David Miliband and the tragedy of Graham Stringer

Eddie Izzard for WithingtonThat may be Eddie Izzard at the Yang Sing lectern, but the star turn at last night’s fundraising dinner for Manchester Withington was David Miliband, the foreign secretary, whose speech reflected the themes of his infamous Guardian article (download the podcast).

It’s great that Miliband refuses to be cowed by the fallout from that piece; it’s in nobody’s interest for ministers to be walking on eggshells because the press is desperate for a Labour leadership election.

Miliband is right when he says Labour should be proud of its achievements, but wrong when he says we should be humble in the face of all that remains to be done. Nobody wants a humble leader and there will always be much to be done; we’re a long way from utopia. The Tories never apologised for using unemployment as a tool to fight inflation or for rising crime or for running down the health service and education. Thatcher inspired the foolish by demonstrating her clear vision and convincing them she had a plan.

Anyway. I didn’t think anybody would notice my not commenting on these things, but I found myself sat with a couple of readers – hi Phil and Martine! – and they asked. Gordon Brown will not bail out.

It’s the media’s job to narrate the news, an emerging story with a plot that has yet to be revealed. Editors are vulnerable to speculation and tend to prejudge endings. Easily herded in a particular direction, they guess where the story is heading and narrate it in accordingly.

Last October, Gordon Brown disappointed many of us. The media had planned the story to include a snap election, but instead a triumphant summer ended with dithering. We were hit with a surprise plot twist: hero to zero and Brown’s downfall.

Yet the plotters aren’t up to the job and this chapter is dragging on far too long. That’s because the media’s favourite, David Miliband, is far from being the plotters’ hero. The real man of ambition in John McDonnell, who blogs forlornly at john4leader.org.uk. John is the architect of what’s been generously nicknamed the fag packet manifesto. Published in May it will actually fit on a book of matches and has generally been ignored.

No plotter is more tragic than Graham Stringer, the former Manchester City Council leader who led the city as it began its incredible regeneration, but is now infamous as the first Labour MP to call for Brown to resign. Stringer wasn’t there last night, but he was the butt of many jokes and is reduced to being described on the BBC as one of those MPs you’ve probably never heard of. When this chapter of the book is finished, Graham Stringer and his co-conspirators will find themselves forever sidelined.

The problem for the Tories is that this novel is due another twist and that leaves them vulnerable. They are currently riding high on ‘tired of Labour’ sentiment; in Scotland people turn to the SNP another party of the left. With so many pages to turn before the next election, with the exception of Brown’s resignation, anything could happen.

13 thoughts on “David Miliband and the tragedy of Graham Stringer

  1. Effortlessly, and either ignoring or just being ignorant of Scottish politics, you appear to claim the Glasgow East wipe-out – soon to be repeated in Glenrothes? – as a victory! The only real truth in this post, though, is your acknowledgement that you live in a land of fiction.

  2. So you assume I support the Tories, simply because I dare to criticise new labour idolatory? Oh dear, I’m afraid that speaks rather too loudly of the political myopia of today’s ‘labour’ party.

    I think it’s pretty fair and reasonable to question how you think you can winkle a positive out of Glasgow East.

  3. Rich
    I suspect you deliberately miss the point, but I also enjoy the odd wind-up.

    More seriously, while Glasgow East was disaster for Labour, it was a not a victory for Conservatism. Tories and Scots Nats are worlds apart. People have been spooked by economic worries and froth around the Labour leadership. They appear to support Cameron only because he looks like a competent manager, not because they share his agenda.

    Sadly some others who should know better have also been spooked. Poor old Graham rushed down the hill on his white charger to save us all, only to look over his shoulder and discover he was more or less alone. And that is tragic.

    More positively, the leadership speculation will be difficult to sustain for much longer.

  4. I assure you I never deliberately miss a point. Sometimes I may do so out of carelessness.

    I agree Glasgow East wasn’t a vote for Conservatism, it was an en masse protest vote against New Labour.

    The SNP will always gain from this up in Scotland, the Tories will in England. Fact.

    Graham Stringer may well have rushed down the hill alone but what exactly is wrong with that?

    This, in my view, is what Miles’s point on his blog about Stringer being worth 10 Milibands is about.

    If you think New Labour can salvage anything by being even more New Labour, then I’m afraid my accusation about you living a life of fiction is spot on.

    Derek Simpson – who I’m not a massive fan of – made a good observation after Brown’s speech. He said anyone could have beaten the Tories in 97 and since then support has dwindled and party membership has been decimated.

    New Labour will (WILL) lose the next election. And I’m afraid people like you guffawing about the likes of Miliband rubbishing proper labour politicians will only hasten the demise of your party.

  5. I guess I should point out that at no point did David Miliband mention Graham Stringer or crack a joke at his expense, nor did I see him guffaw at a Graham Stringer joke. All the jokes at Graham Stringer’s expense were locally produced.

    That has clearly offended Miles, which is unfortunate. But many of us do think he made a fool of himself (something he’s free to do) writing in the Daily Mail as he did; Graham Stringer claimed to speak for the majority of Labour MPs, so why aren’t they behind him?

  6. Oh dear. If your analysis is correct they all believe Gordon’s lost them their seats already; what more could he do?

    I still believe that most Labour MPs are more interested in fighting poverty at home and abroad, making health and education better, that sort of thing. If Graham Stringer wrote an article in the Daily Mail on child poverty in Harpurhey, say, nobody would be laughing. But to be fair, the Daily Mail wouldn’t commission a piece like that from him, would it?

  7. “what more could he do?”

    What else could he have said today, instead of…err…nothing other than, please don’t boot me out?

    Well, let’s see now.

    He could have announced that the despicable 2% cap on public sector pay rises (which in the civil service also includes progression payments, which means tens of thousands of dedicated, hard-working, keeping-this-country-ticking-over workers are getting the square root of f**k all for the next two or three years) is unfair and will be lifted with immediate effect, and that he’s already ordered his officials and ministers to engage in meaningful negotiations with the unions.

    He could have announced he’s killing off Purnell’s welfare reform green paper, which among other things: reintroduces the Victorian concept of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor; proposes for the first time in a century removing the ‘safety net’ ethos of welfare; and confirms his government’s ideologically-driven belief that the market is the saviour of all by opening up the whole of the welfare state to privatisation with payment by results.

    He could have not said, “We are and will always be a pro-enterprise, pro-business and pro-competition government” in a conference speech that was supposed to be about “fairness”.

    He could have announced an end to the disastrous privatisation of our state education system through the academies programme.

    Need I go on?

    And it’s not just Brown that’s lost them their seats. It’s all of them.

  8. In offering something of an olive branch I would note that the nature of party politics will always lend itself to this type of divisive argument. I think honestly, that the New Labour Lackeys (as you describe them) are dwindling in numbers the further the country crumbles into financial abyss.

    This doesn’t make it easy for people to speak up or out though. Party unity has always been prioritised over ideology and today is no different.

    Losing your seat is one thing, losing your reputation in the party quite another.

Leave a Reply