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There’s only one Alan Johnson (that's why Labour's in such trouble)

What’s happened to my party?

15 November 2014

9:00 AM

15 November 2014

9:00 AM

Labour voters feel hope and despair; hope, because the Tories are doing no better than we, and despair, for that same reason. Left-wing politics are resurgent where it matters least — outside the Labour party. A body without a head is just a corpse, and frightening; no one wants to vote for Russell Brand, who thinks the concept of voting is idiotic, as he is. Left-wing politics wears fancy dress (the Million Mask March), occupies the biscuit aisle at Fortnum & Mason (UK Uncut) or is ‘preaching from a mansion’ to a cardboard box (Johnny Rotten on Russell Brand, again).

Ed Miliband is odd, say his critics. He has a funny face and he hates his brother. (I do not care about the funny face. David Cameron has a nice face, and look what he has done with it.) You can blame the Tory media for some of this junk masquerading as political discourse — the politics of poppy-wearing, or lounge-wear, or how to eat safely in public — but not all. When Ed challenged his brother David, like a child, he chose a narrative that would always be reported as soap opera, for policy is less interesting than fratricide; this is Gordon versus Tony again, more agony from the party of splits. Ed should have pondered this; but perhaps he thought that only he could save us? (He is hardly the only narcissist in politics.) Of course it is unfair that the Jacob/Esau story jinxes Labour — but who says that life is fair?

Labour follows Tory spending plans, and Ukip ‘rhetoric’ on immigration. (When I say ‘rhetoric’ I mean ‘filth’.) It tries to distance itself from the unions, to place a cordon sanitaire between itself and its own soul. When I canvass for the Labour party in a marginal constituency (Hampstead and Kilburn), working-class voters always say: what good will it do? Labour do not care about me. They do not know who I am.

The leadership is clearly a cabal, introverted and sometimes worse — Blair and his grotesque £41,000 a month from the Saudis? — and impossible for outsiders to breach. Red princes and princesses stand for parliamentary seats, because no one without money can afford to do so: Will Straw in Rossendale and Darwen; Stephen Kinnock in Aberavon; Emily Benn in Croydon South. Tory voters love that kind of thing. It should be anathema for Labour.

Some say Alan Johnson is the messiah. They say this because he is the only working-class person near the shadow cabinet, but they do not see that without a party of many Alan Johnsons, Labour will always fail: they cannot have a single working-class toy to play with, and fool the electorate with him. Columnists fret in print — he must come back. But he would rather eat his own head. Too humble — too sane — to be PM and have his face discussed? (His face, if you care, and you shouldn’t, is OK.) That is a man I would vote for happily; but why deal in dreams when there is so much wrong with my party?

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