Sunday, 8 June 2008

14 things Gordon Brown should do now

Were I to find myself in Gordon Brown's shoes -- "which thank the Lord I'm not, Sir" -- I should now proceed as follows:

(1) Admit that Labour thoroughly deserved to lose the Crewe by-election, and sack whomever was responsible for the pathetic campaign. Add that as long as I am leader of the party there will be no more dirty tricks and negative campaigning on personalities.

(2) Take the people at the bottom of the income range out of tax altogether, explaining that we are a social-democratic party or we are nothing. The new overriding theme of the government will be: TOWARDS A FAIRER SOCIETY.

(3) Cancel the entirely pointless Trident missile programme, thus saving £76 billion at a stroke. This will pay for the above tax concessions and also for a new north-south railway line, work on planning which will start immediately.

(4) Bring all the troops home from Iraq as soon as possible, and admit that the whole exercise was a dreadful mistake.

(5) Take lessons in how to appear relaxed and conversational and non-evasive on television, just as Mrs Thatcher had to do. It is perfectly possible to learn these things.

(6) Signal to Barack Obama and John McCain that Britain will always be ready to help out in genuinely good causes around the world, within the limits of our resources, but will no longer be automatically beholden to US foreign policy.

(7) Cancel all airport expansion plans and explain that with the new high-speed north-south rail line from London via Heathrow to the Midlands and North, there will be no need to increase airport capacity. This will help us attain the long-term targets for CO2 emission reductions.

(8) Make Alan Johnson the main public voice of the government, since he is one of the few present members of the cabinet who seems like a human being and actually answers the questions put to him. Sack Caroline Flint, Harriet Harman, Hazel Blears, Tessa Jowell, and Margaret Hodge, all of whom are completely useless. The public is sick and tired of seeing these nannying nags endlessly on the TV. Make clear that future ministerial promotions will be on the basis of ability alone, irrespective of sex. If this means there are not many women in government, tough.

(9) Also sack John Hutton, who is plainly in the wrong party, and cancel his ridiculous scheme for a new coal-fired power station in Kent. Repudiate his extraordinary suggestion that nothing can be done for agency and temporary workers, the very people who most need employment protection.

(10) Initiate urgent discussions with David Cameron and Nick Clegg to seek cross-party consensus on constitutional reforms, including electoral systems and the House of Lords. The constitution cannot be a party matter if there is to be long-term stability.

(11) Organise a quick all-party/non-party debate, without preconditions, on whether we can really do any good in Afghanistan. This will involve military and foreign-policy experts as well as politicians. If a wide consensus can be reached that the game is worth the candle, send in more troops and helicopters forthwith, and initiate an information campaign to explain to the public exactly what are the aims and purpose of the operation. (There will be some spare troops for this as a result of withdrawing from Iraq, see item 4 above.) If not, pull out altogether. If it is worth doing at all, it is worth doing it properly, but at the moment the public is confused and uncertain about why we are sacrificing British soldiers' lives there.

(12) Call in Jon Cruddas and make him a job offer he cannot refuse. If he still refuses anyway, at least ask him what to do, and then do it.

(13) Abandon plans to extend detention without trial, and plans for ID cards linked to an all-knowing database. (It is the database that is the problem, not the physical plastic cards as such.) This may mean moving Jacqui Smith to another job to save her face as far as possible.

(14) Announce that Labour is not a tax-cutting party, and put in hand a major public information campaign to explain why taxes are necessary to help bring about a fairer and greener society. Tell Gisela Stuart, Sally Keeble, Dennis McShane and co. that unless they stop talking about tax cuts you will publicly repudiate them. Announce that the tax burden on motoring will be shifted to mileage rather than mere possession of a vehicle, so as to discourage unnecessary journeys, but the changes will be revenue-neutral, so the overall tax take will not increase. Cancel all plans for further roadbuilding and motorway widening.

It seems rather likely that the Tories will win the next general election whatever happens now. But there is nothing to be lost by getting back on to the moral high ground and restoring some purpose to the Labour Party. As things stand, it is not clear that there is any point in having a Labour Party.


Neil Harding said...

1) Brown was responsible for the campaign - his fingerprints were all over it. Sadly the party is full of his lackeys - Brown has to go - he is responsible.

2-4 agree

5) He has had 11 years as chancellor and 1 year as PM and he still can't do this. He must have had these lessons. Do you really think he could learn it now?

6-7 agree

8) Better still make him PM.

9 agree

10) Cameron will never agree to PR - he has stated this.

11 agree

12 I don't think Cruddas is the saviour of the Labour party - but he certainly has some sense but far too close to the unions.

13 I think there is a positive case to be made for ID cards - but there are far too many practical problems with the current scheme.

14 agree

Jamie Graham said...

Johan Hari said something similar back in May.

But is such a shift to the left likely? High-flying politicians are, by definition, ambitious and driven; they couldn't get to the top without being so. It seems unlikely that GB would admit to himself that he has lost the next election, instead hoping beyond hope that the Tories will do something stupid or that the economy will pick up in time.

He would see a swing to the left as a vote-loser, so would never do it. And the Labour Party is very tribal - a frothing loon like Cruddas (as GB would see him) couldn't be brought into the fold without alienating the frothing loons of "New" Labour, who are the ones who put GB in power in the first place.

As much as a terrible old Trot like me would like a swing to the left (and, for me, a very big one - let's go on a nationalisation spree, that would be a good start!) I really don't see it happening.

GB will continue to plough his meandering little furrow, sometimes to the centre, sometimes alarmingly to the right of the Tories (who are actually still alarmingly right-wing themselves, just better-spun) but never really to the left: he has no friends there.

peezedtee said...

Thanks for your agreement on certain points. If Cameron won't agree to any electoral changes then we are all doomed.

No, I don't suppose a shift to the left is at all likely. We are all doomed.