Friday, May 29, 2015

Startled bunnies and the art of falling off chairs

There was a headline in the Newcastle Journal recently announcing that Labour MP Ian Lavery was planning a leadership bid. When I read it, I nearly fell off my seat laughing. Quite what Labour members see in this ranting leftwinger is beyond me. I once had to sit through a "speech" he gave to a National Association of Councillors meeting about nuclear power. He admitted to knowing little about the subject, a claim he proceeded to demonstrate admirably. I found his speech to be embarrassingly poor and his demand that more coal should be burnt to help save the environment provided me with another falling-off-the-seat-laughing moment.

The day after announcing his leadership bid, Mr Lavery announced his withdrawal from the race. His platform was to have been one of leftwing "socialism". Instead, he announced his backing for Andy Burnham. Listening to conversations amongst the "socialist" brothers and sisters in Gateshead, there seems to be a hope that Burnham will swing the Labour party to the left as the way of storming to power in 2020. Not winning in 2015 because Labour wasn't leftwing enough is a common theme among the "socialist" comrades. All those lessons of the 80s and 90s have been forgotten.

Claiming to be "socialist" is one thing. The record of a person can often tell a different story. Labour's hysteria about the "privatisation" of the NHS rather overlooks the fact that Burnham himself was one of the key Labour figures, as Health Secretary under Gordon Brown, who "privatised" NHS services.

Burnham has always looked to me like a startled bunny caught in the headlights of an approaching juggernaut. If the assumptions that he is heading for victory come to fruition, it could be that Burnham ends up afterwards as roadkill, torn apart by his own party which ideologically wants to swing to the left but which needs to occupy the centre ground to win an election.

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