Thursday, March 01, 2007

Picking over caesar's corpse.

Simon Basketter has a good article on the challenges for the Labour leadership. In particular, he's right to note that although Michael Meacher has been unfairly attacked, not least by the despicable Blair, for making a bid for the leadership, he does not have the kind of impressive, consistently radical background that John McDonnell does. Indeed, he seems likely to take MP nominations from McDonnell, who at this moment is unlikely to get on the ballot. This would be a shame, because McDonnell is doing what no other candidate is doing: he is raising a debate in the grassroots. McDonnell has acheived strong trade union backing in this way, and is probably the pick for most of what remains of the Labour left.

But who are these other creatures emerging from the crevices? David Miliband was seriously raised as a potential challenger to Gordon Brown, backed by lunatic Blairites like Alan Milburn, Charles Clarke and Stephen Byers. I don't quite know whether to yawn or vomit. Granted, Brown is unpopular with the voters, so much so that he makes David Cameron look charismatic, but David Miliband is a void, a conspicuous absence: either the Blairite vanguard have been so thoroughly discredited that they actually prefer anonymity, or they are out of their minds.

Hardly more appealing is Hazel Blears, the authentic 'Brownite' challenger for the deputy leadership. She has been heard to use the 's' word, indicating that it was picked up in the streets and not in some academic seminar (she's a grammar school girl). She says Labour must "stay in touch with people's ambitions", which means it must base its strategy on keeping a fairly narrow layer of upwardly mobile centre-right voters on board. In fact, every time you hear an ardent New Labourite, you will be able to tell them by the frequency with which ambition, aspiration, hope and so on are referenced.

It's hardly an inspiring contest, despite the best efforts of McDonnell: there isn't much left of the Labour party as it is, so that even if he got sufficient MP backing, I find it difficult to believe that most of the membership that remains would back him. There is a political crisis, but it is driving people out of the Labour party, not to its left-wing candidates. As I suspect this year's local elections will reveal.