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Labour, “ready to be led by someone called Tristram”

John Rentoul

Tristram Hunt 300x197 Labour, ready to be led by someone called TristramGlorious 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.

His conclusion:

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.”

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  • Russell Child

    Utterly predictable how the disloyal Blairites, as opposed to the loyal Blairites (there are some), have fallen over themselves to fall in love with Tristram Hunt.

    David Miliband’s exit to the USA left them twiddling their thumbs, furrowing their brows and biting their lips, but Hunt’s appearance seems to have them working themselves up into a lather over nothing.

    Tristram Hunt is just one of those quite posh, upper middle class blokes who have always played around with being a bit but not too left wing. Eloquent, moderately handsome and telegenic. But utterly vacuous in every other respect.

    There is a relevant entry in one of the volumes of Tony Benn’s diaries, I forget which one. He speaks to David Lammy just after his election to the Commons. It is around the time that Lammy was being hailed as a future leader of the Labour Party. He tells him to ignore the media fuss, warning him that the Commons is full of next or next-but-one leaders of the Labour Party.

    Tristram Hunt would benefit from ignoring these siren calls to become the leader over the water. Instead he should focus on being good at the job he is currently doing.

    And if your blogging consists of little more than trawling the Internet for articles by people you agree with, citing them and calling them ‘brilliant’ or ‘glorious’ then what distinguishes your work from a circle jerk?

  • JohnJustice

    Philip Collins has now moved so far to the right that the wise thing to do is to use his observations as a guide to what Miliband and the Labour Party should NOT be doing.

  • greggf

    “And if your blogging consists of little more than trawling the Internet for articles by people you agree with…..”

    Well Russell, being trapped outside the pay wall and an old fan of Times-on-line before, I like to see JR’s take on stuff from there.

  • porkfright

    What on earth is the relevance of this to most people? Answers on a postcard, please.

  • Pacificweather

    Most of what JR writes is total tosh (although he is sound on housing) but he comes up with some good links from time to time which is why he is worth reading.

  • Pacificweather

    I wonder what Philip Collins will write when Ed becomes Prime Minister.

  • reformist lickspittle

    Never mind that, how will the Hodges react? ;)

  • porkfright

    If even Basil Brush was the leader of any of the three main parties-would it make one ha’porth of difference? As usual, it would be the same old government.

  • mightymark

    “Utterly predictable how the disloyal Blairites, as opposed to the loyal Blairites (there are some), have fallen over themselves to fall in love with Tristram Hunt……………………[who] is just one of those quite posh, upper middle class blokes who have always played around with being a bit but not too left wing. ”

    At one time it seemed perfectly possible that Alan Johnson would succeed to the Bairite leadership. Care to remind me say, what public school this “posh upper middle class bloke” went to?


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