Posted by Ivan Rendall on Saturday, 25 September 2015 in Blogging
Peter Mandleson is right on one count: it could be a long time before New Old Labour becomes evidently unelectable giving Old New Labour a chance to mount an effective coup.
But that is the counsel of despair. Pontification is best left to the Pope and when the Corbyn Crisis does come, and it could be next week, the fallout will be immediate, unexpected and may come from a direction nobody has thought of, leaving Lord M (and other Lords and MPs) like bad smells in a colander frantic to find a hole through which to escape just when they should look as if they can immediately take charge.
It’s Lord Peter’s strategy that’s wrong: simply chatting in the First Class lounge while an insurgent crew steer the ship towards an iceberg, propelled by a mixture of incompetence and class revenge, is not good enough. Worse, it’s simplicity masquerading as intellectual prowess. It’s lazy.
Hitting that iceberg is the next best thing to a racing certainty. Whenever it comes it is an opportunity for Lord Peter and his Chums; what’s needed is a plan of action not waiting for the plums to fall. At the moment, as strategies go, it seems Mr Corbyn and most of his shadow cabinet is playing the parts allotted them in the script. But at least they have a script: it is Corbyn who is out there, the sole purveyor of ideas, Corbyn who is “get [ting] [his] picture in the paper in his little clorth [sic] cap.”
Mandleson’s cultivated procrastination maybe, just maybe, a way of regrouping ahead of the Party conference; his outburst just maybe intended as a sliver of hope to the 97% of Labour MPs said to oppose Corbyn. As things stand, it looks as if Jez will be lionized at the conference and if his triumph is met with a sulky, Old New Labour silence, the effect will be long lasting. If Corbyn fails to ”Unite” the party, if he fails to be cheered to the rafters (unlikely), then all the various electorates will want a source of new ideas. Either way, the Mandlesonistas will need to be quick to step into the breach.
Ultimately, Lord M is wrong. Instead of the “long haul,” what is needed longer vision and greater flexibility and a rapid response mentality, authentic political discourse and a forward-looking presence on every possible medium: social, TV, radio, print and through the Party.
The appearance, let alone the reality, of Old New Labour having to rummage around for well spun policies dreamt up twenty years ago will be fatal. Yet something along those lines is what Lord M is prescribing and in a crisis it will manifest itself as laziness, invisibility, disengagement, triangulation and pontification.
No more Whimsey, Lord Peter; it’s time for street fighting.