Tony Benn argues for a left challenger to the coronation of Gordon Brown as Blair’s successor. I agree with almost everything Benn says here… with one reservation. “Any candidate who came out against the Iraq war, privatisation and the crude commercialisation of our school system, with a hidden return to selection, at the expense of local education authorities, could be sure of party and public support, as would those who argued for pensions linked to earnings, an end to student fees, and a non-nuclear energy policy based on renewables and conservation,” he writes. Whilst I agree the Party needs to have this discussion, I think it underestimates the degree to which the media are now able to dominate and manipulate the agenda. Any leadership candidate standing on a platform of ending the cosy three Party consensus would be faced with the full monty from the media.
They would be accused of wanting to return to Polly’s ‘wrecking’ tactics, of fighting an outdated class war, and of pursuing a high tax and spend agenda (which, God forbid, might drive Tom Jones, Phil Collins and Rod Stewart to live abroad – by the way, I haven’t seen Rod, Tom and Phil down the pub lately, where do they live now?). The myths 1979 would all be dragged out – and remember, you would have to be over 40 to know whether or not they were the complete cobblers that they are. The new Leadership candidate would be accused of arguing for a return to the days when trade unions ran the country whilst bags of rubbish mounted up in the streets and you couldn’t bury your granny unless you had express permission from the local secretary of the GMB. The country would be left defenceless as hordes of Russians (oh no, sorry, Arabs) massed on our borders waiting to deflower our young and steal our money. Richard Branson, we would be told, would be heading off to Bermuda as his hard earned assets would be nationalised and turned into massive loss making state-owned bureaucracies and hordes of unruly youths would march through the streets demanding Digby Jones’ head on a turnpike (actually, that one might be a vote winner). Of course, Richard and Digby's money would then be misused by local politically correct neighbourhood committees dominated by gays and lesbians who would ensure maths and english were replaced by gender and peace studies on the school curriculum.
Alternatively, the media would offer us St Gordon, a safe pair of trousers, the saviour of the economy, the Lord of PFI who ‘gave’ the nation all those hospital and school buildings and set the Bank of England free from the shackles of all those interfering do-gooders.
No Tony, I love you to death, but sorry mate, you're wrong on this one. If we imagine there is the slightest chance that a left candidate for the Leadership would have a chance of a fair contest, we are spitting into a hurricane. It could never happen and they could never win. Unless, of course, we gave this man a chance.