Posts Tagged ‘Neal Lawson’

False choices about Labour’s recovery

10/05/2011, 03:00:41 PM

by Sunder Katwala

If there has been one thing that has been symptomatic of Labour’s struggle to find a viable future strategy for electoral success, it is the penchant of too many in the party for daft debates about which voters the party does not want.

New Labour began by building the biggest tent British politics had ever seen, and ended by worrying endlessly about whether appealing too strongly to traditional Labour voters or Guardian readers would kill the project off. Meanwhile, the party’s left flank fretted about whether the support of marginal swing voters stopped Labour being Labour in government. If those were the problems, 29% of the vote would have been a solution. Neither Labour’s traditional base nor New Labour switchers saw the point of having Labour in government at all.

Well, here we go again.

The latest daft question: if Ed Miliband and the Labour party want to win the next election, should they seek to win votes from the Liberal Democrats, or from the Conservatives?

Uncut’s own Dan Hodges set up this choice at the New Statesman.

On the one hand, there is the compass analysis. The compass crystal ball has not proved infallible in the aftermath of the last election, but it now seems to mean pessimistically admitting that Labour will probably never ever win again under first past the post, so must negotiate a way to power with the Liberal Democrats.

On the other, we keep the New Labour flag flying by treating the collapsing Liberal Democrat vote as a distraction to be ignored entirely, because the only votes that count are those won from the Conservatives.
Another senior Labour insider put it this way:

“Ed has a clear choice. He can chase after a non-existent progressive majority, or he can try to bring middle and working class Tory voters home to Labour. Or, to put it another way, he can try to win on his own, or lose with Chris Huhne.”

It would be difficult to imagine a sillier debate about “electoral strategy”.

Perhaps the one thing that everybody serious about finding Labour’s path back to power could do is to refuse this framing, and to laugh at anybody who tries to start this debate. Neither Neal Lawson nor Dan Hodges are right about Labour’s route back to power. (more…)

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Bluewater Labour: shopping has sucked the joy out of misery

01/05/2011, 11:09:13 AM

by Dan Hodges

I have decided to create a political movement. It will be called Bluewater Labour.

I intend to take the traditional  values of blue Labour, and recast them in a modern setting. Not where working class Britain used to live, but where it lives today. Or rather, where it shops, and works.

In the name of political research I went to conduct a detailed socio-economic analysis last Saturday morning. That’s because I believe the  path to Downing Street lies in a former chalk quarry just off junction 2 of the M25.

I went by car, a sin admittedly, and an unnecessary one, given the store’s commitment to sustainability. But yes, I shunned the bus interchange. Shoot me.

As I set foot inside, I realized that to many on the progressive left I had not entered a shopping centre but crossed a boundary into enemy territory. Bluewater represents the blackest recess of the dark underbelly of capitalism. Or it’s evil twin cousin, consumerism. At some point, I’m not sure when, the later supplanted the former in the hierarchy of oppression. The mill owner elbowed aside by the purveyor of the decaf caramel latte.

Laid out beneath its glistening rotunda, prime retail space extends as far as the eye can see. It is probably an optical illusion, but it appears that you could shop into infinity.

I can’t help thinking of my good comrade, Neal Lawson. To him, Bluewater is the Seventh Circle of Hades. An engine room of “turbo consumerism”, a modern phenomenon in which our lust for, “consumer goods and paid-for experiences, of hi-tech and high-end shopping” create “the driving force for crime”  in a society where “failed consumers will lie, cheat and steal to gain the trappings of success so that they can be regarded as normal”.


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A centrist critique of David Marquand’s annual compass lecture

14/02/2011, 03:30:28 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The chair of last Thursday’s annual Compass lecture, Neal Lawson, closed proceedings by asking the speaker, David Marquand, to return in 10 years time, when Marquand will be 86 years old, to reflect upon developments in the intervening period. He also expressed the hope that at this time the respondents to Marquand’s address would be the most powerful people in the land: Ed Miliband as prime minister; Caroline Lucas as chancellor; Francesca Klug as home secretary; and Evan Harris as health secretary.

Earlier, Lawson had praised Marquand for arguing that, as social democracy will never reach its final terminus, the journey towards social democracy is more important than conceiving of its end. “The goal is nothing; the movement everything”, quipped Eduard Bernstein, the grandfather of social democracy, over 100 years ago.

Lawson would doubtless claim that much more openness and collaboration between parties of the left is part of this journey. But his imaging of the 2021 cabinet indicated where he wants this to be heading. It may cause people to wonder what exactly the parties of Miliband, Lucas, Klug and Harris stand for if they agree on as much as Lawson believes. (more…)

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Soft left or soft thinking? A response to Neal Lawson.

14/01/2011, 12:00:59 PM

by Rob Marchant

Ed Miliband’s victory has brought a renaissance of the Kinnockite “soft left”. Sadly, the thinking emanating from it seems not just woolly, but dangerously flawed. A case in point is an article by article by Neal Lawson, the chair of centre-left think tank, Compass. Hold your judgment, for a moment, on the title: “Ed Miliband can help us believe in a better world again”, and on the flowery prose. Just concentrate on the arguments: the “big tent” strategy; the worry of achieving office without power; and a rather vague concept called the “good society”.

First, the big tent. Lawson wrongly implies Miliband’s backing for Compass’ controversial idea of opening up its membership to Liberals as well, tartly described by Labour blogger Luke Akehurst as “suicide”. Rightly so: “big tent” has been tried and failed three times in recent history: in 1977, in 1997 and in 2010.

Next, Lawson reveals his deepest fear: that we might be in office, but not in “real” power. The subtext being, confirmed later on in the article, that last time Labour did not achieve anything important. In reality, it seems, he means that Labour did not achieve anything important that he agreed with. (more…)

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Let’s not defend our record – it’s been trashed by the voters.

10/12/2010, 07:00:17 AM

by Dan Hodges

Oh how we laughed at the new socialism. Ed Miliband leaping like Nijinsky to embrace the “audacious reinvention” of his party. A cacophony of explosions: irresponsible capitalism, the financial crash, the illusion of the third way. Our stressed, stretched insecurities soothed by the mellow balm of the good society.

Neal Lawson and John Harris’ New Statesman essay initially bordered on self-parody, then thought “to hell with it” and stormed across the border with a full cavalry division and accompanying regimental band. “Whereas New Labour tried to bend people’s aspirations to their resigned and deflated worldview, the new paradigm seeks to grasp our hopes and fears”.  To summarise, the new socialism involves closing Bluewater, reading the Gruffalo more often to our kids and ensuring that a cleaner in Vladivostock earns the same as one in Clapham. For what it’s worth I’m against the first, for the second and haven’t a clue how to achieve the third.

Comrade Lawson has many qualities, but self-awareness isn’t amongst them. I once laughed out loud when I received an e-mail urging me to purchase his book on the perils of consumerism at a special discount price. (more…)

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You don’t build the future by trashing the past

03/12/2010, 02:30:54 PM

by Will Straw

With Labour still recovering from its second worst defeat in 90 years, now is the time for a thorough reassessment of what the left stands for. The policy review and reforms to party structures that Ed Miliband has announced should be welcomed. Before ink is spilled on the “blank sheet of paper”, time should be taken to debate and consider a range of different perspectives on the future direction of the left.

The five-point plan set out in Neal Lawson and John Harris’ essay in this week’s New Statesman should therefore be welcomed. But by trashing new Labour’s record with little consideration of the many achievements that 13 years in power delivered, Lawson and Harris risk alienating a group of reformers who could, in other circumstances, find common cause with their mission. The Labour party could easily unite around a programme dedicated to defeating inequality, building a new model of capitalism, localising public services, tackling climate change, and creating a more pluralistic politics – as Lawson and Harris suggest. But their approach is not the way to get there.

In their essay, Lawson and Harris write:

“New Labour stayed in office for 13 years because the world economy was so strong and the Tories were so weak. But even in such benign circumstances, the poor got poorer and the planet burned … The only plan they had was to stoke a finance-driven, lightly regulated economy, and then surreptitiously take the tax skim to fund social programmes”.

What a simplistic view of Labour’s time in office. Few saw the financial crash coming; even fewer set out the remedies in advance of the Lehman’s collapse. Adverse criticism of new Labour around 2003 was primarily concerned with the war in Iraq and the marketisation of public services; not the reregulation of the City. Basel I and II passed without a murmur. Where was the compass paper in 2005 calling for a ban on short selling or a British uptick rule prior to 2007? Twenty-twenty hindsight is a fine thing but those who call now for a new form of capitalism should be more realistic about the collective hubris of the boom years. (more…)

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Leadership is not a game, says Dan Hodges

01/10/2010, 09:43:19 AM

If a week is a long time in politics, then at Labour party conference it’s a lifetime. Remember where we came in. Excited. Hopeful. Enthused. And how we leave. Fractious. Edgy. Uncertain.

It was not supposed to be like this. An emboldened party, united behind its new leader, was meant to stride out, strong in mind and purpose, to take the fight to the government. Instead, we have hit a wall. Political reality has intruded. This was the week we finally realised that the 2010 general election had been lost.

For many of us – dare I say, those if us who are part of Generation Ed – politics has been a long, yet steady, march towards the summit. Kinnock, Smith, Blair and even Brown. All were part of a clear evolutionary process. They represented order. Now, with the election of Ed Miliband, the natural order has been disturbed.

This is not, of itself a negative. It needed something to  jolt us  out of our post election stupor. We have been. Ed’s victory has caused a convulsion.

On Saturday we were a movement in denial. The build up to the leadership announcement was spectacularly misjudged. The video of our achievements in office seemed to taunt the public; ‘See what you’re throwing away. You’ll be sorry’. Gordon’s speech seemed to taunt us all; ‘I will be loyal. Had you been loyal, we wouldn’t be in this mess’. (more…)

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Dan Hodges warns Labour against the new pluralism

01/07/2010, 02:46:44 PM

A couple of days ago I received a breathless missive from  my old comrades at compass. “Treasury Spending Review – Take Action”, it  boomed. “The public service cuts, benefit freezes and raising indirect taxes announced in the budget will increase inequality”, before adding helpfully, “but there is an alternative”. With  mounting excitement I scrolled down to learn more of this  bold fight back against the Lib/Con assault on the poor, the dispossessed and  the vulnerable.

Nothing. No thunderous denunciation. No elegant polemic eviscerating the injustice. Just a standard template inviting me to contribute to a treasury consultation.

There I was preparing to rage against the machine. Instead, I’d  run slap bang into the new pluralism. (more…)

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