New and Nu and EU

New Leader, Nulabour but the same old problems remain

Nice curtains ! Nice curtains !
The mental well being of the Prime Minister (see right) is an interesting subject and crops up in all sorts of odd places. Not only now but for some time there have been mutterings, this has even lead to controversy as to who called Brown "psychologically flawed" first, Tony Blair or Alistair Campbell. But then 'with friends like that', what else can be expected you may say. In the Times Rachel Sylvester writes, principally, about the Nulabour drift to the left and, in doing so, touches not only on the challengers to Brown's authority but, incidentally, their own equanimity too.

Both are important, but the fun comes first on this blog! The Times article mentions the YouTube video showing Brown doing the 'twitch' this came, to some, as a bit of a shock. Why did he do that? Indeed, but it's not only Brown who can't 'do it' for Hazel Blears makes her very own crap video! The Spectator has an article on this very subject see second video down for 'how not to do it'. Blears has chosen to talk about 'the party' at a party so hardly a word can be heard. And Harriet Harman forever, it would seem, dressed in flame red (making a point are we?) shows off to the Nulabour conference, alas Harman looks and sounds like a redcoat from Butlins helping things along. Again, why do they do it? It is fortunate for Nulbour that both, it would appear, seem to be out of the running for leadership, but you never know. Harman recently said "I don't want to be Prime Minister and I don't want to be leader of the party." What she omitted to say was “And I don't want anyone else to be either!”

There could be a challenge from Ed Balls, so some say. Nulabour is mad yes, but not that mad; Balls must be one of the most over-promoted politicians of all time. Apart from a few names to which some might struggle to put a face to, this only leaves Alan Johnson, who, and perhaps this is a point in his favour, makes exceedingly dull YouTube videos. There is a poll in the Guardian which asks:" Who should lead Labour?" Johnson gets less than 10% of the vote and Harman, who as we see above rules herself out of the job, polls 90%. What a mess! So rather by accident than design Nulabour keeps its present leader to the bitter end . And take that whatever way you like. For the in-fighting has only just begun. Soon after Brown took over the Leadership there was the 'will-he-won't-he' call an election. It was not just Brown, it was the whole party that flunked there. It's the same now.

And so to the drift to the left. The point made in the Times article is that this is “electorally disastrous”. Such has the performance of Nulabour been since the last election it could be said that there is nothing they can do that is advantageous for them. Not so many weeks ago we had the oil refinery strikes that gave us 'British jobs for British workers', henceforth written as BJ4BW, and a subject covered on this blog Here. There was a genuine level of concern, from the public, that 'things had gone wrong'. There was a level of national support for the displaced workers that surprised many.
Harriet and friend Harriet and friend
Amid the feeling that something had gone wrong was the conclusion that the EU-UK relationship was at the root of it and the EU was at fault. Amongst many concerns it could well be that it is this one that fills the hearts of the Blairites, who seek to stop the drift leftwards of Nulabour, with the most dread. But true to the 'elephant in the room' concept it is the one that will be ignored. But not here! Leading the Blairites in the 'Stop the drift' campaign, will be Lord Peter Mandelson, it is after all what his former employer would expect him to do. Who will support him on the long march?

Ah, it gets a little more complicated when we go back to the Nulabour MPs who may, despite what they say now, run against Brown in a Leadership bid; although probably after the next General Election. Which side are they on? To simplify it we look just at the two front runners for the top of Nulabour as selected by the Guardian. Harman is, like so many Nulabour MPs, of the opinion that what is good for them is, in turn, good for the party, the nation, the northern hemisphere and ultimately the entire solar system. Her arrogance is total.

Harman owes everything to Blair. She is not the strongest of performers, PMQs opposite William Hague shows that, neither is she that oft talked about but impossible to define 'safe pair of hands'. Her loyalty and her allegiances are very complex but, judged on her record, her personal 1-2-3 list would read: self, feminism, Blairism, with Nulabour fourth. Her voting record in the House of Commons shows she follows the party line slavishly, including support for the Iraq war. Later she indicated that it might have been different had she known about the dubious dossiers and other goings on.

From this we may conclude she is slippery too, as her recant was long after the full effects of Blair had waned. But then this is not the same as Blairism, a quaint cult to which she remains attached. XXHer devotion to feminism tops that though she sees this as a common good and her duty is to spread the word at every opportunity.XX For Harman feminism and equality are not the same, her duty to the former means she puts herself first. It's nothing personal, merely a need to be an example to others.

However, all the way through Harman's career we can only guess her attitude to the EU. This might be, if it's on the menu with Blairism, she'll take it too evincing no great enthusiasm either for or against; rather, pragmatically opting for the comfort zone, just in case like Kinnock and Mandy, she has to work over there. So the bottom line on BJ4BW would be tough, you'll have to put up with it. She would only waver if her personal majority depended on a different approach. However, her parliamentary majority is well over 13,000 and, as we see from the Guardian poll, Harman is popular with their readers. So we may assume she would regard her mission, to paraphrase Star Trek: 'To smugly go where no Harman has gone before.'

And so to Alan Johnson. At a quick glance he, as Nulabour Leader, looks very much like a drift to the left. But the man has only got to his position but chopping and changing as required. Like Harman his ascension began under Blair so Johnson is another person who owes a great deal to the ex-Leader. Despite a solid trade union background Johnson was a supporter of the abolition of Clause 4. This sort of thing getsAlan and friend Alan and friend noticed and sure enough there has opened up a bit of a gap between the trade unions and Johnson. This will do him no harm at all. Indeed Johnson's abilities at playing for both sides looked pretty solid until the BJ4BW affair. It was then his union background showed itself. A number of people 'spoke up' on behalf of the strikers and some of their union representatives made silly remarks about the EU in terms of 'going back to it for better legislation'. Here was a classic case of the notion the EU is a constant force for good; who sold them that idea? Both Johnson and Hilary Benn appeared to go along with this.

Now another problem with a trade union dimension is with us. The remnants of the UK car industry are under threat. The future of van maker LDV still hangs in the balance. Even if it is 'rescued' it will, in all probability, be by foreign capital. Thus all that will happen is that it acquires a new foreign owner. The situation at Vauxhall is no better. Part of a questionable move by Fiat is to buy up every part of the world-wide motor industry it can. And then what? UK trade unions worry that closures will follow, including Vauxhall at Luton and Ellesmere Port.

Already trade union voices are being heard demanding that the UK government 'stand up' for UK car producing plants, on the assumption that Continental governments are doing this across the EU. Not strictly true but a powerful soundbite and one that no Nulabour Leader could ignore. This will be the terrain, the mine field, that Johnson has to cross. Sensible folk will now admit that the UK, like the EU, is 'over-banked' and amalgamations in the banking industry must happen. The same common sense must also be brought to the car industries, that is, there are too many of them. Belatedly it is now seen that one man's amalgamation is another man's closure. What to do?

What indeed, for the trade unions bankroll Nulabour, so here comes the crunch? Does Nulabour attempt to cut its ties to the trade unions and seek other forms of finance? If it tried that then a drift rightwards or at least away from its present position would be required. Does Nulabour temper its lovefest with the EU? If it did this it would then have to admit past mistakes that would shake the foundations of the EU-UK relationship. This would be akin to switching off the lights, a move that would give the Blairites nightmares.

Who would have thought that 13 years after the triumph of Nulabour the very issues, trade unions and the EU, that its creation signified an end of, would be back, intact and as deadly as ever, to wound the new Leader?