So it looks like Gordon Brown’s “life-support machine”, Peter Mandelson, has come to his rescue again. It’s the worst-kept secret in Westminster that Mandelson has been infuriated by Brown’s refusal to concede that significant spending cuts are needed to reduce the deficit. But in a speech to the Work Foundation today (run by that original New Labour guru, Will Hutton), he will insist that Brown’s deficit strategy is “credible” and even “praise” the pre-Budget report.
It’s worth contrasting the preview of Mandelson’s speech with his private remarks. In a fabulously gossipy column yesterday, Rachel Sylvester revealed that Mandelson told a friend: “Don’t get me started about the PBR. I am incandescent.”
This said, Mandelson will still use the speech to settle some scores with the “class war” left. He will warn that Labour “cannot and must not confine itself to the politics of distribution. We need a new and renewed politics of production.” Which sounds to me like an updated version of Stephen Byers’s assertion (made to the City of London) that “wealth creation is now more important than wealth redistribution”.
It’s rather late for Labour to be debating its election strategy (the “politics of aspiration” versus “class war”) now, and the fact the cabinet has yet to resolve this issue is indicative of Brown’s indecision and weakness. The truth is that neither approach is adequate. Instead, Labour needs to articulate a vision of the fairer, more progressive society which should emerge from the ruins of neoliberalism. Gordon Brown’s boast that he will deliver a “decade of prosperity” fails to appreciate the longing many feel for a more equal, not merely a more prosperous, society. Labour needs its progressive leaders such as Ed Miliband to put this right. And soon.