Dead Men Left

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The horror, the horror

Don't say I didn't warn you. The awesome prospect of John Reid actually becoming Prime Minister remains distant - though not quite distant enough, but the major effect of his likely candidature will be to pull Brown and thus the whole contest even further to the Right. That, it strikes me, is one reason amongst many why the Left - inside or outside of Labour - needs to back John McDonnell's campaign. British politics is debased enough without a thuggish neoconservative[*] in Communist drag marching us smartly towards a police state. I don't agree with McDonnell's perspective - I think the Labour Party as a vehicle for progressive change is all but dead - but it would be criminally foolish not to support him as best as possible.

Reid's current prospects of victory are, of course, not great. The electoral college system the Labour Party now has ensures that each MP's vote is weighted nearly a thousand times more heavily than each ordinary members' - to say nothing of the trade unionists' votes. And with Reid, I'm told, unable at present to get close to enough signatures to even stand, we might gain some idea of his present popularity amongst MPs. That's a significant hurdle.

What bothers me is that the media will do a Cameron for him: take the outsider, and plug him so heavily that he acquires an unstoppable momentum amongst ordinary members, often isolated from political structures and generally completely passive, who vote for him by the bucketload. We had a taster over the summer, with the absurd spectacle of John Reid defending the Britsh Way of Life from the awesome dangers of shampoo and Lucozade being talked to the heavens by the press - aided and abetted, of course, by Reid himself, who is both obsessive and canny in such matters. (Incidentally, such is Reid's eye for a media prize, and evident lack of scruple, that it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the disruption of the Home Secretary's meet-the-natives speech by a bona fide loud-mouth fundamentalist nutter was not simply a result of typically incompetent police "intelligence". George hints as much here.) It's certainly a risk, and one of the few means to break up such a media push would be a concerted, grass-roots campaign amongst Labour Party members and union affiliates over the key issues the Labour Party has always claimed to stand for - not (at best) warmed-over communitarian shite. Brown can't deliver that, but perhaps McDonnell and the Left can.

[*] Not a curse-word; I can't think what else Reid's politics can be best summed up as. I suspect he'll harp on the theme of "security" actually being about helping the weakest some more, and perhaps adopt "social entreprenurship" as a theme over coming weeks.