This week Daniel Radcliffe has announced he’s ditched the Lib Dems and put his lot in with Labour. It’s some much needed good news for a party in a very dark place. At the moment Labour are a bit like a lonely, abandoned family that’s been through a very bitter divorce. After a long, turbulent, some whisper abusive marriage, Tony and Gordon finally split. The removal van arrived, the boxes were packed, the kids, puffy faced and swollen eyed were told that although they still loved them very much Daddy Gordon needed some “quiet time” and Mummy Tony had a lot of money to make.
Unfortunately for those left behind, when Mummy and Daddy absconded, they took not just all their belongings, heirlooms and valuables but their policies and ideas too. The party is now left in an empty house, with no furniture, cupboards bare and constant threats of the electricity being cut off. It didn’t help that, instead of the golden, older brother, in a surprise reading of the will everything was left to the nervous, well intentioned, younger sibling who now is struggling to keep it all together.
No one hears from Tony anymore. While his children gnaw on stale bread, there are only occasional postcards from dodgy sunspots that reek of sun tan oil and tales of late night karaoke sessions with Silvio Berlosconi. He travels the world in borrowed jets, reeking of strong cologne, like a dead eyed Flying Dutchman. Everybody keeps meaning to check in on poor Gordon. Like an elderly relative they plan to call around for a cup of tea, maybe take him for a spin down to the shops, if only to make sure milk bottles aren’t gathering around his door, but they never quite get round to it.
It’s not just the heroes of the nineties they miss, it’s the dreams and certainties they took with them. After years in opposition Labour were so desperate to get elected, to be considered credible enough for government that they abandoned pretty much everything the party traditionally stood for. Labour is to the unions, what the Tories are to big business, but while at least the Conservatives have the swagger to be honest about the interests they represent, ever since the D-Ream days there is a distinct nervous shiftiness about who their home base is. Like a first generation immigrant family, mortified by their ethnic family at home, they started refusing to speak the language and avoided bringing their new friends around.
The “New Labour” idea was borrowed from the policies Bill Clinton used to win the US Presidency. You mix left wing policies; public spending, certain liberal social policies such a supporting gay marriage and mix it with tough right wing policies that will out conservative your opposition. So New Labour combined investing billions in the NHS and building schools with increasingly right wing policies on immigration, crime and social freedom.
Then it all began to unravel. Tony fell in with a bad crowd, got drunk on the dream of liberal intervention and woke up to discover he had invaded Iraq. Then after years of bullying Tony, Gordon finally took over and discovered that like a circuit comedian after too many years playing the clubs, he just didn’t have an Edinburgh hour show in him after all. He finally had power he coveted for so long but no long term plan for the party or vision to go with it.
Then the big bust happened. After years on no proper regulation, people discovered to their shock that left to their own devices bankers will exaggerate and lie about how much their shares are worth if they can make millions from doing so. The entire banking sector collapsed like a house of marked cards. With the country days away from ATMs running out of cash, Gordon rallied European heads of states and saved the Europeans banks from collapse. But it was too late; Gordon was considered an incompetent mess. He was out and after years of internal Dynasty style plotting, self obsession and back stabbing, they had no next generation to take over, no new ideas, no clue what to do next.
While Labour’s attention was distracted electing a new leader, the Coalition began rewriting recent history. The country is broke because Labour overspent, not the billions we needed to safe the banks. We definitely don’t need more financial regulation what we need to do is cut back the state. It needs to be replaced by the private sector, by the big businesses that coincidently donate millions to our party. Yes, in opposition we didn’t complain, notice or even mention Labour’s “over spending” in fact we promised to match it, but that’s not the point. This whole mess is like a family that spent too much. Yes, I know it involves complicated things like government bonds, quantative easing, the vagaries of international money lending and interest rates but that is too confusing and no on really understands how that works, least of all the experts themselves. Let’s compare the most complex international meltdown in modern times with a maxed out credit card because it’s an image that suits our message and the public can get their heads around. Meanwhile, Labour, stuck with a new leader they didn’t really like looked on dumbstruck.
Now what should Ed do? The voters are now convinced they’re in this mess because of the overspending, should he go along with the new narrative to try to get people to trust him again or tell the truth that no one believes. He has a right wing parliamentary labour party longing for the swaggering confidence of the old days when they were in power. Why can’t you be like Tony they cry, they liked us then, appeal to the middle class swing vote, just stand slightly right of the Tories and that will be enough. He also has depressed voters desperate for an opposition, crying out for someone to sensibly oppose the cuts, but with a guilty feeling that maybe they’ve got what they deserve.
Add to that the whispering voices in his own party, that the true leader, the older brother, hasn’t gone away, he is just waiting to regroup. He who shall not be named, is gathering force, writing articles for “The New Statesman” and is coming back. Its good news that Harry Potter has joined the party, if Ed Milliband is to be the boy that lived, he’ll need all the help he can get.