Monday 23 March 2009

Labour trapped by ghosts of 1980s, say Will Straw and Campbell

"It is an open question whether Labour can do this", Will Straw admits. "A whole generation of politicians were haunted by the divisions and splits of the 1980s. And in Alastair's heyday, it was about controlling the new 24/7 media". This is stopping Labour getting to where it needs to be. Can the party escape these nightmares and bad dreams and ghosts of the past, he asks.

Campbell says he agrees with this, but thinks it will be difficult to shake off old habits too.

"It really depresses me when I meet people from the government. Most of them are still trapped in that debate from a few years back".

"You have got to think through how you change and manage the processes. I can hear the Speaker going mad, because you have to announce it in Parliament. But the processes have to change, so you have to work out that".

"I heard a Labour Minister on the radio who was so bad I almost crashed the car. And I realised that as he or she - as she - finished speaking, that she would have thought that was how we were trained to do it. She had got her one message across. And I just thought there was no sense of dialogue, of debate, of discussion or engagement".

"The danger is thinking it is about handling media better. It is so diffuse now. You have to forget that. It is now about rethinking how you can deal with the publicIt is not about what press coverage you get, or whether you get on the bloody Today programme". But until that message was understood across every department of government then the amount that changed would be limited, says Campbell.

"I am still a bit of a control freak. I am not going to give all of that up. You have to realise that Obama laid down big strategic lines. You have to do that. But once you do that then you can let the debate flow in all sorts of directions".

"The good news is that the Tories are useless at this. They think they are good at it because they have got a few bloggers. But they are not yet. I really think it is up for grabs", says Campbell.

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