Saturday, January 31, 2015

Labour's election nightmare

You might have thought that the Syriza victory in Greece would have given Labour a bit of a lift.  After all, here was electoral proof that anti-austerity campaigning worked.  In one of the hardest hit countries of them all too.  Instead, it provoked a debate about Labour's political caution that then lapped over into their heartland topic of the NHS.

The Guardian's Zoe Williams used the syriza victory to ask why Labour wasn't taking a leaf out of their Greek counterparts' playbook and pursuing a more radical line in "standing up to the moneymen".  Must have been music to Ed Miliband's ears.  Or not, perhaps, for as the New Statesman's Anoosh Chakeelian noted, Mr. Miliband was slow and cautious in his own response to the triumph of the Greek left.

Then the NHS reared its head.  Labour have been playing this as a key election winner for them for ages.  Alas, when shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham appeared on Newsnight on Tuesday, it was  to give a disastrous and bad-tempered interview which saw him cornered by Kirsty Wark over the issue of just how much private provision might be acceptable in a Labour run NHS.  This caused the Telegraph's commentator on all things Labour, Dan Hodges, to predict a Cameron victory in May, not least because of Labour's inability to come up with a decent and consistent narrative on the NHS.

And the battle just keeps on raging.  After Alan Milburn attacked the Labour strategy on the NHS, the fight was joined by Roy Hattersely, defending Miliband against Milburn.  Even the Labour's most admired 'lost leader', Alan Johnson, is rumoured to be muttering about the party's dark mood.  Anyway, for a bit of light relief, here's that Burnham interview again, just in case you'd forgotten the clear, lucid and calm defence he offers which is clearly going to see the Tories into the electoral ditch.

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