what that entails (more on this later). Gordon Brown has blown Labour's chance of re-election but he still doesn't get it.
Gordon Brown has just appeared on TV and claimed to have been 'entrusted' by the British people to lead this country. Constitutionally speaking, nobody can object to him being PM (we do not have a constitution). We have an electoral system left over from the 18th century 'rotten boroughs' era and a rag-tag of 'pseudo-constitutional' laws that can be changed by parties elected to majorities in the Commons while receiving only 35% of the vote and just 22% support within the electorate.
It was the cowardice of Labour MPs that decided Gordon Brown should be PM, and it is the cowardice of Gordon Brown that is destroying Labour's chances of re-election.
The warning signs about Brown were clear; the Dunfermline & West Fife by-election loss in his neighbouring constituency where Brown personally campaigned hard, Brown's anti-democratic refusal to trust Labour party members to elect him in a leadership election, his poor communication and media skills and his infamous 'stalinist tendencies'. These were all well known but somehow Labour MPs persuaded themselves everything would be alright. And they may have got away with it, if only Brown could have shown some courage in the Autumn last year. He predictably didn't show courage and now the chance has gone.
If this is how the electorate are reacting now - while the economy is still growing - how are they going to react if and when we actually enter a recession?
Those of us on the left of the Labour party who have somehow remained in the party, have to persuade the tribal loyalists that now dominate that playing it 'safe' has destroyed the party - both in terms of membership and our chances of re-election. The more autocratic the Labour leadership became, the more MPs and members were reduced to a few spineless 'headnodders' - blindly following any path as the price to be paid for power. This has happened right across the country hollowing out parties - leaving Labour councillors more likely to be inept, 'Tory stooges', careerists or just plainly corrupt.
Whatever happens now is unlikely to halt a Labour defeat at the next general election but we still have a chance to stop this democratic decline becoming permanent. The solutions I propose are so radical, they almost certainly won't happen - but if the left in the Labour party want to ever get power again - they must implement them.
In the 11 years Labour has had in government, they have managed to achieve some admirable things but the constraints of a right-wing press and a dysfunctional electoral system have stopped Labour from being the radical government the country so desperately wanted in 1997.
The Tories moved the tax burden onto the poorest and Labour has largely left this is place. To tackle the runaway train of growing inequality that the Tories had put in place needed more than the £100bn Labour have thrown at the poorest 20%. The increase in public service expenditure has helped - providing better and more affordable public transport, reversing terminal decline in state education and the NHS and boosting all services from social care to Surestart. And so too have tax credits helped despite the bureaucratic waste associated with them and their poor take up rate.
The 'scandal for the left' headline will always be that inequality has slightly increased under Labour (from gini-coefficient 0.33 to 0.35 - for comparison, under Thatcher it moved far more significantly from 0.25 to 0.33 (pdf)). But to criticise Labour for this slight increase under their watch is disingenuous, because; firstly, it ignores how much worse inequality would have been without tax credits, the minimum wage and increased public expenditure; secondly, that the 'wealth lag' ensured that inequality would grow for decades after the Tories left office (it is always easier to tax income than the wealth accumulated in the 1980s and 90s that might have been moved overseas); and thirdly, the gap under Labour between the poorest and all but the very very rich (top 5-10%) has closed - this last point is important because all pensioners and 600,000 children have been brought above the 'poverty line' by Labour.
So my first proposal to the change the most regressive tax - widen council tax bands to properly take account of wealth - it surely is not right that somebody living in a mansion has their council tax capped to no more than 2.8 times what somebody in a studio flat would pay?
This would immediately send a signal to those working class voters deserting Labour that Labour is on their side and crucially unlike the Tory populist and not-credible soundbites on fuel duty would be pro-environment - this principle being as important as the actual redistributive measure.
Finally and most importantly Labour need to improve democracy - we need more tax adjusting powers in local government to give it more teeth and attract higher turnout and better governance, and we need majority rule - only proportional representation will give us local and national government - where 50% of votes equals 50% of seats. Without this and with our right-wing press, democracy in Britain will not stand a chance. Whether it is the Tory bigotry against science, women and gay people demonstrated by Cameron and his party this week, or hypocrisy over the environment in their support for cheaper petrol, or their support for ITV to become Daily Mail TV, the Tories will take us in the wrong direction if elected. At least under proportional representation, the Tories would need the support of 50% and maybe we can do something about the biased media ownership in this country that is persuading people to vote for a Tory party whose policies would shock them more than the Labour party they currently despise. Under PR, voters would have a left of centre choice other than Labour without ending up with a Tory government they didn't vote for.