David Blackburn

Field: Harman would give Labour direction

Field: Harman would give Labour direction
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Gordon Brown, if you are about to pick up today’s New Statesman, I advise you to put it down, return to the sofa and start re-watching those Raith Rovers tapes. In it, Frank Field writes that Harriet Harman offers Labour a sense of direction that Gordon Brown’s government, which is simply drifting towards ‘the most horrendous defeat’, has lacked. Here are the most crucial, and the most gushing, bits:

‘You have to hand it to her. Harriet Harman has really shown how to use No 10 as a platform from which to direct policy. You may not agree with how she presented her programme, but, for the first time since 2005, there has been a real sense of direction and priorities from the government.

Peter Mandelson and Alistair Darling also had their hours deputising in the best political shop in the country, but what Harman established this summer was that there is an alternative.’

This latest dig at Gordon Brown’s insipid leadership raises the issue just in time for conference season – whether anyone has the guts to play Brutus remains to be seen, and frankly the Labour party are rather beyond the ‘now or never’ stage over their leader. Field doesn’t say Brown should go outright, but he urges that Brown renew his premiership along the lines laid out by Harman and Andrew Adonis:

‘If the Prime Minister considers how his understudies have performed, he may recognise that the Harman-Adonis model is not only the right thing for a left party in government to do, but that it might also reduce the number of seats lost at the next election.’   

Does Harman provide a fresh sense of direction? Her agenda is singular, in both senses of the word. I’m not suggesting she should produce something as comprehensive as ‘Das Kapital’, but saying “men can’t be left to it” is a flimsy platform for a student union election, let alone a general one. If Labour is to recover, it needs to be original, radical, but above all comprehensive. It’s hard to see where such impetus might be found.