I do not read The Times in hard copy (it’s a Murdoch thing – I share the views of D Potter in that regard). However, I keep up with some of their on-line material including the blog of David Aaronovitch (brother of Remembrance of the Daleks scripter Ben).1 The other week in the midst of the Blair – Brown shenanigans Aaronovitch quoted Andrew Marr on the Conservative party in the 1990s where some MPs were dreaming of opposition, a dream which comes true. Aaronovitch suggested some in the Labour party are thinking the same. It didn’t ring with me at the time, until I spoke with a colleague – a Labour party candidate at the last election. He indicated a number of things.
First, Brown would – in his words – be “as bad as Blair”. The reason was that Brown was “more right wing than Blair” and “the architect of “the project”.” This has some sympathy with my own view on the Brown-Blair relationship, not necessarily in terms of Brown’s competence but in the relationship between the two. Those on the Labour left (such as Diane Abbott in her regular appearances with Neil and Portillo) that think that Brown will offer more left wing policies are – I think – misguided. Brown has held the purse strings, has had great power in determining government expenditure on social policy. The strength of the enmity between Brown and Blair is because it is a personal matter, not a question of policy.
Second, he suggested that Brown would lose the next election as a result of the behaviour the other week, and he had effectively prevented any alternative candidate standing as a result of his behaviour in recent years.
Third, in his view this loss would be for the good of the Labour party because it would force the party to rediscover its socialist roots.
This final point fits the Aaronovitch analysis – the idea that through opposition the party will find its soul and better position itself to triumph. The Conservatives have found that the disputes of the 1990s leading to 3 election defeats has led not to Thatcherite revival but a leader determined to out-Blair Blair, where the merest hint of a policy is being delayed as long as possible but the mood is new Butskellism. After the difficulties of the 1980s do Labour MPs and activists really think that opposition would do their party good?
1. I may have made that up, but I think it is true, and it should be true. The other brother was of course the evil fake pilot in Coronation Street.