Sunday, November 09, 2014

The failure of the political class and the appeal of Alan Johnson

I am not the greatest admirer of Alan Johnson - his appearances of This Week, where his highlight of the week is invariably an event that proves he was right about everything when he was home secretary, can be irritating - but if Labour has any sense the party will find a way of deposing Ed Miliband and crowning him as leader.

Why? In part it is because Miliband fails the greatest test for a leader of the opposition: you cannot imagine him as prime minister.

And in part it is because of his flawed campaigning since 2010. Even if you agree with them that the Conservatives and the Liberal Demcocrats are evil, you still want to know what Labour would do differently. And of that we have little idea.

But above all the greater electability of Johnson is a mark of the self-defeating hegemony of the political class. (I realise this post lacks a definition of that class, but they are much like elephants - you know one when you see one.)

Ed Miliband's c.v. - adviser to Gordon Brown, cabinet minister, party leader - is at once the ideal of that class and a guarantee that he will have little appeal to anyone else.

This should not be such a surprise. Fairly or not, the two most prominent members of this class within Blair's inner circle were also its two members most disliked by the public. Step forward Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell.

Meanwule Alan Johnson has had a life outside this class - as a failed musician, postman and trade union leader. That almost in itself is enough to make him more appealing than most politicians.

Perhaps this view of the political class is unfair - perhaps things were always like this. Certainly, there were plenty of political dynasties in the past. But this modern distrust of professional politicians  is widely entertained, and the attitudes of many young politicos does nothing to discourage it.
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I doubt Labour will find a way of making him leader, but they would have a much better chance at the next election if they did.

1 comment:

Steve Comer said...

Alan Johnson could have done what Bob Hawke did for the Australian Labour Party 30 years ago, but he doesn't want the job, and I can see why!

You mentioned Milliband'c CV, but those of Cameron and Clegg are almost identical - public school, Oxbridge, posts in politics acquired through family connections connections, parachuted into safe seats etc.

Charles Kennedy was popular as he was perceived as a member of the human race. He came from humble origins, went to University, then came into politics. Sadly many Lib Dems derided him as 'chat show Charlie' without realising that the general public watch those programmes not Andrew Neil's drivel!