Progess is a prty like Militant even though unlike the Co-op/ Fabians or even the christian/ jewish or Young laobur groups don’t get to vote on policy matters, or affiliated unions for that matter, it’s only when someof the left on the bloggersphere turn upto conference that it appears the elft are infultrating or Livingstone trying to get Lufthur back in the aprty.

  10. Mike Homfray says:

    Ian – agree with every word. Ed Miliband is leader of this party and will be leading us into the next election. There is not a shadow of doubt about that, so those who are lLabour supporters who don’t like this would be advised to get used to it and stop moaning

  11. Ian Stewart says:

    John, an ineffective round-robin from the left criticising the right of the party is hardly either infiltration, nor does it seem to have harmed Progress. Labour should be a pretty broad church, excepting Lenninists and the corrupt. Yes, there are specific problems in relation to both Ken Livingstone and Lutfuhr Rahman, but I think these have less to do with a classic left-right split than opportunism and “community” politics – do not get me started on that!
    If the party can still stand Mandelson and Frank Field in its rasnks, then a few lefties with no real power ought to be no real issue, surely?

  12. Anon E Mouse says:

    Mike Homfray

    Those Labour supporters can just moan about losing the next election instead.

    Well done Mike….

  13. Clint Spencer says:

    Mike Homfray as the totally hypocritical lefty you are, of course you would agree with an equally blinkered Ian. Anyone that talks lefty crap you agree with, without a jot of evidence to back it up. Any view that is backed with evidence that you dont like you call Tory and rail against.

    This is a centrist blog, why are you here? Why dont you sod off back to labourlist you hypocrite?

  14. Clint Spencer says:

    “Ian – agree with every word. Ed Miliband is leader of this party and will be leading us into the next election. There is not a shadow of doubt about that, so those who are lLabour supporters who don’t like this would be advised to get used to it and stop moaning”

    Sadly some of us aren’t stupid and exercise our right to criticise the inept. The Labour leadership cannot be held to account and as such performs badly, it is precisely because of idiots calling for universal loyalty that they can get on with ineptitude, jobs for the boys crony-ism and the closed shop of candidates.

    Moreover it is transparent Wallace is your view of a Lefty candidate and you bang on about abject loyalty. If it was a candidate you didn’t approve, you’d be the first to moan about a southern Blairite candidate hijacking your narrow-minded view of the party.

  15. Ian Stewart says:

    On the contrary Clint, my support for Ed stems from a different analysis of past events. I think all of us within the party are supremely happy that after the 2010 Election, we did not resort to the navel-gazing of the early eighties. It may be true that compared with the other candidates, Ed was to the left – but he is hardly some kind of rabid spartist.
    One of the silliest reactions to genuine debate in the past two years has been the refusal to look at our overwhelming rejection by the voters, and to try to understand why that was the case.
    It is hardly calling for “abject loyalty” to defend our current leader, who inherited a party in a mess. Ed has so far avoided any damaging splits, and has fought battles that he can win – News International being the prime example. It is important that as an opposition leader you recognise the battles you can win, and those you cannot.
    As for the closed-shop of candidates, well that started back in the 1990s didn’t it? Yes, we need reform, but that is not just down to Ed and Harriet, and will take a little longer.
    I do hope that we all have the right to criticise ineptitude, yet I fear that a number of responses here are more insult than criticism. The reason that I don’t “sod off back to Labour List” is simple – I believe in debate and free speech. Perhaps these concepts are a little difficult to handle, but I would have though that we should all be able to sharpen our arguments and exchange ideas – or do you prefer to only read what you already agree with?

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