|Harry Perkins MP (sadly Ray McAnally RIP)|
The Leadership issue for Labour is a real one, but at its heart is the lack of a distinctive agenda from them or an inspiring alternative vision. Simply saying we accept current govt spending and aping the Tory rhetoric on welfare must be disheartening to manŷ qLabour activists, who presumably joined up to champion social progress. At a Billy Bragg gig this weekend I saw a few Kirklees Labour Cllrs obviously enjoying his good music and his principled undiluted, full fat socialism. It must have been a much needed shot in the arm for them given the lack of that sort of message coming from the Labour Party at a national level.
If I was a Labour activist I know who I would want as Labour Leader and that would be Harry Perkins. "Who?" I hear you cry. "Is he an obscure up and coming backbencher that we should look out for?" No Harry Perkins was the fictional Labour Leader who 'came to power' following a run on the banks in Chis Mullin's 'A Very British Coup'. It is one of those peculiar dramas where the TV series is better than the book in my opinion. Harry is a fantasy Labour Leader who sticks by his socialist principles, opposes nuclear weapons and American bases, champions the NHS and alternative energy. Through a combination of wily manoeuvring and being smarter than the entrenched right wing establishment he generally comes out on top. What comes across in Ray McAnally's portrayal of the Sheffield Trade Unionist turned Prime Minister is his authenticity, what you see is what you get. Agree with him or not you know he won't be mealy mouthed or slanting his message so as not to offend a particular constituency of opinion, probably identified following exhaustive fieldwork and opinion polling research. Ed Miliband's is as far from Harry Perkins as Brie is from Red Leicester. It depends on whether your taste in leadership is like your taste in cheese, soft and bland or hard and full flavoured (and red)
So who are the potential Harry Perkins types coming through the Labour machine? Well there aren't any that I can see. Chuka Umunna, one potential future Leader, is a classic example of what's wrong with Labour, He's undoubtably capable, a safe pair of hands and media savvy but lacking that uncompromising idealism that makes you under no doubt that his principles come first and last and won't be swayed by misinformation and supposed public opinion. He's definitely the SPAD or smart guy you want informing a 'proper politician' but not a Leader.
If Labour, (and the Tories and Lib Dems come to that) failed in the May Elections it was by having Leaders who were so bland and seemingly interchangeable that they allowed Nigel Farage, a former Tory Stockbroker, to characterise himself as 'anti establishment'. That is a measure of how low the level of political leadership has become in the UK.
Of course this is really none of my business. I'm not a Labour Party member and don't regard myself as a socialist (even though the Kirklees Tory Leader has described me as an extreme socialist!). All I can say is that many people who do regard themselves as socialists find themselves more comfortable in a principled party like the Greens than having to make excuses or apologise for the lack of direction and leadership from the Labour Party. Fortunately for Labour in Kirklees they now have there own version of Harry Perkins in the form of the unabashed, unashamed, unreconstructed Socialist Councillor David Sheard.
Here's Harry on form
Here's Harry on form