I agree with Diane

Labour’s leadership election has been – genuinely – fascinating. At a time when political philosophy and beliefs return as discussion points on the television news for the first time since ‘debate’ enraged over the extent of which Blair distrusted Brown, the Labour Party rage over who was more anti-Iraq than the others, who dislikes the Tories more. All the male contenders, one or two nuanced differences on public service reform aside, speak exactly the same; they are men who reached the highest level of public office possible under Blair/Brown and now talk with all the conviction of mid-level advertising executives at a lunchtime PowerPoint meetings.

I wish the male contenders could be taken seriously. Ed Balls is perhaps the worst of all, tripping up on Radio5Live yesterday with such gems as refusing to explain how he would grow the economy, (“I would grow the economy and make jobs”, he boasted, with a flourish of the Tommy Cooper ‘Just Like That!’). He waffled on about corporate hospitality at cricket grounds to the amusement of the audience, getting a knowing guffaw when he described his constituency of Morley and Outwood as “marginal”. It certainly wasn’t in the notional predictions, Ed, wonder why that was?

Andy “I’m not from London, you know” Burnham speaks with conviction, although his constant complaining about the New Labour way of doing things (he seems obsessed with talking about ‘dinner party ways of doing things’ like someone casually mentioning in their Facebook statuses how they don’t mind never being invited to friends’ events).

The two Millibands are perhaps the most emblematic of the defeated Labour regime. David looks and sounds and acts with Blairite ambition, even affecting the considered croak in the voice Blair used when saying one word while hastily calculating the next best word to use. David’s reputation has had, in once case literally, banana skin moments, the flawed genius unable to fulfil his promise at the right time, now he is struggling not to act like a “King uncrowned”.

Diane Abbott, helped to the shortlist by David Milliband, has been the candidate with the least to lose and the most to say. Sounding more genuinely Labour than any of her male opponents, on topics from privatising hospital cleaning contracts to renewing Trident, Diane is the sound of how the Labour Party used to be before, as she put it, the New Labour “marketing exercise” was introduced.

Blair’s reform of Labour was electorally successful, albeit at the expense of support from traditional Labour followers. The Party of 1997 was not that of 1979, and by following Thatcherite economic models and following George W Bush into the illegal invasion of Iraq, Blair did not break sweat in the aim of getting back those supporters. Labour now has an opportunity to set its course for the duration of this (fixed-term) Parliament; to continue as a centre-left “social democratic party”, or to return to its core values as a broadly left, socialist campaigning party. Diane will not win the leadership, she knows that, but her presence in the campaign highlights the state of Labour today – men of a certain age talking the same language, no difference dared spoken, no radical opinions dared suggested.

During the Liberal Democrat leadership campaign – I put Chris Huhne as my first preference over Nick Clegg, incidentally – what it meant to be liberal in the British political scene was debated right at the top of the contest. I am no closer understanding what it means to be a Labour supporter in 2010 having followed their leadership debates. David Milliband will win, there is no question, taking the Party back to Blairite positioning on welfare and NHS reform and Academy schools.

There could be another way, a genuine change from the Labour Party which alienated so many of its core supporters. To this end, I agree with Diane.

Norwich North – analysis pornography

The by-election result in Norwich North, an election won by the Conservative Chloe Smith following the somewhat forced resignation of Ian Gibson, was blogged and tweeted endlessly throughout the day. I have my own analysis at the end of this blog, but to begin with (although some posts on blogs may well be “trolls” but…) here are some of the current blog comments;

The magnitude of this defeat shows that this was more than just a protest vote and it was more than simply a reaction to the expenses crises – that excuse did not wash after June 4 and it will not wash this time.No, a swing of this proportion – not unlike the one to Labour in the Wirral in 1997 – is a sign of embedded culture change. It shows that the country is ready and willing – if not craving – to vote for a Tory government in substantial numbers.”Alex Smith”LabourList

If, with the government having screwed up the economy for a generation, lead us into the Iraq war and not winning in Afghanistan, got unpopular personnel at the top, were worst offenders on expenses etc and we still can’t beat them, we should be very afraid for the GE. (“Simon R” LibDemVoice)

This was an average by-election & doesnt tell us much except to confirm the softness of the Tory vote & the potential for Labours to collapse. Looking at all the evidence I still see no signs of a Conservative landslide(“plumbus”LibDemVoice

It is utterly astonishing that we were not able to show the electorate what a disgusting sham the Conservatives are on expenses – not having sacked the three ‘flipping’ front-benchers – on top of their overall lack of any policies whatsoever. “RobertC”LibDemVoice

As someone who welcomed a Labour victory in 1997 the wheel has turned full circle and most of us are eagerly anticipating a similarly spectacular comeuppance for you in 2010.”Andrew Webber” LabourList

As for Labour and its future, it certainly doesn’t look good, but I do warn my party not to get carried away with this result. It is tremendous yes, but there is still along way to go to reach government again. “Scott Carlton”ConservativeHome

The result will be recorded in history as a Conservative Gain, leaving the acres of analysis and comment to the archives. Something does need to be said about each of the party performances in turn, not least because this was the first opportunity given to voters to comment on the expenses scandal. Clearly voters who felt that Labour’s “star chamber” had pushed Ian Gibson out for the sake of looking reactive to the expenses mess had their say in capital letters.

I would liked to have seen a better result from April Pond, the Liberal Democrat candidate. Our by-election machine has clearly not been working properly for some time now, as seen in Crewe & Nantwich and now Norwich North. The Focus newsletter onslaughts may need to be re-evaluated, not least the infamous bar-charts showing distorted statistics. Electorates may have fallen for this in the past; the results recently suggest limited returns on such “old standbys”.

Labour have tried clutching at straws since the result was announced, it was like watching a badly written character in an otherwise good play. This seat should not have been lost, but once again a complacent and lazy Labour party have been shown more than just a scant disregard from voters. It is not enough to say that Gordon Brown is working terribly hard on the matters of the day – on June 4th, and now again, his actions have been commented upon in shouts of derison. The country is exhausted with Labour’s destruction of everything it touches: we need Gordon Brown out of office, and a general election held immediately.

UKIP and Green supporters are very happy, and so they should be. Both parties recorded their best ever by-election results. UKIP are probably still riding the high-tide from the European Elections, although continued high results like this could suggest that they really are setting themselves in a position as Britain’s “alternative conservative”. Green Party supporters may have hoped for better than fifth after topping Norwich last month, but to get 10% in this part of the country is nevertheless an encouraging sign.

Now for the also-rans. Craig Murray wanted to “put an honest man in parliament”; his blog suggests he had difficulty in asking the BBC to give him air time and problems with the Post Office regarding his election DVD as standard election communication. To go from a standing start in an election like this, with a media like ours, was always going to be difficult, although some of Murray’s blog posts suggest he has a tendency to make overblown conclusions from simple affairs.

The BNP did very badly. Which is a good thing.

The Libertarian Party made their debut, following months of blogosphere hype, getting less than 40 votes. Just thirty-six. An absolute disaster from a bunch who claimed to be the next big thing in politics.

Bill Holden (independent), Peter Baggs (independent), and Anne Fryatt (NOTA), scored very badly too. Traditional protest vote candidate Alan Hope from the Loonies got only 144, a sign perhaps that even this group have run out of voters.

For this election to have any long-term significance, it needs to be the rock that falls squarely on the roof of Labour as it crashes down the mountain. There is always talk of “Brown’s last chance”: for this to be a genuine observation Brown needs to realise the level to which his party has fallen in popularity. His governance is laughable, his party exhausted, his standing snake-belly low. Norwich North will be spun by Labour’s robotic loyalists as “just one of those things”. Had they any idea of the real world they would be preparing their general election literature and brushing off their CVs.


Thomas Burridge is the eighteen year old candidate for the UK Libertarian Party at tomorrow’s Norwich North by-election. His age has caused some comment, balanced between “refreshing change” to “way too young”. The law changed on minimum age for candidature some years ago with Thomas probably the first 18 year old to be chosen.

Age limits are one of those great controlling levels Government loves to set, not least New Labour who loves any kind of nanny-state control more than most. Recently boosting up the age at which someone can buy cigarettes to eighteen (although not the age of consent from 16, meaning once you’ve had sex at that age you presumably just roll over to fall asleep…)

The more serious point is that of education, where New Labour are once again in a glorified mess, typified by having no actual Department for Education. Their desire to have 50% of school-leavers going to Uni was based on picking a figure from the air; reality has shown massive drop-out rates and students lumbered with a “mortgage on learning” around their necks if they do graduate. My memory from high school is very clear – at 16 I knew that it was sensible to have a ‘fork in the road’ at that age, not least because so many age limits are placed at sixteen – marriage, joining the army, tax on income. Of course moving the age at which someone stays as school to eighteen is a massive error – it forces people for whom formal education is already unsuitable into endless months of activity pushing them further away from the life they would prefer to lead. This eagerness to micro-manage our lives is typical of New Labour; they would rather force all citizens into school, uni, and work, rather than allow people to go out to see the real world.

It is crazy enough that a 16 year old is mature enough, in the eyes of the state, to have consensual sexual intercourse but not enough to walk into a polling station to vote on the parties allowing their wage to be taxed. It is deeply “unjoined” government to ask 16 year olds to stay on at school until they are 18 and then allow them the vote – what would run through your mind but “Now I can punish the party which stuck me here for so long”.

There exists enough vocational courses post-16 to allow those who have done with school to continue with education. New Labour have once again chased targets rather than followed sensible policy. If the State wants to give some sense of maturity and adult status to people when they turn 16, something with which I agree should happen, then the only change to be made is giving them the right to vote.

Moving up the school leaving age is social engineering gone mental, and should be stopped.