Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My Mum's view of the Labour leadership question

My mum is 65 and fairly typical of her generation - she worries about how things are going for her children, she frets about inheritance tax, and she worries about immigration ("There are so many, are you sure they're not taking people's jobs?"). She thought Thatcher was "cruel" and voted Alliance/LibDem in the 1983, 1987 and 1992 elections, and switched to Labour in 1997 and 2001, and went back to LibDem in 2005.

Anyway, she's become a Gordon Brown fan after seeing his interviews on the BBC and Sky! "He's very clever" she said to me, "Did you know that he went to university at 16?" She was also very taken with his response to the collegiality question, where he said "As chancellor you sometimes have to say, Sorry, No", which she repeated back to me ("Strong leaders have to be able to say No"). She does charity work for pensioners in distress and she thinks Gordon Brown "has a big heart" for providing the minimum pension guarantee and the winter fuel payment which she thinks has helped people.

She doesn't rate Alan Johnson - "looks like an East End gangster". She thinks he is disqualified from the PM's job because he's got no qualifications, "John Major was a dunce and look what happened when he was in charge". She has no truck with the argument that his life circumstances were harsh and as a result he didn't pursue higher education, "University was free then and you got a grant. Anyone who had brains, went" and "If he chose not to, that just proves he's got no brains..."

So there you have it - a bit politically incorrect, but lots of people her generation think this way. In particular, they think "can he do the job", rather than "is he good at making jokes". In all the discussions about the leadership, everyone has been talking ad nauseum about niceness and working class roots, and smiling and not smiling, but no one has asked "Can he do the job".

1 comment:

Henry G said...

I completely agree with your analysis Snowflake. We all know it's the party's electoral college that will have the votes, but the media will extensively poll supporters and the wider electorate on the contenders. That will have an impact. I often unscientifically consult my mother for a non-political snapshot and she thinks Brown is wonderful!

I wonder where is Johnson's support going to come from in the college? Not from the large unions, that's clear. His support for PR will attract some, but lose many more. He can't run to the right of Brown and stand a chance. In the mushy middle of the party, Brown only needs to point to his record.

Johnson may be able to make speeches referring to the importance of 'real labour', but Brown has delivered on so many key domestic areas for the party's supporters. His concern with international development has show him to be quite statesmanlike.

I can't help but fear that it's the Tories in the media and the more reckless Blairites that are building AJ up.

For Deputy Leader I would much rather another Londoner to Johnson - Jon Cruddas.