13 December 2005

A week is a long time in politics.

But I really don't understand how opinion polls can change so much just because of someone's image.

Are there really people out there who say they are going to vote Labour one week and then without a single new policy being announced, say Tory the following week.

How can someone's image make such a huge difference? Am I missing something here? Surely it should be the policies that matter. No wonder Blair was so important to the Labour party.

In today's Guardian, Polly (she bought me a drink once, so I think I can get away with first name terms) is arguing that the 'George Bush' tag won't stick to Cameron. I disagree with her about that, but I do agree that it is a triumph of New Labour that the Conservatives are having to try to project a more social democratic image, even if they are hiding their far-right policies behind it.

If it is all about image, Labour do have problems, because it is obvious that Gordon Brown is going to look dour and old in comparison to a media hyped Cameron. I just hope the policies shine through enough to knock the gloss off this Tory fraud.

Brown has made it clear he wants a leadership election not a coronation. I just hope that John Denham throws his hat in the ring. He was the up and coming MP who resigned over Iraq (it is much harder and braver to resign on the way up) and has recently helped draft an alternative education paper that avoids divisive selection proposals.

John Denham would place the Labour party back in the hands of its traditional wing but without going back to 'old' Labour ghosts. He is fresh, relatively young and untainted by the New Labour Iraq adventure. He would get my vote. He may be the best weapon we have to combat the 'turbo Blairist imaging' of the Tories.


  1. Are you nuts? David Milliband is the man for the top job, I saw slapping around the former leader of Bradford council in the commons yesterday which was pretty sweet! I'd bet my life savings Milliband would win a leadership contest if he has the stones to stand, Plus his article in the Guardian last week shows he has the brain to see off George W.Cameron

  2. I like Miliband but his geeky image and close association with Blairism worry me. Wouldn't he be too easy a target for the Tory press?

    John Denham is an acomplished, relatively young alternative that would allow the party to get back to its traditional Labour roots. He also has the advantage of not being tainted by the Iraq War, due to his principled resignation from government over the issue.

  3. carry bag man15/12/05 7:17 pm

    didnt Denham support the id card scheme (which you now oppose) and the anti-terror legislation??? hardly progressive socialist politics !!!!!

  4. carry bag man15/12/05 7:29 pm

    and foundation hospitals...student top up fees...

    grass roots ?????

  5. "didnt Denham support the id card scheme (which you now oppose)"

    I've been persuaded the present proposals are flawed but like Denham I'm in favour of an ID scheme when the practicalities and application are right.

    "and the anti-terror legislation???"

    I've not checked his voting record on this, but I've seen interviews where he argues that this government's anti-terror laws have been counter-productive.

    "and foundation hospitals...student top up fees..."

    Foundation hospitals, I believe he has opposed part of this legislation.

    As for top-up fees, in conjunction with the maintenance grants that have been re-introduced for the poorest students, I agree with them. Why should the working class pay for middle class children's university education?

  6. Neil
    I don't agree with you about Milliband, Yes he's a geek but so is Cameron, Yes the Tory press would attack him but how is that any different to what they did to Blair in the run up to the election? And for what? The Tories are still under 200 seats and their vote share only increased by 0.6%, You can find their relevance on Ebay these days! As for Iraq, Do you really think it will be an issue in 2009/10? Even if it is Cameron was drooling over the prospect of war so any slime on Milliband is on him to, That makes it all square.
    Anyway i just hope there is realistic alternative to Brown, I've really lost patience with that guy, A year ago i would've backed him for the top job but not anymore, Alot of other Labour members i know feel the same, Milliband is the ship to jump on, Just watch.

  7. Anon, maybe you are right, but I'm just not sure about him.

    By the way, I think the correct spelling for Miliband's name is with 1 l.

    I'd like to think Denham could be a runner, he seems a more practical alternative to Miliband (who I don't think has any experience outside of politics).

  8. Personally, I think it would be a mistake for the party to dump Brown any time soon. It would be popularly interpreted as a reaction to Cameron's election, which would make Labour seem panicked - an impression the press will no doubt be attempting to cement, undeservedly.

    It would be nice to have a proper leadership contest, and for the traditional Labour elements to revive themselves. But a change from Brown to Miliband? I honestly don't see the point - the last thing the Labour Party should do now is embrace the new, obsessively photogenic programme the Tories are indulging in (at last).

    Policy is what will get Labour re-elected - more debate on the future of the party is necessary to ensure it has one, yes, as is an increase in internal democracy, but above all we need to focus on Labour's achievements. Has the government has made mistakes? Absolutely. But I don't think the electorate will shun a return to honest, policy-centred politics.

    Surely the emphasis on spin and abstractions is one of the principle reasons for Labour's decline in support? They survived because there was no effective opposition – now let the Tories wallow in their own media lovefest, while the government and the party concentrate on practical policies.

  9. dan, I agree with you (and so does GB) that a contest is desirable. Lets have a reasonable length contest that fills the airwaves and gets across some of our better policies.

    GB could win the next election, but we would do well not to underestimate the value of spin and the media. Without launching a single policy, Cameron has jumped several percent in the polls, just on a change of image.

  10. It was inevitable that Cameron would be played as the rising star in British, as well as Tory politics. Not only is he young and doesn't look like a foetus, we've been without a credible opposition that even the liberal media has been practically falling over itself to beef up Cameron's image.

    But how long can the bubble last without popping? Four years? I doubt it. I'm not saying that image isn't important, but I do think it would be a mistake for Labour to react solely on the basis of images manufactured entirely by the press. There's time aplenty for the party to renew itself without falling into the mess the Tories and now Lib Dems now find themselves in.

    Admittedly, I know very little of John Denham outside of a vague memory of his opposition to the Iraq war. However it it's nice to know there is a more traditional candidate for leader that may have a shot of winning (would you say?). The only other name I've heard has been David Miliband - and by all accounts he seems to be the Blair faction's thorn in the side of Brown's ambitions. Not an exactly appealing basis for the average member to support him, I would think.

  11. John Denham is definitely a long shot, but I think he understands a lot about where to take the party and he would be a clean break from Blairism.

    I wouldn't be too distressed if Brown wins the leadership though(which he probably will), but I do worry about how his image will play against Cameron.

    It's really crazy that someone like Cameron can come along, say absolutely nothing new on policy and yet gain support.

    We need to work hard to remind people of Cameron's hard right policies.

    He wrote the Tory 2005 manifesto, he likes regressive flat taxes, tougher immigration laws and public service cuts and he is the most Eurosceptic leader ever. He is also a fraud on the environment because of his support for massive road building.