This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!
Monday, 1 December 2008
"The real death this week was not of new Labour but of Tory new Labour posturing".
I attended the annual Progress conference this weekend in London. As ever, it was full of the great and the good.
Gordon Brown put in a surprise appearance and gave a really fine speech about the economy. He was even better during the Q and A when his knowledge and personality shone through. I mention it because it surprised me. He was eloquent, confident, assured and knowledgeable - the kind of person you want in a crisis. I even got to shake his hand!
I think he probably reassured the Progress audience, many of whom don't instinctively warm to him in the same way that they warmed to Tony Blair.
James Purnell had a hard act to follow but he gave an equally fine speech in which he made a vigorous defence of new Labour. He laid into the Tories calling their modernisation a "spray job". He attacked them for their vacuousness: "Politics by numbers is what you get when you lack a politics of ideas" and he called time on Cameron's efforts to change the Party - "The real death this week was not of new Labour but of Tory new Labour posturing". He faced a little bit of criticism from one man in the audience about his repeated attacks on the Tories, saying this was what turned voters off, but I think this is exactly what we need. Many on the Labour front bench are bad at exposing and attacking Tory policies. James Purnell does this very well and made an intelligent, passionate case for sticking to new Labour core principles at the same time. Just the stuff we need.
The rest of the day saw Peter Mandelson in conversation with Martin Kettle and Ed Miliband addressing the conference hall. Mandelson came across as funny and charming. He was also brutally honest about his previous experiences in Government. He said he had never been more happy and relaxed now. This certainly came across. Ed Miliband did the whole "I am going to give a speech and walk around the stage at the same time" routine and did it very well. He was very good on energy and climate change and repeated the Government's argument for new nuclear. Good. He also said, in strong terms, that if the energy companies did not act on unfair prices and pre-payment meters the Government would legislate.
I also went to a public services seminar with Alan Milburn - who still remains a great thinker and passionate advocate of public service reform. It was good to hear him and Liam Byrne make the case for a personal, bottom up NHS - although this will require a big shift of power away from Westminster and to local communities - and I am not convinced the Government or the Party gets that yet. Why isn't Alan Milburn back in a role though? It doesn't have to be a Cabinet position - but he is wasted on the backbench.
This year's conference was much better than last year's which in my opinion seemed a bit flat. The Party is certainly united behind Gordon and I think we probably feel that we have a momentum behind us all of a sudden. Certainly, Progress people seemed positive and upbeat which is half the battle.
I hope that now translates itself into better electoral prospects.