Sunday, February 04, 2007

End of the Pier Show

Saturday's National Policy Forum was a strangely muted affair, and we were all done by 3.15pm. As the next NPF isn't until May or June, this was possibly Tony's last turn before standing down as Leader.

It was another masterclass, particularly after the press had left. It focussed on advice to the Party not to abandon the centre ground of politics, the coalition of the compassionate as he called it, which has secured Labour the three historic General Election victories. Labour renewal can't rely on traditional forms of political discourse, but has to reach out into the community and become a stakeholder party. We must be as relevant in Dorset South and Harlow as we are in our heartlands.

Again it was impossible not to be struck by his forensic political genius. Answering a question on nuclear power and global warming, he dealt with the politics first, demonstrating how Labour's policy has posed real problems for Cameron's Tories.
He wound up by drawing on analogies from the 1980's and 90's. He recalled how the Tories looked in a terminal mess in the mid-80's at the time of Westland and other ministerial scandals, and yet went on to win the General Election less than two years later - because they believed they had the right policies for the country (regardless of the reality). Likewise, between 1995 and 1997 as Opposition Leader, he never felt wrong-footed by Major on any issue of policy because the Tories had given up taking the tough decisions necessary to convince the country or themselves that they should continue to govern.

The lessons for the party are clear. As I've said before, we'll miss him more than we realise when he's gone.

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