Posts Tagged ‘Gould’

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

18/05/2010, 06:12:46 AM

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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