Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Podcast (slight return)

I make no apologies about returning to the subject of Iain Dale's contribution on political blogging on the Channel 4 podcast. Not simply because I'm basking in the glory because Iain chose my blog as his first blog of the week, but because he somewhat misrepresented my views. Iain implied I "hated Tony Blair" as much as I "hated Norman Tebbit". This isn't strictly true. In fact I have always maintained that Blair in some repects is the most honest Labour Leader we have ever had (OK, I grant you, WMD's, the Hutton Enquiry, etc don't immediately make you think of "Honest Tone"). But Blair never promised us ‘socialism’… not for one second. He is not a socialist, nor is he from what we rather pompously and proudly call ‘the Labour movement’. In fact as Geoffrey Wheatcroft says in today’s Guardian … 10 years ago I quoted someone who knew Blair well saying: "You have to remember that the great passion in Tony's life is his hatred of the Labour Party." Blair was and remains a market driven Social Democrat… and he did/does what it said on the tin.

The whole thing about this notion of ‘hating Blair’ is in a way playing into the hands of those who create this cult of personality, this Presidential-style leadership. It is definitely the way the market is moving. Cameron has jumped on the bandwagon and the Tories have woken up to the fact that it is not policies the media want to discuss, it is the ‘personality politics’ of their strong leader, driving their party in a direction that most Tories are at the very least antipathetic too, if not downright hostile. Policy is made on the hoof, at the whim of the Leader’s team. So whether it is ‘Blair’ pushing HIS Education Bill, never mind who the Secretary of State for Education is, or Cameron revoking decades, if not centuries of Tory commitment to ‘private good, public bad’, the driver is the Leader, not the Party. They are simply expected to nod through the Leader's latest initiative. It is no wonder Ming Campbell is getting squeezed as the media focuses in on ‘charismatic leaders’.

It's not Tony Blair who is to blame. We (Labour Party members and affiliates)elected him. The electorate voted Labour in three times with him as our Leader, and Labour MPs, whatever the views they may express privately, trot behind him through the lobbies consistently. We are to blame, in our various guises. The only way out of this mess as I see it is to reign in the powers of patronage that we invest in our Prime Minister, make the Prime Minister more accountable to the Executive, the Executive more accountable to the Parliamentary Party in power and the whole lot more accountable to Parliament and a reconstituted, fully elected second chamber. If we do not do that, then all of the other constitutional reforms, such as tinkering with the voting system, will remain peripheral to where political power lies in this country. If we don't do that we have moved very little from the days when feudal Kings had unfettered rights to appointed ministers from the landed gentry and the serfs looked on in confused wonderment.