By Matthew Barrett
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Last year I wrote about Labour's thoughtful commentariat – the sensible lefties willing to accept the fact that cuts do need to be made, and willing to engage with the real political debate – as opposed to those irresponsible voices on the left who would condemn anything the Coalition does as "out of touch" "Tory cuts" made by a "Cabinet of millionaires", and so on.
One of the four I wrote about, John McTernan, has since left the British political scene, and is now working as Australian Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard's communications director. However, a different sensible left-wing voice has emerged to take his place. Atul Hatwal is the Associate Editor of Labour Uncut, and I've collected below some of his best contributions to recent debate.
Hatwal blames Ken Livingstone's defeat on "political cowardice" by Labour's high command. He writes:
"In 2010, Livingstone was publicly campaigning against a Labour candidate having just been selected via a fixed selection process almost egregious as the one which unfairly barred him in 2000. Right was not on his side and as a candidate he was much diminished after his 2008 loss. Expelling Ken in October 2010 might have prompted an independent candidacy, but so what? Ed Miliband would have seemed a strong leader, Labour would have got a better candidate and London’s proportional voting system would have helped neutralise the electoral impact. … More than Ken Livingstone’s disastrous campaign, this hypocrisy, this abject political cowardice by Labour’s senior political figures will be the real travesty."
Hatwal warns that Labour's regular poll leads could count for very little by election time, because…
"…by 2015 [it is likely that] there will be some form of economic upturn, and Leveson will have concluded. In this more benign political environment for the government, even allowing for Number 10’s serial bungling, would Labour’s 3% lead hold? The lesson for Labour is that the party cannot rest on its current lead. History, and London’s election, shows it is likely to be much closer in reality. To resist a Tory fightback, Labour needs to press the advantage. Now."
Hatwal draws attention to the "dirty little secret" involving Lord Ahmed – who allegedly offered a bounty for Barack Obama's capture, while sharing a platform with a founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, suspected of carrying out the Mumbai bombings – and other "community leaders". Hatwal writes:
"That Ahmed felt entirely comfortable backing a militant terrorist, and did not fear sanction from the Labour party when planning his attendance at the press conference, speaks volumes about the nature of the deal where the most despicable views can be supported, as long as the votes keep flowing and no one from the mainstream media notices. … This isn’t a failing of the current Labour machine. These deals were concluded twenty to thirty years ago and have been one of the party’s dirty little secrets for years."
On why the Coalition's Queen's Speech was not more radical, Hatwal explains how governments become bogged down by the Whitehall machine:
"Over time, the process of government sucks the politics of the ruling party. The morass of civil service briefings, evidence-based analyses and options, swamps ministers in choices they never had in opposition. Every decision becomes more complex as civil servants tut through the consequences of precipitate action. Ever growing concern at the potential for negative headlines means ‘safety first’ becomes the new guiding philosophy within the department, regardless of the political background of the minister."
Finally, on how Twitter has made Lobby journalists more prone to "groupthink":
"[W]hile twitter generates pressures that make the lobby more politically independent of their employers, paradoxically, it makes the individual journalists much more alike. The tenor and judgement of tweets reacting to events are remarkably similar across the lobby. One thing you will never see: two lobby journalists tearing into each other on twitter. Bloggers, yes. Lobby, no. The net impact of twitter has been to embed an even higher level of groupthink amongst the political journalists, and most important of all, to make this hive-mind view public, on a minute by minute basis."