Monday 6 October 2008

The Trickett critique

Jon Trickett’s appointment as the Prime Minister’s PPS has been widely seen as seeking to bind in the left of the party to a broad ‘Labour coalition’ administration, and one which takes on added significance with Jon Cruddas remaining outside government.

Jackie Ashley is among those to note Trickett’s association with the left-wing pressure group Compass. However, Trickett resigned as chair of the Parliamentary group of Compass earlier in the year. While a disagreement over the detention powers legislation was the specific occasion, Trickett issued a stark and strongly worded warning which went rather deeper than that:

It is important that the progressive Left does not lapse into an intolerant and strident oppositional which is the hallmark of sectarians through the history of our movement. I strongly urge Compass not to fall into this error or it will alienate itself from the broader society and therefore render itself ineffective.

Our world remains scarred by inequality and injustice. Of course I will continue actively to fight for a socialist society both in the Commons and outside, and I wish Compass well for the future.

While the statement suggested a deep frustration, this was probably aimed rather more at the tone and style of challenges to the government from its left, rather than the policy content.

This highlights that Trickett is very much on the ‘constructive’ rather than the ‘oppositionist’ left.

His article for the conference issue of the Fabian Review (PDF file) is a case in point: this was an attempt to both narrow the disagreement over the party’s electoral strategy – which has too often been framed as a choice between ‘core’ and ‘swing’ voters – while making a cogent case for government to think much harder about what its message and offer to voters in social groups D and E is about. Meritocracy is not enough when it comes to Labour’s egalitarian mission.

Now that Trickett has the Prime Minister’s ear, this is an issue I would expect him to push.

Another related theme could well be about the sociology of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Trickett is one of the last remaining Labour MPs with a manual working background – and believes that the issue needs to be addressed if Labour is to avoid repeating the experience of the French Socialist Party.

His call for Harriet Harman to create a commission of inquiry to forge a coherent response to under-representation on the grounds of gender, race or class would be a creative way to avoid the competitive grievance politics which can set different under-represented groups against each other.


Tom said...

Trickett's views are for the most part still very much in line with those of Compass, and his 'rebuke' was not in fact directed towards them, who despite policy differences over 42 days, widely back pluralism as desirable.

It was more directed at some of those who took it upon themselves to phone and email him abuse.

Tom said...

His Fabian piece is excellent, by the way. More on that here.