Everyone keeps telling me that after the General Election, we will see more changes in the make-up of Commons membership than at any time since 1945. Yesterday The Times suggested that over half the Tory benches will be bearing the bums of Freshmen, while the site UKPollingReport says 79 Labour MPs will retire at the next dissolution.
I’ve been browsing through the entries at TheyWorkForYou, and among what’s likely to be left of New Labour after next May, the novices have almost all been some politician’s personal something or other, or a researcher, or a Councillor, or a social worker. Most of them studied Law. The cv’s of these folk are an alarming confirmation of one’s prejudices. But Westminster insiders insist that post-Brown Labour will be very different. More on this later.
On Dave’s side of the House, it looks at first sight like there really could be serious Change. (I capitalise that last word, because it’s the way things are in contemporary politics: Cameron’s last conference but one had ‘Change’ writ large (very large) throughout the hall, and every Obaman last year carried a placard with the same word.) But protesting too much is the first resort of the empty-headed: will the New Cameroon intake contain the sort of firebrands to change all that?
I suspect Cameron thinks that more women, non-Caucasian and State School Tories must be a good thing. I also suspect Cameron doesn’t think at all unless it’s absolutely necessary: based on experience to date, making Parties more ‘representative’ does not either raise the quality of the MPs, nor does it make them any more likely to represent us. If Dave is to think at all, he should think Keith Vaz, Diane Abbott, John Prescott, Tessa Jowell and David Miliband. All of them fit his brief, and all of them are representative of nobody I ever met. Thank Goodness.
Anyway, the Tory leader has set his targets, and if all goes to plan the new Conservative Government will be supported by sixty-six women, a dozen non-pink people, eleven gays and a majority who went to Comprehensives. Thus will his ranks be a perfect cross-section of the unremarkable; and whether you think that a good thing or not, the Tories have Changed. Yes they have!
Yet oddly enough, I have a sensation in the water about all this, and as ever it is contrarian. Despite the civil war that will break out after May 2010, it is New Labour which will revert to old Blairite ways…only with the potential to get even worse: not purely because their intake is the same boring muddle of other-wordly types, but because of who is likely to be leading them.
Having (probably) lost the Election, Gordon will see this as a sign that hard-working families want him to do better as Leader, and vow to carry on nevertheless. Once he’s been relieved of Command, the chances are that – still tainted by idealism – the new infants will use their Janet & John Comprehensive analysis in the search for a candidate who seems both the youngest and most universally electable in a Camerclegg sort of way. This means that Ed Miliband is a shoe-in for the succession. And as he was close to Blair (shacked up for a while with one of his confidantes) and is allegedly liked by The Lord of the Ring, it will be the end of the Brownshirts’ brief reign of terror.
The clues as to the nature of an Eddie leadership are either depressing or uplifting depending on one’s level of patience. The Miliband cv is straight out of central casting: LSE, Oxbridge, lecturer at Harvard, former ministerial advisor, less than five years in the House. He was also strongly pro 60-day detention, ID cards and (of course) recycles every fart and fingernail in the Warmist cause. Thus New Labour will remain exactly where it is – utterly out of touch.
It is a tradition among the democratic Left in Britain that they always either misread the zeitgeist, or ignore it out of sheer bloody-mindedness. They were pacifist when war was unavoidable, nationalisers when We’d Never Had it so Good, CND-centric when we were terrified of the Russians, and all for Union solidarity when everyone else was sick of them. Only Blair and Mandelson have identified a trend (anti-sleaze) and ridden it – but it took three electoral disasters before they were allowed to….and they had to fight the tattered feathers of the Old Left every inch of the way.
The Labour Party had its day in the sun as a radical, reforming Party from 1945-51. It hasn’t been a socialist Party since 1959. After 1979, there was no role for a socialist Party. After 2010, there will be no role for an empty spinning-top. The demise of the former party of the long-extinct working classes has been exaggerated many times, but is now long overdue. As the dwindling relevance of Westminster becomes apparent, its Statism will inevitably be supplanted by another species of reforming Opposition. And this thought cheers me up immensely.
Copyright John Ward 2010