Some Aaro Watching on Twitter
So this is the narrative for new Labour leaders - 'sorry' over Iraq (ie, not me gov) and 'listening' on immigration. Ugh.
I doubt many AW readers will disagree with the second sentiment. As for "listen" David Miliband referred to it four times in his leadership launch speech
My parents came to this country having fled persecution. They saw the power of ideas to cause suffering on a monumental scale. But their response was not to close down debate. They championed new thinking. I listened and tried to learn.
I'm trying to work out if that's a joke or not. David Miliband's thinking is certainly 'new' when compared to Ralph's.
New Labour did fantastic things for the country. But now we are out of power, what counts is next Labour. Listening, idealistic, open, engaged, thoughtful, radical, decisive, Labour.
So that's 'next Labour'. What was 'New Labour' then?
- we will listen to every MP and candidate, whether or not they support me, for their ideas about what the country needs and the public want; they’ve just spent weeks on the doorstep and we need to make the most of that knowledge
- we will listen to the country as well as campaign in the party; we will take the party and its ideas out into the constituencies we have lost as well as those we have won
There's "we will listen" twice. As if they didn't before. But, here's Simon Hoggart from Tuesday 8 November 2005
Which brings us to New Labour's answer to Mr Sarkozy, Hazel Blears. I don't know what she does to the bombers, but by God she frightens me. When she said, "and we are a listening government, yes, we are a listening government", I felt like someone hearing Genghis Khan talk about being responsive to our consumer base.
I think 'listening' goes back further than the early months of New Labour's third term, but that's the earliest I can find easily. So shorter me: New (Next) Labour always claim to be listening in the present and in the immediate future, while also claiming, somewhat unconvincingly, not to have been listening in the past. What this means, re immigration I think, is some bloody awful rhetoric, perhaps culminating in a fireside heart-to-heart between the most desperate candidate and Richard Littlejohn, and, a few years down the line, the same thing all over again.
I know a few readers are political activists, and probably did knock on doors during the election campaign. I didn't, but I bet the feedback wasn't at all straightforward. Here's How Britain Voted in 2010
(Ipsos Mori). Labour did lose votes from the famous C2 class (Men: -11; Women: -15) but those votes didn't all go to the Conservatives (Men: +4; Women: +7); some went to the pro-immigration Lib Dems: (Men: +3; Women: +5). From that, I would not conclude that immigration lost it for Labour. Either it's irrelevant, or the C2s are split, a small majority against, but a significant minority in favour.
But I meant to write about Dave's first problem: well, it wasn't them
. Neither Ed Balls nor Ed Miliband "were MPs when the decision to invade Iraq was made." (Political historians: are there other precedents for party leadership candidates who have only served one term as MPs? Cameron only entered Parliament in 2001. Is this new?) Via Sim-O
, Balls claimed to the Telegraph
, "For the first time I’m free to be myself." Presumably, he means "for the first time, since being in government" but ministers are always free to resign if they disagree with government policy. I'm starting to warm to Balls, mostly because Nick Cohen hates him
. But he's entirely wrong here (coming back to Dave's tweet):
“We [the leadership candidates] all have similar messages, on welfare reform and immigration, because we’ve all had lots of conversations with people like Mrs Duffy. Gordon would have had a better campaign and a better time of it if he had spent a lot of time in public, having those conversations. You can’t do politics through the speech and the delivered message.”
PMs don't spend a lot of time meeting the public: they have to run the country - and that means doing politics by doing stuff rather than just making speeches and delivering messages. You really can't blame Gordon Brown for that. He had advisors, one of whom was Ed Balls of course, to keep in touch with public opinion.
The thought of Gillian Duffy's uninformed prejudices swaying the Labour leadership election - to quote Simon Hoggart quoting the Duke of Wellington - frightens me.
The fun thing, of course, is how they're all running from Iraq now. Well, it was too much to listen to Hans Blix or Robin Cook or two-million odd marchers at the time. Labour will listen now, and if they don't, well, I will never believe another thing that I am told by our government ... ever again
(Personal note: coming back from the shops this morning I was asked by my new neighbours, whom I hadn't met before - well, I wouldn't have, as they've only been here three days - to look at their boiler, which they couldn't get to produce hot water. People who know me will understand that this was life-endangering on their part, and an explosion, fire, flood, or other disaster could have followed, as happens when I try to 'fix' things. The neighbours are a little girl and her grandmother, who were housed by the refugee council, which they confuse with the local council, who actually provide the house. I know they're from Pakistan, and the refugee council has placed them in a home with next to no furniture, and I also know that people are basically conservative. Emigrating is fine is you're young, skilled, and seeking your fortune. It's not the natural course for the very old or the very young. And so I conclude - I didn't ask - that they moved because of something pretty bad. Not having been able to fix the boiler, or contact the council - they don't even have a phone; I'll have to let them use mine on Monday when I come home from work - I was nearly in tears when I closed my front door. So, fuck everyone who wants to cut immigration and make it harder. Ed and Ed and David and the rest, perhaps you could talk (that means listen) to some refugees too. Or is that unimportant?)