Here’s a fun game for anyone mad about politics. Cross reference anti-Jeremy Corbyn Labour MPs (including those in the shadow cabinet) with constituencies which nominated him as leader. If an anti-Corbyn MP is presented in the media as a serious player but his or her Constituency Labour Party (CLP) voted for Corbyn then the MP isn’t really a serious political proposition at all.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown spent many parliaments persuading equally experienced MPs of the merits of New Labour before they won anything. Most of those time-served politicians were killed in the crossfire over the years in government, and some killed themselves accidentally; the rest have retired or semi-retired (if you’ve watched Netflix’ brilliant Narcos, the Brown crew is the Cali Cartel, surely?). Over time, given attrition, Blair and Brown turned to the only survivors they could still trust – their Special Advisers (SpAds). The Spads were ‘found’ seats and quickly elevated as senior ministers, but many of them were poorly suited to being politicians – often fairly smart back-room kids, they found it hard to be effective at whoring themselves under a phosphorescent red light in the front-room window. But under Blair and Brown, all power was through proximity. So when the two left the stage the SpAds moved from being a proximate adviser class to becoming a new aristocracy in a way posh-boy Tories could only dream of. Blair wanted to be a good prime minister, which he was. Brown just wanted to be prime minister. Neither cared much about what came next.
To Labour’s new aristocracy, folk like trade unionist Dave Anderson MP were plucky, cheekie-chappie, salt-of-the-earth types; good people to have onside as a whip or some such. But in life, when Dave’s world changed as an adult with responsibilities he went to one of the UK’s elite universities and made himself as an MP. It’s an astonishing story. Meanwhile, many of the SpAd aristocracy were decidedly average professionals (becoming a SpAd is not especially competitive and if your ‘principal’ makes it to the top, then there’s a good chance you’ll go with her/him). The truth that Dave Anderson is one of the smartest MPs I’ve met while many of the former SpAds are a bit crap is at the heart of New Labour (call them what you will) problems now.
There’s something actually pathetic about copy written by a politics reporter which says x or y is a future cabinet minister on account of s/he spent a year as a journalist or two years in the civil service. That’s mainly about folk who’ve taken quotes from SpAds in the past trying to help turn their (similarly educated) source into a political player in their own right, for future use. Fair enough – that’s the job of journalists. And that’s not to say no SpAds turn out to be people who can truly cut it as politicians (obviously, most politicians wouldn’t cut it as SpAds).
But none of those ‘others’ failed to command their local constituency party. That’s the failure of the weak wet-behind-the-ears second lieutenant when Labour’s always been a partnership of smart commissioned NCOs and able young officers – if you will.
I’ve heard a lot pejorative stuff about Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘half-wits’. There are certainly plenty of those, but the media hanging around the bars of Brighton this week at Labour Party Conference will be ignoring their own previous bollocks about future ‘stars’ (i.e. former SpAds who’ve turned out unable to win a single election anywhere in the UK and completely lost control of the party) – and chatting instead to Dave Anderson and a few others.
Oh yeah – and the Cali Cartel? The biggest story for a lot of people this week is President Santos of Colombia shaking hands with the leader of FARC.
Justice For Colombia (JFC), a trade union campaign, has been at the heart of the process which has yielded what in a pure world would be today’s top story. The people behind that campaign, folk like Dave Anderson, have quietly been doing real things while former New Labour’s failed aristocracy have been giving good quote. That’s the scale of the Labour aristocracy’s terrible failure.