Before lunch I attended an amusing Tory event designed to reinforce the impression that Labour has reverted to Old Labour. Theresa Villiers, Eric Pickles and Michael Gove were our hosts – ironically at Transport House, former home of the T&G.
Some of the language was delightfully ripe, with Gove suggesting that Charlie Whelan had “unleashed the forces of hell” on families wanting to fly abroad over Easter. “I would never go as far as calling Charlie Whelan an ‘aggressive hooligan’, ‘serial killer*‘ or ‘killing machine’ – but then, civil servants and senior Labour figures have already said that,” said the shadow education spokesman. He also described a “second Mesozoic era, with a succession of dinosaurs trooping through Downing Street.”
But does Gove’s main premise stack up?
The Tories believe they can paint a picture of a left-lurching Labour party. “All told, 59 Labour PPCs are members of Unite, 27 are members of the GMB and 19 or Unison,” said Gove….part of a “new militant tendency in the next generation of Labour MPs.”
Gove also claimed that there was a current “exodus” of “people cut from the Blair modernising cloth“.
“James Purnell…Stephen Byers….Alan Milburn…Ruth Kelly….all have chosen to relinquish their seats to pursue careers outside frontline Labour politics. In their place, a new cadre of politicians have been installed, parachuted into fighting parliamentary seats on the strength of their links with the big unions,” he said.**
The theory is somewhat undermined by the fact that Milburn and Kelly (both pictured) and Purnell all belong to…the Unite union. As do Tessa Jowell, Patricia Hewitt and numerous other Blairites.
Yes they are leaving. But what makes the Tories think that there are no centrist or modernising figures among the new crop of Labour PPCs?
Suggesting that union membership = leftwing militant is lazy politics/journalism. As I pointed out the other day; all Labour MPs belong to a union, in theory at least.
* Note to any lawyers out there. Neither the FT nor Gove are seriously suggesting that Charlie Whelan slaughters humans for fun.
** Gove also suggested that Lord Adonis is the last remaining Blairite in cabinet. Apparently a certain Lord Mandelson is also New Labour in temperament, I’m told.