Warning: the following item may cause you to lose the will to live
It’s great to see Diane Abbott alone among the Labour leadership candidates playing a straight game as she continues her campaign here and here. But not all lefties want her to win.
Following articles by myself and Harpy Marx about the disappointing Labour leadership hustings in Westminster the other week, there was a passionate exchange of tweets with Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy and Pickled Politics as he manfully defended his chosen candidate, Ed Miliband.
I’m not singling out Ed M as particularly grim since he, bright lad that he is, only plays the same game as the other three male contestants (four amnesiacs in suits and a no-hoper, as I've already dubbed them).
Those of us both for and agin Miliband Minor knocked the argument about on Twitter, which is hilariously useless when you have only 140 characters to play with. It's like debate by haiku. Puh-leaze don't make me reproduce all of it. For those in need of a 'Previously on ...' to catch up with all the gory details, you can check out my Twitter page, and follow the thread from there.
As succinctly as possible: I am suspicious of someone who has only just spoken up about Iraq as if he was nothing to do with the government despite being a minister. If he’s so good at decrying the invasion of Iraq now, how come he didn’t say so when he was in power? Especially during the Chilcot inquiry. Why now when he is hustling for votes? Since Iraq was perhaps the most important issue of the period, it provides a handy litmus test of who the candidates are. And it’s not looking good for Ed.
Then Sunny and Dave Semple sensibly opened up the argument on their blogs, where you can get a better bead on your opponent and a bit more swish to your sword-arm.
Sunny fired the first salvo, Tweeting us that he’d posted, "The problem with the Left and their political parties", a wonk piece about the minutiae of procedure and political machinations that made my eyes glaze over and wonder what was for tea.
Dave actually bothered to read the article and answered at Though Cowards Flinch with: "The problem with 'the problem with the Left'-style articles".
The next thing that happens is arguments about why Ed Miliband is not the saviour of the British nation are derailed and turned into personality glitches rather than politics because we couldn’t possibly not find Sunny’s latest love object as pretty as he. Except for the raft of reasons given by Harpy Marx in her thorough demolition, and those that I and others put forward elsewhere, that is.
Sunny, nice chap that he is, kept missing the point. He had already tweeted that for the detractors, it was emotively “about in-fighting and need to find ppl to disagree”.
Kevin Blowe had to pick him up on more smoke and mirrors and wrote in Dave Semple’s thread:
Equally lazy and deliberately provocative is the assertion that “socialists going around saying the Labour party and the Tories were essentially the same” – presumably meaning those he tweeted – “will be eating their words”. Now personally, I know very few people who would argue that Labour and the Tories are ‘exactly’ the same …
Sunny then responded: “I feel like many on the socialist left want to find an excuse to dismiss Ed M as viable simply because he didn’t go as far as them on an issue.”
Really? Not the war, then? Not his shameful sucking up the the Americans at the Copenhagen climate change summit? Not the wiping out of the collective memory of 13 years of Labour rule where Ed and the others sat at the heart for much of it? Not the desperate need for leadership that doesn’t just manage the unwashed masses but goes all out to improve our lives in meaningful ways and not just pay lip-service when they want our votes?
So I replied:
Sunny, again you distort the argument. I and Harpymarx and others have good reason to write off Ed. Loaded words such as “excuse” and “simply” followed by a rather childish dismissal don’t engage with our reasons. If you really want to promote your man I suggest you present those reasons to him and get him to introspect honestly on what he has done. Until then I see no change in his character and how that manifests in his actions.
Broadly, Ed M, like the other guys, was quiet over Iraq when he was in power, probably the most important issue of his Labour government’s tenure. While he was relatively good at the New Statesman hustings, this raises the question of why he is only talking about it now. The elephant in the room is the issue of career. If he remained silent so as not to rock the boat and send his career off course, then that says something about his character and indicates how he is likely to perform as leader of the party.
I also thought he was dishonest at the Copenhagen summit where he jumped through hoops for the US agenda when their mendacity over the Denmark Text was about to hit the headlines. Whatever China’s shortcomings in the areas we all know, they have in recent years soared ahead of us in their use and development of Green technology, the knowledge of which should be part of any honest debate around the future of this planet. To be so willing to throw them out of the back of the sleigh to satisfy the wolves is not a good sign that Ed will be a principled leader. I experienced an unpleasant wave of anti-Chinese, not just anti-China, feeling after this, so I am most certainly not impressed. I do not believe he will represent me if he is leader.
Stung, Sunny then rattled off another Pickled Politics post: "How should lefties deal with party loyalty and ‘collective responsibility’?"
If you have people constantly resigning or contradicting party lines then the media will tear you apart and nothing gets achieved. Voters would start believing that Labour didn’t know what the hell they were doing, or what they stood for, and vote them out. This is partly why Ed Miliband didn’t speak out when it wasn’t necessary. ... pragmatism ...
Meanwhile, back at Dave’s, Sunny wrote:
“6) MM says: Whatever China’s shortcomings in the areas we all know, they have in recent years soared ahead of us in their use and development of Green technology, the knowledge of which should be part of any honest debate around the future of this planet.
I’ve heard Ed M make that exact point.”
To which I replied:
But, Sunny, he did the opposite when it mattered. As soon as the news of what the US and other rich countries were up to over the Danish Text at the Copenhagen Summit was about to hit the headlines, it was knocked off the front pages with Ed M’s shriek that China and other poor countries had “hijacked” the climate change talks and were “holding the world to ransom”. He completely distorted the debate and defended the US who were demanding an agreement that left them belching out four times the carbon emissions of the Chinese per capita.
His article is a joke when China is forging ahead with Green technology after polluting itself so badly during its own industrial revolution, something we have failed to do.
It was interesting to see in April, the Indian Environment Minister place responsibility for the collapse of the climate summit on the heads of the Danish Text nations.
Ed M did what Blair had done before him and demonstrated to the US that he was a safe pair of hands. The fact that he made his bones with this and his silence over Iraq while he was in power does not fill me hope.
From Sunny saying, “I’ve heard Ed M make exactly that point,” suddenly he is arguing about the Copenhagen Summit all over again, as if Ed never did make that point. No, Sunny, I brought up Ed’s behaviour at Copenhagen as Environment minister as an example of how he, like Blair before him, is prepared to demonstrate to the US that he is their man, and will even provide a diversion when their Danish Text skullduggery is about to make headlines. Great to see him throw himself in front of the charging rhino like this. Would he do it for the Brits who vote for him?
Sunny does concede that:
I think Ed M fucked up Copenhagen and that is down to his terrible political skills. Same with Obama. But the same applies to China and India. None of these people want a global deal – they just want an excuse to blame the other. I’m sorry but you can’t blame Ed M here and exonerate China’s role in all this.
Yes, that is indeed a debate worth having, but the point I am making is that the way it was used cynically here signals that we may yet again have a PM who puts the interests of the US before those of Britain.
For Sunny it's "discipline" and "pragmatism" that excuse Ed. He'll be evoking the spirit of realpolitik, next. For others it's about principle and the will to fight for those with no power. You takes your choice.
Do we actually want Blair Mk II? I surely don’t, but I fear that's what we’ll be given. I can see the contest being something of a shoo-in for Ed. He’s livelier than his taller cuter brother, for whom the lax attitude towards the torture of British citizens might see him sliding down the rankings. Hearing Balls pander to the Mail/Express agenda on immigration requires a stronger stomach than mine. And Andy “Zeppo” Burnham has still not burnt himself into my consciousness.
Perhaps in the future, ALL British leaders will be Tony Blair. We already have a pair of Blairlites helming the ship of state, and now Labour have a bunch more warming up in the wings.