John Harris

Journalist & Author

Labour is in deep crisis – and trite guff won’t save it | John Harris

The party’s leadership contenders seem unaware of the size of the task ahead of them, and what is required to tackle profound long-term social change

Jonathan Powell, it would seem, is a very clever man. Tony Blair’s chief of staff between 1995 and 2007 poured what he learned into an acclaimed book about statecraft titled The New Machiavelli. He was the government’s chief negotiator in the Northern Ireland peace process, and now serves as the UK’s official envoy to Libya. He has an understanding of politics and diplomacy to die for, and could doubtless run rings around provincial small fry like me.

Strange, then, that he has decided to add his voice to the hurricane of trite guff that currently swirls around the Labour party. In Tuesday’s the Times he put Labour’s defeat down to the simple fact that “we tried to run from the left”, and offered the party a banal vision of hope, which could materialise as quickly as a Pot Noodle. “We can go ahead and lose a third election in 2020 if we choose to do so,” he wrote, “or we can choose a leader who can harry the Tories locked in a miserable government for five years and then win the next election with a substantial majority to change the country as we did in 1997.”

Related: Labour must understand the scale of its defeat. But we can and will rebuild | Tristram Hunt

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