David Blackburn

It is immaterial who fronts Labour’s campaign

It is immaterial who fronts Labour’s campaign
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Divide and conquer, that is what preoccupies the Prime Minister. Later today, Gordon Brown will address the Parliamentary Labour Party to reassure them of the strength of his leadership and to invigorate the party by setting it on an election footing. How he achieves the former is anyone’s guess but he will realise the latter by investing Labour’s three election supremos: Mandelson, Harman and Douglas Alexander.

In typical Brown style, these lieutenants’ roles are deliberately ill-defined. Who has ultimate authority? Who will be the attack dog? What is the difference between day to day running and managing an overall strategy? And which takes precedence? A pastmaster at internal intrigue, Brown will thrive as his actors compete – divide and conquer. 

It is, of course, immaterial who runs the campaign. What is there to run? Tonight’s meeting will express the party’s ideological predicament perfectly: Labour will declare war with another layer of management. Writing in today’s Guardian, James Purnell describes a party that is now bereft of ideology and inspiration:

‘Labour's present predicament...is that while things would have been worse without us, the principle of vitality and vision that must animate a Labour government is on life support. The words are managerial, the values administrative and the vision technocratic. The root cause of our predicament lies firmly in the half-lessons of the third-way paradigm and in our lack of confidence in our traditions.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The third way learned the lessons of Labour's mistakes in the 70s and 80s. But it elevated avoiding mistakes to an ideology. It wasn't confident enough where it was right, or sceptical enough where it was wrong.’