Friday, 12 September 2008

Siobhan McDonagh resigns ... and a surprise comeback?

Siobhan McDonagh's call for a 'clear the air' leadership contest took most people in Westminster by surprise. As with Charles Clarke's interview, the sense is rather more of a series of sporadic personal interventions than a well oiled plot.

The MP for Mitcham and Morden - who has now left her job as an assistant government whip - does not have a high profile in the Labour Party, and is probably best known for being the sister of Margaret McDonagh, the not unaninimously popular party General Secretary during the peak years of the Blair revolution.

But this is not the first time Siobhan has played a walk-on role in leadership speculation.

As PPS to John Reid, she had a central part in the short-lived fireworks around his 2006 party leadership speech which (along with Frank Luntz's Newsnight focus groups) reportedly "left no one in any doubt he was ready to take on Gordon Brown for the top job". Until he didn't.

As everybody knows, John Reid plans to stand down at the next election - to spend more time with his football club.

But his Airdrie and Shotts constituency has yet to begin selecting a replacement.

I doubt Reid is having second thoughts - unless there is something important we are not being told!


Rage against the Machine said...

I think that Siobhan must be resoundingly congratulated for being the first person to call for Gordon Brown to face a leadership contest. Charles Clarke should be praised likewise for his recent article in The New Statesman stating that the word "Blairite" must not be used as an abusive term. That Labour faces anihilation at the next election if it does not radically change course. These people may be perceived as being on the margins of the Labour Party by some, however, they are I can verify, speaking up for a very large section of the Party if not the Country.

In any case I resent the fact that neither I as a member of the Labour Party, other Party members nor the Country's voters were given the democratic right to elect our leader and Prime Minister. It can be concluded therefore, that it is both the Party and more importantly, the Country, which is suffering the severe consequences of being denied this very important "franchise".

We need to have a leadership election in order for the Party to develop a new direction. A radical "post Blairite" Social Democratic policy programme forming a new "populism" that will benefit not only the Party but also the Country.

It is my belief that as Party members we must not take a defeatest negative attitude. If a new leader is elected and a bold radical policy programme is formulated, and integrity among politicians is established the Labour Party will be in a unique and highly rewarding position of taking on and resoundingly defeating the Conservatives.

The Country's voters-I talk to ordinary folk when out and about-give me the message that they are totally sick and tired of the fact that British society and life is characterised and fundamentally motivated by money and profit. Most feel that human values have almost "gone out of the window". That Public Services should essentially be non-profit making. That business should be far more socially responsible and should take a long term view of their operations.

This I believe presents the Labour Party with both a great opportunity and a great threat. The opportunity is that we live in progressive times, and therefore have a great Social Democratic opening. The threat is that we keep a leader and Prime Minister who is fundamentally ignoring this opportunity, and that the Party either stays on the Centre-Right or reverts to "Old Labour". This would lead to electoral destruction.

The way I see it is that Labour must not revert to "Old Labour" or "Old New Labour". Instead it needs to transform into "New New Labour" or "New Old Labour".

Sunder Katwala said...

Rage Against the Machine

Thanks for your comment s and response. You cover a lot of ground. I would disagree about several things - for example, I think we either have a Parliamentary democracy or a Presidential system.

But I am very strongly in agreement with your final paragraph, and the opportunity to have a popular social democratic programme. I have written an essay 'After New Labour' very much about how to escape this choice between what you define rather well as Old Old Labour and Old New Labour - a choice between the politics of the 1970s or the 1990s. That is published in the conference issue of Renewal. So I will write more about that next week.