I know this is heresy, but I’m starting to feel sorry for Gordon Brown. Politics has a habit of projecting the worst kind of horrors onto those it appoints as fall-guy, and it’s certainly tough in human terms watching it happen.
That said, I believe we are seeing the demise of the last Labour government in history, and possibly the last general election platform by the Labour Party. It has no organising idea, there is no great policy debate between the plotters that might allow it to regenerate in intellectual terms, there is nothing left apart from vague and discredited management-speak. After the election, it will split three ways: Old Labour (to join the fringe lefties), New Labour (to splinter in turn into two factions: Managerialist and Lib Dem) and Brownites.
That puts the Liberal Democrats on the frontline. They are all that stands in the way of permanent Cameronian rule. All that stands also to prevent the slow mutation of the Far Right. We have to hammer out a platform that is angry enough, radical enough and new enough to fill that vacant opposition space.
I know this is irritating of me to put it like this, but I don’t believe that we can do that by trumpeting the usual ‘technocratic dross’ (I quote a senior member of the parliamentary party), or the same old Fabian mush that has allowed the BNP to get a foot in the door.
No, what’s going to make a difference is radical localism, real community politics, genuine handing power back to people, and a whole new approach to public services which chucks the whole massive edifice of factory call centres, IT bureaucracies and monster schools and hospitals into the nearest scrapheap – pointing out, on the way, that it has been such a feature of New Labour and Conservative rule.
We might also say, if we’re honest, that that hugely wasteful and expensive edifice – the real explanation why our services don’t work – also lies behind so much of the frustration among the white working class, and which seems to have led 6.5 per cent of them to vote for a party that blames minorities.
The truth is, of course, that the minorities suffer just as much. Worse, in fact, because they have to be supplicants to the Kafkaesque abomination we know as the government’s immigration service.