If Labour’s Left needs fresh material in its eternal search for new ways of abusing Blairism, and of course helping Jeremy Corbyn to victory, it simply needs to distribute this new Spectator piece.
It’s John McTernan, former political secretary to two prime ministers (Tony Blair and Julia Gillard the, er, anti-Blairite pm) having a political breakdown on behalf of Blairites everywhere. McTernan argues that if there’s a Jeremy Corbyn victory, the new leader should be removed immediately. Whether by ice-pick, shooting or poision McTernan doesn’t say. “Who cares about the grass roots?” – McTernan goes on – “Nobody is voting for Tumbleweed CLP”. The contempt for regular people contained in the comments is powerfully reminiscent of Gerald Ratner, the mild-mannered CEO personally insecure in his inheritance of a retail empire so who went on an assertiveness course and thereafter unintentionally became a legend. Maybe in future this political version will be called a McTernan? ‘The Labour Party is crap. The public is crap. If you elect the wrong leader you’re crap. The constituencies are crap. It’s all about saleability, you morons’.
McTernan thinks that if David Miliband hadn’t huffed off to the US, there would have been no competition against him for the Labour leadership after the inevitable defeat led by his brother. Really? It’s a wonder David Miliband himself didn’t see it that way if he’s such a political genius and it’s all so obvious. Instead of, you know, making everyone nauseous by, in the immediate aftermath of his brother’s defeat, not quietly comforting his own blood but instead appearing by satellite from New York to tell the country what a terrible failure his own brother is (if you missed it, you’ll likely have seen one of the many repeat performances since then).
But hey, John, what do you think the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon is all about? Why do you think Burnham and Cooper are talking left and the Blairite candidate is nowhere? You think it’s because the Labour Party only ever wanted another Miliband, only this time one a bit more to the right?
The harsh reality for Blairites (like me, actually) is that Tony Blair was too busy changing the world in various ways, mainly good, and battling Brown and the left to worry about succession. He had a historical window – because Labour had been out of power so long – and probably knew it would likely close again after him and Labour would revert to type. Maybe Gordon Brown’s misplaced prime-ministerial ambition made all of this inevitable, I really don’t know. But the simple fact is that Tony Blair allowed all his competent lieutenants to be killed off and all that was left were the former back-room special advisers – most of them evidently poorly-suited to actual political leadership. They’ve become the aristocracy who guillotined themselves.
It’s worth remembering that Labour’s special adviser generation has never won a single election in the UK, Scotland or London (nor Australia). And also that if Corbyn wins handsomely in the first round then loses through transfer votes, one of those special advisers will need to stand in front of David Cameron at the dispatch box knowing s/he’d been crushed by the guy sitting way off to her/his left and elected on the back of perhaps less than 1 in 4 of the selectorate – before pandering to that huge left-wing group at every turn.
For those looking north, one of the most striking things about the SNP is how their MPs and MSPs genuinely reflect the folk who elect them – there’s no doubt that’s been essential to their success. No, Labour’s heard enough from the special advisers-turned-politicians. And there’ll be no Labour government until the whole edifice has been rebuilt by smart folk with a hinterland and who base their politics first and foremost on what they hear and see in their own constituencies by walking about and talking to regular folk.
It’s not all bad news, mind you. Those folk are already on the Labour back-benches – just watch the excellent newbies on Newsnight. Whether or not Corbyn wins, New new Labour can be up there bagging the middle-ground again in time for 2025 (in England, at least), once everyone’s got tired of defeat again. Probably. It’s really just a matter of whether or not victory is presaged by outright schism as before Kinnock and Blair came along.