Left Watch

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The Left's thoughtful commentariat

By Matthew Barrett
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Following last year's election defeat, there have been two sets of commentators on the left. On the one hand, the all-out, gung-ho "evil Tory cuts!" brigade, and on the other hand, the thoughtful contributors to the debate about Labour (and the left in general)'s future. I should apologise in advance for ruining the careers of those listed below, but here are four of the best of Labour's thoughtful commentariat:

WattPeter Peter Watt (twitter: @PeterWatt123): Watt is a former General Secretary of the Labour Party. He caused a stir last week by writing: "...the Labour party is obsessed with the cuts. It is us, not the Tories, who are being defined by them. We talk about them all the time. We protest against them, predict the horrors that will unfold as their impact is felt and condemn the government for implementing them. We are so completely stuck in the cuts’ headlights, that we are virtually paralysed. And this paralysis is damaging our prospects for the next election." - "Labour must stop fighting the cuts", on Labour Uncut

He also supported the Conservative approach to recognising the family in the tax system, in a post for Labour Uncut last month: "Labour must therefore rethink its offer to families by the time of the next general election. Simply continuing to oppose the Tories approach will not be enough. In fact, it will also risk alienating some of the families who will by then be benefiting from Tory taxation policies." - "The Tories have got tax right: they’ve just got marriage wrong"

Dan Hodges (twitter: @DPJHodges): Hodges is a hate-figure to some on the "progressive" left - he came up with the baby advert for the No to AV campaign. His analysis of Ed Miliband's leadership in particular, is required reading: "Miliband is a scared man in charge of a scared party. His latest attempt to set out his political vision, easily the weakest speech he's delivered since he took over from Gordon Brown, cruelly highlighted that fact. The caveats, juxtapositions and abstractions, which have in the past been scattered through his addresses, became so numerous that they created a textual landfill." - "Miliband is a scared man leading a scared party", for the New Statesman

On "Bluewater Labour": "Looking around at my fellow shoppers, they look, well, quite happy actually. Some are smiling, some are even laughing. This oppressive consumer gulag has not yet broken their spirit. And the pickpockets and steaming gangs, for whom one would have thought Bluewater represents fertile territory, are mercifully absent. (...) There are too many call centre workers, and not enough fish porters. By all means, let’s identify with the people of Billingsgate as a way of helping frame a political narrative. But if we want to construct a winning political strategy, we will need to identify with the people of Bluewater. And the Arndale. And the Metrocentre. Part Purple Labour, part Blue. Part Old Labour, part New. Bluewater Labour" - "Bluewater Labour: shopping has sucked the joy out of misery", on Labour Uncut

McTernanJohn John McTernan (twitter: @JohnMcTernan): McTernan was a senior policy adviser in the Blair-era Number 10. He is brutally honest about Labour failings - his post-Scottish election analysis is characteristic of his style: "This was a disastrous election for Scottish Labour. There's no getting round that. The reasons aren't difficult to find either. There's a saying in advertising: "How do you beat a man with a six-foot spear? Don't start with a three-foot spear." Unfortunately, Scottish Labour tried that in the election - and paid the price." - "How Labour got it wrong - and how it can recover", for the Scotsman

His time in Number 10 gives him particular insight into Blair-era political battles that are being repeated now - public service reform, for example: "It's been an open secret for a while. The only successful agenda the coalition has is a Blairite one. Ask Andrew Lansley's aides what the reforms of the NHS are about and they say it's Milburn-plus, in honour of the Labour health minister's role in bringing the private sector into the provision of services. Speak to Michael Gove's people and they say that Gove is completing the education revolution plotted by Andrew Adonis but thwarted by Gordon Brown. And yesterday, David Cameron became the true heir to Blair when he declared that the public sector had no right to a monopoly on the provision of public services" - "Cameron bets all on radical change", for the Scotsman

Rob Marchant (twitter: @rob_marchant): Marchant is a former Labour Party manager. Here he says Labour must make tough choices or fail: "To evaluate Thursday’s results brutally: if the goal we were shooting at was increasing our seats in the English locals, it was an open goal. Frankly, if we had lost seats from there, we would be back in 1983. No, the true interpretation should be this: it is the result we would have expected if we had done nothing at all for a year. At the same time, the major shock of the night was that, despite implementing unpopular policies and making terrible gaffes, the Tories still managed to hold up. A quite extraordinary result, given the high point they were at in 2007, when the seats were last contested. The painful truth is that our positive showing in England may buoy our troops’ morale – which we need; but it will have little to no bearing on a future general election.", for Labour Uncut

Marchant also argues Labour should move on from the cuts narrative: "But, think about this: if we don’t end up in the slump scenario, as seems likely, we face the electorate not only with our economic model accepted as wrong, but with theirs accepted as right. Which it isn’t. Unpleasant, isn’t it? So, for us to win the political debate from here, we would need an inordinate amount of luck. The alternative? Move on, or at the very least, do so once these elections are done. The cuts will keep happening and we will comment on them as they affect specific areas, but no more. Don’t let them dominate. Grasp the initiative and move it on to our territory. Health. Education. Law and order. Whatever territory, as long as it’s not the cuts in general, because that is a battle we cannot win.", for Labour Uncut