This is no time to hang Labour

Neal Lawson replies to Anthony Barnett.

Anthony Barnett's article reminded me of that old Socialist Workers Party slogan, "Neither Washington nor Moscow, but international socialism", reincarnated as "Neither Cameron nor Brown, but a hung parliament". David Marquand has already reminded NS readers ("Let 'em hang? Not so fast", 22 March) that someone will form a majority or minority government, and that that person will either be David Cameron or Gordon Brown.

So, we have real choices to make. For reasons that everyone already knows very well -- be they to do with Europe, or the economy, or public services, or the voting system -- people should vote to stop the Tories getting a sniff of power. Once that is done, but only then, new opportunities will abound. But anything short of that, and it won't be readers of this magazine in the main who will suffer, but the people least able to defend themselves against the deluge of Tory cuts that will surely follow.

There are two things wrong with our politics. Barnett alludes to both, but never quite nails either, and crucially fails to connect them. The first is market fundamentalism; the second is its alter ego, state fundamentalism. The former sees society as a subset of the economy, and leads not just to increasing inequality, but to a debasement of what it means to be human and a diminution of the public realm.

It also leads, paradoxically, to a new form of state fundamentalism, geared to policing the free market and clearing up the social and economic mess that it causes. In this way, it provides modern politicians with a reason for existing: if they refuse to manage the market, they can at least manage us.

Getting out of this mess demands more than a hung parliament. It demands a realignment of progressive forces into a campsite of centre-left parties that keep their autonomy, but are bound by a set of values. Those values are a commitment to a more sustainable and equal society through a democratic revolution in our political, economic and social institutions. In this unfolding pluralist project, a transformed Labour Party is a necessary but insufficient vehicle for our politics.

Yes, we have to capture the state to democratise it so that it becomes the people's state; but we also need alliances with a range of other parties and campaigning forces if we are to prise open the grip that market and state fundamentalists have on it. I understand and share Barnett's frustration with New Labour and Gordon Brown. Yet we should also be frustrated with ourselves for failing to build the ideas and organisation that could create something better. As the polls show time and again, the people are ahead of Labour, and we have to break the mould of British politics.

However, that is not going to be achieved by placing a noose around the Tories' neck and Labour's, too. Even the Socialist Worker has told its readers to vote Labour -- albeit with no illusions.

Neal Lawson is chair of Compass and the author of "All Consuming" (Penguin, £10.99)

This article appears in this week's New Statesman.

Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass, which brings together progressives from all parties and none. His views on internal Labour matters are personal ones. 

This article first appeared in the 29 March 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Hold on tight!

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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times