Watching Tristram Hunt staring into the middle distance and struggling with what the Labour Party is actually for, made me want to write this note to him:
1. If you're going to defend the Labour record in your last administration at least do it with verve and gusto. Tell people that the deficit you ran is what the Tories would have run. Osborne said he would match you, pound for pound.
2. The deficit you ran was not breaking the banks. Though it is Keynesian dogma to say that you cut the deficit when the economy is growing, it's not obligatory with an economy like the UK because the UK economy is not like most economies. It can 'print money'…and does. It is lies and distortion to make comparisons between UK and, say, Greece.
3. Keep saying that the huge hike in the deficit was because 'we' (Labour) bailed out the banks. Apart from anything else this saved the skins of middle class and upper middle class people with over 70 grand in the bank. So don't come moaning to 'us' (Labour) that we trashed the economy. We saved middle England's bank balances. (I know this isn't a 'left' thing to say, but I'm just thinking here of how Labour could be more combative…!)
4. If the Tories had been in power at that time, there is every likelihood they would have done exactly the same, so they're in no position to criticise us. (That shouldn't be too difficult to keep saying?_
But, hell, why am I even trying ?!
The whole point is that Labour tried to manage raw rampant finance capitalism - nay - to ride it and milk it - thinking that they could go on doing that forever. The one thing they overlooked (or pretended to overlook) is the inevitability of capitalism to go into crisis - of one kind or another.
So, the questions I would want to ask any campaign around the leadership of the Labour party are:
1. Will you actively and enthusiastically fight austerity? There is even a centrist argument now for saying that it doesn't work, can't work and won't work…that is that capitalism won't thrive that way - never mind the socialist argument that it is just a continuation of class war. (On that note, Tristram, why couldn't you have replied to Jeremy Hunt's sneer about 'Labour going back to class war' by simply saying, 'And what is austerity, if it isn't class war against the poor?!')
2. Will you produce the statistics which back up what Clegg himself admitted that the 5 million public service workers took a pay cut while the super-rich became super-richer? And repeat them over and over, reminding people that this is the true story of the last 5 years?
3. From that, will you explain how the whole process by which the banks collapsed and the UK (along with Europe and the US) have used the crisis in order to squeeze the poor in order to enrich the super-rich? And this crisis was not caused by the poor? It was caused by the inevitable consequence of financiers taking bigger and bigger risks.
4. Will you commit to a being in favour of a programme to provide hundreds of thousands of 'units' of social housing - not 'affordable' - but 'social' housing, with low rents and guaranteed tenure arrangements?
We could go on adding more and more to this list and I, for one, could easily make it more and more socialist. I suppose what I'm doing here is being 'minimalist', thinking of what are genuinely feasible and winnable ideas that an unfearful Labour Party could campaign for.
And they could stop whinging and snivelling about the election. Tell people that 9.3 million votes is not a wipe-out and that you are much encouraged by the SNP's anti-austerity campaign….etc etc
….oh hell I won't go on….!