Eventually, even the most successful football team will start to lose. Perhaps they do need a new manager – he usually takes the blame. Sometimes it’s the players, who’ve got too old, or become complacent. Sometimes old stars have moved on and their replacements aren’t up to much. Often, to be cynical, it boils down to money.
And, sometimes, it’s none of the above. Football teams do not operate in a vacuum; they face other teams who are constantly improving and adapting. When Blackpool first went into the premiership they beat all kinds of teams; but by the end of the season the opposition strategists had got them sussed, and they were relegated in the end.
One thing a losing team MUST do is some reflection. Obstinately continuing simply to play ‘the way we have always played’ on the grounds that ‘it won us the championship last year’ is NOT an option.
SOMETHING has gone – is going – wrong, and it needs to be identified, and changed.
If it is not, we all know what happens. As the team continues to fail, first the players, then the fans become disillusioned and grumpy. And, in the end … relegation.
Actually, the problem rarely (?never) needs a complete clear-out. When you have had a successful formula for years it makes no sense to ditch the whole system. Indeed, sometimes a small adjustment can make all the difference – some new tactics, or (as recently at Sunderland) just a new manager.
Mr Bozier Strikes Out
Have I written too much about football? It’s absolutely relevant to the place that the Labour Party finds itself in today.
We lost the last election, and have had a string of setbacks since. The players and the fans are starting to moan about the manager.
Time for a rethink on strategy?
Except… into the debate bowls Luke Bozier today: The political cancer at the heart of the Labour Party.
His isn’t a reflective rethink – it’s an aggressive, provocative attack.
Mr Bozier clearly despises the manager, whom he accuses of showing ‘very, very poor leadership’.
But it is the membership for whom Mr Bozier reserves his greatest spleen. They are, he claims, rejecting the New Labour lessons that Tony Blair taught us – for which they are accused of being ‘intellectually vacuous’. A ‘talented next generation’ of New Labour politicians, Mr Bozier tells us, is finding obstacles in the way to advancement; indeed, some party members are even heckling New Labour speakers at CLP meetings.
For Mr Bozier, these people are fools to themselves:
After sixteen years of New Labour – a formula which was proven unequivocally to work (three concurrent Labour terms in office) – the majority in the party are desperate to run away from political success to the hinterland of left-wing back-patting and earnest, well intentioned, but wholly useless and ineffective opposition.
Oh Dear Mr Bozier
I get the feeling that Mr Bozier does not really know (or care) how to get people on his side! Indeed, you wonder whether he is really a closet socialist applying reverse psychology to try and turn EVERY member against New Labour!
I was worried for Mr Bozier. His letter was a cry of despair and anger … the lashing-out of someone who thinks he has lost. Those left-wingers who do NOT want an accommodation with the right of the Party will take heart that they are, indeed, on the brink of driving out the Blairites.
Forget the problem with Mr Bozier’s allegation that New Labour is finding itself frozen out (!) – for most of us the upper echelons of the Party seem awash with Blairites, and it is WE who are on the outside waving frantically but ineffectually.
There are three much more important issues that Mr Bozier needs (as he explicitly accepts) to ‘get his head around’.
1 New Labour Has Lost - Qed
The first thing Mr Bozier needs to accept is that we lost the last election. Come to terms with it. New Labour lost.
Why? A plethora of reasons. The manager lost his nerve. Some of the old team moved on. The opposition developed new strategies that got through our defences. Old voters died and the young, ‘rebellious’ thing to do was to oppose the Labour government.
Whatever the reasons, we lost, and therefore we NEED a rethink.
And, Mr Bozier, much as I may not appreciate what a winning new strategy might involve, I can assure you of one thing; the answer is NOT New Labour. The old New Labour strategy died in 2010, and we need a new strategy for a new (and completely different) situation.
Hopefully, that new strategy will not involve a wholesale throwing away of New Labour principles. It may need as little as a ‘tweaking’.
But there needs to be a period of reflection, there needs to be a debate, and there MUST be change.
2 We MUST Start To Listen To The Rank-and-file
The second thing Mr Bozier needs to accept is that the Party MUST start to listen to its members.
Tony Blair was my MP. I cannot speak highly enough of him. I was (and remain) a huge fan. But even I do not think that New Labour got everything right.
One of its failings was a tendency to take the rank-and-file for granted. New Labour was very top-down. The role of the rank-and-file was to be loyal, not to rock the boat and to watch our words.
To be fair, for 15 years we played our part; we were prepared to accept the parts of New Labour policy which worried us (e.g. identity cards) in return for the very real blessings of a Labour government which wasn’t perhaps as left-wing as one would have hoped, but whose heart was in the right place.
BUT (and excuse me if I have this wrong), it looks now to me very much that we are not in government any more. And that the brilliant Mr Blair has gone.
So why the same old rules?
The Labour Party cannot any longer be an army run by generals who give orders which must be obeyed. The Labour Party has to become a democracy, and it has to start to listen to, and be representative of, its rank-and-file; I am pleased to see that some of the declaring candidates for the NEC have realised this.
Mr Bozier seems to feel that the rank-and-file have no right to heckle him at CLP meetings. Perhaps they do indeed have a duty to be polite. But, on the other hand, by what right does he assume the right to be heard? He is no longer one of an all-conquering elite which has delivered government to the Labour Party after 18 years of Thatcherism; since 2010 he has become just another guy, in opposition, with as little idea as the rest of us how to get back into government.
To be honest, I rather resent the allegation that I have a psychological inclination to stay in opposition. That was the mantra which was pitched at Old Labour to great effect in the 1990s; and the fact that Mr Bozier is still pitching it in 2012 shows just how out-of-date he has allowed himself to grow.
In fact, I want to get back into power just as much as he. I am prepared to make the necessary compromises to do so. I absolutely accept that we need to hold on to many of New Labour tenets if we are not to turn off the critical middle class element of Labour’s support-base.
But I am realistic enough to realise that undiluted old-style New Labour will NOT win us the next election. The New Labour old guard no longer merit automatic respect; they need to start listening to the Party rank-and-file. They need to come to terms with the fact that they are ‘an equal’ again.
3 We Need To Be Constructive
Finally, the third thing I would like Mr Bozier to consider is the need for constructive comment.
Please go through his article and identify the negative phrases – the attack on Ed, the provocation of the Party Left, the insulting language etc.
Now go through it again and see if you can identify ANYTHING which might be regarded as positive.
Yes, it is clear that he thinks that a return to old-style New Labour is what is needed, but can you find a single place in the article where he advances this idea positively? In fact, I can only find instances where he advances it negatively – where he asserts that NOT to advocate Blairism will consign the Party to oblivion.
And look also at how he refers to other people within the Party. Does he at any point offer a discussion, acknowledge other arguments, show respect, offer a hope of compromise? In fact, I can see only scorn and disdain.
This betides badly for the future, if our most senior leaders are going into ‘sulk’ mode.
The Left of the Party is angry, and it certainly has the ethical high-ground at the moment. It is the voice articulating opposition to the government. But it lacks experience of political success or government. It simply cannot hope ever to win an election unless it can hang on to the Blairite/New Labour interest, and the voters they represent. Socialism taken neat is NOT the answer.
Equally, however, the Right of the Party has to accept that neither is New Labour the solution any more. The Party needs to debate and decide a new strategy. It needs to listen to and engage with the rank-and-file, and probably to move leftward in its policies and thinking.
For that to happen without schism, we need goodwill on both sides.
We need as a whole Party to sit down and think of a strategy which WILL win us the last election.
And unfortunately, Mr Bozier, your article only made that harder, not easier.