I really don’t like Tony Blair (that’s not the confession, that’s common knowledge).
No, here is the confession. In 1994, I voted for him to become leader of the Labour Party. I did so, as the phrase has it, “with no illusions”. Nothing he then did disappointed me, because I had “no illusions”, although even I was a little surprised by his slavish subservience to George W Bush. I couldn’t wait for him to go. If I had any criticisms of the various plots to get rid of him once we were in power, my only criticism would be that they were not more successful at an earlier stage.
So why did I initially give him my support? Because if Labour hadn’t won in 1997 there would still have been an increased gap between rich and poor (New Labour’s central failure); there would still have been a new generation of British nuclear weapons; there would still have been a free rein for corporate banking leading ultimately to the biggest slump since the 1930s; there would still have been PFI; there would still have been an Iraq War with UK support.
But there wouldn’t have been the Working Families Tax Credit; or Civil Partnerships; or the Human Rights Act; or the minimum wage; or, probably, a Scottish Parliament. These required a Labour Government and, if Blair was the price, it was one I was willing to pay.
By themselves, the policies of the Labour Party are utterly unimportant. And, by itself, the position of Leader of the Labour Party is utterly insignificant. If it were otherwise, in 1994, in a contest with three candidates, Blair would have been my fourth preference. But the only important policies are the policies of the Government. And the only important leader is the leader of a government. And to be in government requires the winning of elections. That’s democracy.
I voted for Blair in 1994 because, as I saw it, of those actually standing, only he could win a General Election. Because I’d been there, in 1980, with a man I really loved as Labour Leader and policies that had, mostly, my unconditional support. But to paraphrase the saying of a defeated US politician, the people had then spoken..............the bastards.
It appears in 2011, Labour in Scotland still hasn’t got this. Neither Johann Lamont nor Ken McIntosh are remotely electable as First Minister. Neither was Iain Gray. Actually we all know this. The Labour Party knows this, the media know this but, most importantly of all, the people of Scotland know this. It appears however that the Labour Party proposes simply to proceed to elect one or other of them and proceed to ignore the people.
The only certainty of such an approach is that the people are likely to reciprocate.
Now this is not an encomium for Tom Harris. I’ve already said that of the declared candidates he is the one who will have my support but he is hardly Barack Obama. To be fair, even he wouldn’t claim that he is. He is simply the only the Candidate who has even the remotest chance of actually returning Labour to power. Indeed he seems to be the only one whose supporters are actually interested in their candidate being elected as First Minister, as opposed simply to being elected as leader of the Scottish Labour Party, (Although I accept one of the other candidates might not be bright enough to have worked that out for himself).
Ken’s supporters are united only by the fact that he is not Johann (and that there is nobody else). Johann’s by the belief that there is nobody else (and that she is not Ken).
In the eyes of both camps, Alex Salmond is an irrelevant bystander. Although neither camp would be able to explain why.
Now, and I’ve said this to Tom himself, if a candidate with a better chance of securing the position of First Minister came forward, then I’d wish Tom goodbye and good luck. Only I suspect I wouldn’t need to, because I believe that Tom would be right beside me in switching his allegiance. Even if that person was a bit of a Leftie.
There is a convention in internal Labour politics that, no matter what your private feelings, if, in advance of the contest you have expressed a preference for an unsuccessful candidate, in the aftermath of that contest you acknowledge the successful candidate to be the obvious and manifestly best qualified choice.
I said in one of my earliest blogs that I no longer had any aspiration to elected office. I therefore have no reason to abide by such conventions. If either Johann or Ken become leader of the Scottish Labour Party we can write off the 2016 election now and look forward to four years of hiding behind the settee whenever they appear head to head with Salmond. How did it come to this?
Expel me if you like.