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Thursday 25 June 2015

Jason Cowley - Prisoner Of A Blairite Past

Persistent and unrelenting complaint about the leadership of political parties is very much a niche journalistic calling. It is a yet narrower one if only one party is involved, and in the case of the Labour Party, that niche has just about been cornered by the Telegraph’s less than celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, who carped incessantly about Mil The Younger, and will probably whine the house down at who comes next.
Burnham is today's candidate ...

That has not deterred New Statesman editor Jason Cowley from spending a significant amount of time joining in with Hodges, and anticipating the upcoming leadership contest by going in with both feet on Andy Burnham, deploying memories of a glorious Labour past that never was, and accepting the full set of right-wing press narratives without question. Cowley’s look back at the 1970s is the most immediately eye-catching.

In 1976, after Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister, the six contenders to replace him were Roy Jenkins, Jim Callaghan, Anthony Crosland, Tony Benn, Denis Healey and Michael Foot. How Labour yearns for figures of comparable stature today”, he tells. All of those named had already served in Wilson’s 1964-70 administration. Some had served in the post-war Attlee Government. Much of their stature derived from that service.

Yet Burnham, who, like Yvette Cooper, has served in a previous Labour Government, is derided by Cowley as a mere professional politician. What he also fails to notice is that all of those past Labour figures were, at one time or another, reviled and ridiculed by the press, in the same way as Burnham is now: Callaghan over the 1967 devaluation, Healey over the IMF loan, Jenkins for his liberal stance on home affairs, for instance.
... and there is no new Blair

Take also this assertion from Cowley’s article: “Once a Blairite, he has now repositioned on the populist left of the party, becoming the self-declared champion of the public sector, having also assiduously wooed the big unions, which are supporting his leadership bid”. Tony Blair was the chosen candidate of the Trades Unions. Have a think about that. If he achieved that without “assiduously wooing” them, he was a truly remarkable man.

Take also these claims: “Like the Miliband brothers, he was fast-tracked into a safe seat and then the cabinet. If he has a gift, it is for staying out of trouble and sensing the direction of travel”. No, Burnham was not “fast-tracked … like the Miliband brothers”, and certainly not like Mil The Elder, who was effectively imposed on South Shields. He gained the right to succeed Lawrence Cunliffe by his own application.

And those who stay out of trouble and sense the direction of travel do not make the efforts Burnham did to advance the cause of the Hillsborough families, at a time when it was not fashionable to do so. Jason Cowley’s problem is that he is not prepared to give Labour’s most likely new leader a fair hearing before giving up on him. Andy Burnham is not the new Tony Blair, but, guess what? There is no new Tony Blair. It isn’t going to happen.

Labour’s next winning leader will do things differently, whoever it is. That’s reality, Jason.


hirundine said...

It appears to this reader that all politicians are; self serving criminal psychopaths, in fancy duds"? I likely do them a disservice? For they will all claim, that they are really, just selflessly serving their country...?

Yeah right!

z0rr0z said...

It seems that those so selflessly serving will fight viciously to carry on doing it.