Accompanying my trade union journal in the post the other day was a plain white envelope addressed to me. I opened it & was shocked to find a ballot form for Labour's deputy leadership election. Seems that because my union pays the political levy I have a voice. Ha! Who would've thought back in 92, when I left the party as a full member before the bastards could kick me out, I would one day be asked to vote for the most boring & depressing political election since Enver Hoxha was in his prime in Albania.
The Candidate booklet, hilariously subtitled, "the future for Britain" contains a couple of gems. An introduction from my union's General Secretary concludes, "As you vote in this important election for a new Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, why not join the Labour Party, and help us to secure a fourth term Labour government."
Thanks, but I think I'll pass on that one.
There's a message from Gordon Brown, Washington's next bag-carrier, sorry, ally in the War On Terror (copyright, Dubya). Brown rhapsodises, "As a teenager I chose this party because of its values--values that I grew up with--and I am honoured that this party has chosen me."
Hmm, values, eh, Gordon? Those would be values behind PFI, faith schools, donations from corrupt businessmen & sychophancy to Rupert Murdoch. I've checked the dozen or so paragraphs of purple prose, nay, Olympian oratory from Gordon a few times now. So it must have been an error at the printers that there is no mention of Iraq. Bloody workers!
As for the candidates for the political equivalent of fluffers on a porn set, Hilary Benn declares that he wants "a country that acts on its concern about poverty and injustice, whether at home or in Africa". Just the UK & Africa, Hilary? What would your dad say about that? Comically, he says he also wants "a world that puts justice at the heart of our foreign policy". Evidently, that line went to the printers before the latest BAE/Saudi arms bribery scandal. Any mention of Iraq, by the way? Erm, nope.
Hazel Blears, nicely dubbed Mrs Pepperpot by Kevin Maguire in his New Statesman column, predictably comes up with cliches. Blears trills, "Yes, I'm a loyalist--to Labour and our members."
Not, presumably, those members who have left in disgust over the last decade, meaning that party membership has more than halved since 1997; the figure for that year were at 407,000, & the figure for last month stood at 177,000 (http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/story/0,,2101211,00.html ).
Jon Cruddas, dismissed by many as the no-hoper, does, at least, nod towards reality. He states, "While proudly proclaiming what we have got right, we must have the honesty to accept what has gone wrong and learn the lessons."
Aha, yes, he does mention Iraq, albeit fleetingly.
It is only when checking those MPs who back his nomination that I get a nasty jolt. My own MP, Joe Benton, has put his name to Cruddas' candidacy. Benton, one of the easy lump of lobby fodder to slavishly follow the New Labour line. His speeches in the Commons have tended to stress his Christian faith, the implication being that there is no real effective secular version of ethical awareness. As an atheist I find that deeply offensive. His views & voting record on abortion & gay rights also belong to the Victorian era.
The remaining candidates, Peter Hain, Harriet Harman & Alan Johnson, don't scare the horses with their addresses. Hain does state that he believes in "a progressive internationalist foreign policy", something which may evoke hollow laughter from Brown's entourage as they prepare to deliver their credentials to Washington.