Labour, “ready to be led by someone called Tristram”
Glorious from Philip Collins in The Times (pay wall):
It has long been my belief, metaphorically if not until now literally, that the modernisation of the Labour Party would never be complete until it were ready to be led by someone called Tristram. The party has had a Clement before and, on the principle that if you remain silent long enough you will be thought a philosopher, it overrates him to the point of idolatry.
But, he says, leadership speculation is a substitute for ideological uncertainty. Collins is unmoved by Ed Miliband’s cheerleaders’ excitement of the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York:
These are heady days for the belief that Mr Miliband is leading Britain to the left. A point of proof seems to have arrived in the form of the first Democrat Mayor of New York for two decades … To which it is time to turn on the cold shower. My iron law of things that happen in America is that they happen in America. We live in Britain and this is a different country. It is odd that these banal observations pass muster as commentary but the lesson-learning political junkies are all busy pouring their bromides into the brew, so I might as well counter. If you really want a lesson from Mr de Blasio it is that he ran as “none of the above” and will find it impossible to govern now he has become the chosen one.
The talk of a new era of progressive politics will remain an illusion as long as Labour fails the first task of credible leadership, which is to understand its last defeat and define a credible retort. Pundits too tangled in politics can easily get lost in the weeds. This day, that day, Ed is up or Ed is down and so the call goes out for Tristram or Chuka or Yvette, depending on whether the caller wants Labour’s first Tristram, Nigerian Irishman or woman.
But none of the putative candidates yet stands for anything. Until one of them clears the mist on Labour’s 2010 defeat, in which Mr Miliband chose to be cloaked, and until one of them sets out how Labour plans to pay for its sentimental stories on education, welfare and the NHS, all of which Mr Miliband chooses to ignore, the talk of the leadership will be nothing more interesting than a question of who sounds better on TV or which one among them has the best hair.
The hair and beauty pageant will have to be staged if Mr Miliband’s experiment with a world gone left-wing proves to be the fable I expect. At that point, the new generation needs to have a notion of why it inherits opposition and an idea of what it wants to win for.
Update: David Head draws my attention to this in Tristram Shandy (Laurence Sterne, 1759): ”Tristram! Melancholy dissyllable of sound! which, to his ears, was unison to Nicompoop, and every name vituperative under heaven.”Tagged in: ed miliband, labour party, philip collins
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