During the years so far of my political education it has become a tired cliche to describe some reactionary argument or other as ‘turning reality on its head’.
But it was hard not to think of this phrase when reading Matthew d’Ancona’s comment piece in today’s London Evening Standard.
Hilariously entitled Ed or David Miliband, this lurch to the Left is a loser for Labour, d’Ancona’s basic argument is that New Labour in government was successful only when it ditched every single last remnant of social democratic policy. Ire is first directed at Ed Miliband, whose proposal to establish a High Pay Commission is “the sort of gesture politics that would haunt the party if it became official policy. How could Labour possibly reclaim its image as the party of aspiration — hard-won by Blair and the other modernisers — if it were proposing formally to cap ambition?”
Thus in Matthew d’Ancona’s world the thoroughly tame and unthreatening idea of some scrutiny of the very highest salaries becomes a ‘cap on ambition’. How does one cap ambition anyway? Could one formally cap anything – sleepiness, for example? I’d like to propose we formally cap Matthew d’Ancona’s pompous and frankly delirious rants, but this is unrealistic.
Perhaps not as unrealistic, d’Ancona goes on, as ‘the Left’, this monolithic capitalised entity that the Daily Mail and its hangers-on do so love to demonise. The Labour Party has since the election already lurched to ‘the Left’. And here’s the knock out blow. Even David Miliband, “the only candidate who looks remotely prime ministerial, has resorted to daft gallery-pleasers like abolishing charitable status for independent schools.”
I mean, what? Are we now meant to believe that for suggesting a single puny policy (one can imagine David’s campaign team struggling into the night to come up with something to make him sound vaguely interested in redistribution), this arch Blairite too has succumbed to the draw of ‘the Left’? Do me a favour.
Of course, what’s really going on here is that, as always, d’Ancona is a false friend. He has no interest in Labour becoming electorally viable, at least not for a good while yet. In his piece he glowingly references James Purnell, Peter Mandelson and Alan Milburn – all key architects of the New Labour project that lost almost 5 million votes for the party in 13 years.
If d’Ancona and his friends in the right wing media get their way in September and David Miliband takes the leadership of the Labour Party, then the unchecked juggernaut to the right in British politics continues unfettered. Voters angry at Tory nastiness and Lib Dem betrayals may rally to Labour, but will not be positively attracted.
The sermon ends: “But let’s face it: a party that is flirting seriously with the idea of Ed Miliband as its leader can’t be all that bothered about winning general elections anyway. Can it?”
Does this sound desperate and afraid to you, or is it just me? And the sad thing is that there is little reason to be afraid. A Blairite Ed Miliband is not, but he would make a useless leader.