Monday, 4 May 2015


Was I the first and greatest Milifan?

Possibly, possibly.

Back in the dark days of 2009, some Guardian columnist or other tweeted about what a ballsy job then-environment secretary Ed Miliband was doing at the Copenhagen summit, ensuring that at least a weak resolution was passed after China had tried to kill things totally. So I think because the summit was still on and he was tweeting from it, I followed him, and then I would assume that's what persuaded him he had the support to run for Labour Party leader.

Between the summit and his ascent to the top, though, was the 2010 general election, and I remember being pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. The credit crunch was a bit like *whatever* – I'd lost my job in it, but I blamed not Labour but 1) capitalism 2) a bunch of arseholes in America 3) the Tory-supporting owners of the company I worked for – but generally the party seemed like a knackered, low-budget thirteenth series of a once-scintillating show that had kind of jumped the shark with the Iraq War in the seventh season. David Cameron seemed, I dunno, nice-ish..? - there is zero chance I would ever vote Tory, but it felt like this was a kinder, New Labour-ified version of the nasty party of my youth, and maybe if they did get in it wouldn't be so bad, a much-needed bloody nose for a Labour that needed to re-invent itself.

Oooooobviously it didn't work out like that, though it's hard to see what a better scenario would have been: had Gordon Brown called and won The Election That Never Was, one suspects he'd have steered us through the aftermath of the credit crunch with less suffering than the Tories have inflicted, but it's hard to imagine any sort of appetite for a fifth New Labour term with more recession thrown in. Maybe a Labour-Lib Dem coalition? Fuck knows. Ultimately much as it's fun to cast the Tories as villains it would have been ideal if they had just been nicer while Labour went off to undergo a necessary renewal.

Or is it necessary? I know a number of people who can't really get past the Blair years, which is understandable enough. I was only 16 in '97, but I think clearly part of the grand appeal of New Labour was the romantic shadow of the old Labour that had disappeared five years previously - it did feel like vindication for popular socialism, even though it was no longer a socialist party per se. That is no longer there. So why not vote Green, why not break out of the two party system?

I suppose the conclusion I have recently come to is that maybe we have a two party system because really there are only two major nexuses of worldview out there - 'Tory' and 'Labour' are to a large extent just labels for a doctrine of self-interest and a doctrine of common interest: much as Labour is flawed, I don't think it's really possible to say Labour is inherently flawed. I look at modern politics, and the MPs I admire - Stella Creasy, Gloria de Piero, Tom Watson, Diane Abbott, heck, Ed fucking Miliband – and they're all Labour, and it's hard to believe it's a coincidence. Maybe one day it won't be Labour – gone like the Whigs and Liberals before them – and clearly there will be other parties, especially when there are big additional big ideas at stake (eg, the SNP). But ultimately it'll boil down to a more compassionate party against a less compassionate party, and sometimes the more compassionate party will become tarnished, or blandified, but this isn't 1984, it's not perpetual, things renew and change. Ed Miliband has made me feel a lot better about Labour via a combination of some hard policies I can genuinely get behind enthusiastically, a palpable break from the ickier bits of Labour's recent past, and perhaps surprisingly importantly the impressive way he's weathered a totally hysterical and depressing smear campaign from the Tories and the Tory press. And, of course, the fact is the Tories have done a lot of damage and need to go.

Having moved from the knife edge constituency of Southwark to the safe Tory seat of Beckenham precisely two weeks before the election, my vote is not going to do anything to unsettle incumbent MP Bob Stewart. I will be voting for Labour's Marina Ahmad, who is fucked, basically, but seems like a nice sort. If Bob's majority of 17,784 can be nibbled into - even by only one - then that's something, and if there's one more vote for Labour logged for what looks like an absurd post-election dick-measuring contest then that's something else, and if I'm over my New Labour grump then that's a third thing. So there you go.

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