Today was a busy day in politics.
I counted four things of massive import.
The first was that the Party, in Parliament, at last did eventually stand up and vote against the Welfare Reform Bill … well almost: we supported the amendments proposed by the Lords.
On one – the cap – we did so by the skin of our teeth, by suddenly developing the idea that, although we agreed, we would do it differently … ‘regionalize’ it (i.e. set it at different levels in different parts of the country). It was a last-minute excuse to allow us to vote ‘No’, and even the dull Chris Grayling (Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions) was able to mock an uncomfortable Liam Byrne who got stuck with the job of arguing the case.
But never mind, we blagged it, voted ‘No’ … and now – when we knock on doors to meet those thousands of disabled people, cancer sufferers, abandoned mothers and long-term unemployed whose lives are going to be blighted by this Act – at least we are going to be able to tell them that our MPs tried to stop it, voted against it.
The second big story was a NATO report that not only the Pakistan military, but also the Afghan military, Afghan police and Afghan government and judiciary are substantially pro-Taliban. In some parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban are so in control that, if an Afghan has a complaint against a Taliban fighter, he can phone a helpline and report them to the Taliban HQ!
The implication of this is that David Miliband is correct when he says we need to open negotiations with the Taliban – it’s looking more and more that as soon as we leave - as with the Russians more than two decades ago - the Taliban will take control. It is increasingly true – as I have been saying for some time – that it is time to get out, and then we can sort out the Taliban as a foreign government.
Iran’s Nuclear Programme
The third big story was an article by Mehdi Hasan, which basically rubbished the idea that Iran was trying to build a nuclear weapon.
I’m glad he wrote it. There is a steady ‘war-with-Iran’ narrative developing, based around fears that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction. Heard it all before? Well of course we have, and the answer is ‘No’ – not again.
Mr Hasan’s article raised one hell of a twitter storm, but it needed saying.
David Miliband’s (Long-winded) Comeback
Now the fourth story – note that I am not using the word ‘big’ – was that David Miliband has written an article on Labour. The occasion was an article by Roy Hattersley arguing that Labour needs to stop being ashamed to advocating a ‘big state’. So David has written a long, rambling refutation.
Now don’t get me wrong. When David visited our CLP I thought he was FANTASTIC!!!!! I voted for him in the leadership election.
But this was a disappointing article. 3,000 words long. Coded. More about 1992 than 2012. Rambling. Out-of-touch. Self-indulgent. Seven points for Labour’s future, all couched around a refutation of a ‘Reassurance Labour’ position which he himself had invented. Worryingly irrelevant.
At the end of the day it seemed to be little more than a hifalutin endorsement of Progress Labour, interspersed with statements supporting Ed Miliband.
(And if I’ve got that interpretation wrong, it’s only because it was sooooo obscure.)
And the winner is…
Which of these stories do YOU think should have exercised the Party’s twitterati?
Surely the #wrb? If any Tory policy is going to damage the lives of British people, surely it is this? If ever there was an issue that Labour ought to campaign on, surely it is this?
OK then, the Afghan War? Let’s bring our brave boys home! Let’s stop shedding their blood on a wild goose chase!
Iran then? We won’t be fooled again?
No – you’ve got there eventually – the event which raised most interest was David Miliband’s article. Presaged by a New Statesman pre-article. Spun by Will Heaven. Hailed by Dan Hodges.
Conclusion – All That’s Wrong with Labour
And there you have it – what is wrong with Labour in opposition – in a nutshell.
Things that matter, which the rank-and-file would support en masse, and where even the public would probably agree by-and-large – the kinds of things an opposition SHOULD have a view on – go uncommented.
No. What the Labour intellectualensia REALLY want to do is to contemplate their own navels.
Will Ed be deposed? Are we ‘credible’? Big state, little state? Purple, black or red?
It's time to take the fight to the Tories.