Sunday, 30 October 2011

Philip Gould - The Unfinished Revolution

It was fashionable in my time in Reading for Philip Gould to be sneered at in Labour circles.  I was never quite sure why, but never countered it, either.  And so I never discovered what he had to say, and what he was about.  The foreword to this book was written by Tony Blair, who says very simply (p. XII) "the notion we lost over Iraq and light financial regulation fits uneasily with the election of a Tory governments committed to both".  He goes on "We did lose touch" (p. XIII) "not with our roots but with a public whose anxieties over tax, spending, immigration and crime were precisely the opposite of those on the left criticising New Labour".  "To begin with " (p, XXIV) "opposition has a certain appeal.  After you learn its tricks - especially how to clamber aboard bandwagons and accelerate them - it can even have the illusion of actual power.  You can set the agenda, have the rune of the media, put the government on the ropes - at least from time to time - and generally have a good time of it.  But it always is an illusion of power, not the real thing.  After a time it palls, and then, if you are serious about politics, it grates and irritates."

Now to Gould (p. 10): "have you known the dreadful, repetitive tedium of manual work, not just for the university holidays but for life".  He is from Woking, not privileged, a background that is not mine.  All the forces which formed the Labour Party (p. 24): "Fabianism, trade unionism, religion and a defensive working-class culture - blended to produce a party intrinsically resistant to change."  "Labour was born" (p. 26) "from the quiet courage of generations of people who wanted the world to be a better, different place." Also p. 26 Gwyn Williams is quoted: "The irony of Wilson... was that he appeared modern, but was in no sense a moderniser, which made him a frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful politician".

Gould says (p. 64) "We wanted to focus on television; ensure brilliant, memorable pictures; provide stories that fed into every stage of the news cycle; concentrate on the leave and a small coup of campaigners, and plan the campaign round the discipline of a tightly controlled daily grid.  This is how the 1987 general election was fought and it is essentially how Labour has fought every national election since."

Gould can be mean, as here about the late Michael Foot (p. 78): "The best way to address the public (talking here about the party in 1987) was to don a donkey jacket and harangue the party faithful at rallies"/  Also in 1987 (p. 83): "only 7 per cent voted Conservative, because they always had done". Why might that be, Phil, hein?

Gould also says (p. 92) that New Labour was his own idea.

However, he does start to make some sense (p. 141) on the 1992 election: "They still suffer from that one internecine act.  everywhere, that is how parties suffer,  they do that."  And "He (Neil Kinnock) is the rock on which the election triumph of 1997 was built."

Gould used to be known as our party's pollster extraordinaire, although I never much saw the result of his polls.  This is probably a take on his excellence in the sphere - the ills were not aimed at the likes of me, as I was already a committed labour supporter.  Around 1990 he reminds us, a technique called "people metering" was u see to test audience response to individuals.  "TB always sent the dial up."  Gould remembers thinking "Blair was good, but not that good.  He seemed to be able to connect with the public in a way that transcended rational explanation.  It was a response qualitatively different from that to any other politician" (p. 180).  He quotes TB (p. 210) as saying "I will never compromise.  I would rather be beaten and leave politics than bend to the party.  I am going to take the party on."


Anonymous said...

I did know him - slightly and did not like him at all. This is not a comment on his ideas and theories - rather his mien and stance. He was very similar to Peter M.

Yes - he is right about memorable images and pictures in the media to resonate and make the message attractive. Of course he is. We are not in the Stone Age and it isn't politically sensible or essential to feel that you have to still be using a soapbox and microphone . Or, indeed, public meetings.

But he created the 'elite' -- the sense that unless you belonged to a particular social set or background then, forget it lovely - you are never going to have a chance to have what we would call a career in the Labour Party - whether you want one or not. If you don't want to be a Minister - fair enough. But if you do and you don't come from this exclusive background and contact circle, then you ain't gonna cut it - no matter what you do.

The way he attemtped to railroad his daughter into a seat was detestable -- although I hold absolutely no candle whatsoeveer for the eventual MP, Teresa Pierce. And shame on you too, Tessy Jowell and your ilk for coming to assist in that grubby operation. But had there not been that base and crude attempt to bludgeon it for a 21 year old ingenue then somebody might have been selected who was not TP and who would have been much better. And before anyone questions - no, not me. I certainly did not apply and had no desire to do so either.

He may like Tony Blair. Well, I did, actually. But Phillip Gould was not a good thing for Labour. And - hey, manners!! Can we stop the stalk, the head tilt and the sneer when dealing with our own colleagues who don't just so happen to dine with us in our little elite set? Hey? We don't wear dogshit as perfume, Phil!!

He and his ilk in their own way, are as narrow as the worst of the Tories in who they pick and who they dump. I for one do not miss him at all. And Michael Foot will be remembered long after Phillip Gould has slipped from the memory. Donkey jacket or not. Have you read his book on Swift, Phil? Or HG Wells? Byron?? The man could write and that, for me, means something.

Anonymous said...

That name brought back a memory -a Bryan Gould was THE name in Labour some 30 years ago.

Augustus Carp said...

Who is the Gwyn Williams referred to? Sorry, I am not a Labour Party insider, but I knew someone of that name in Reading a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

Agree about PG's personal manners, only dealt with him on a superficial basis, and I expect he wont even remember this party menial, but I found him supercilious and sneering. Basic conversation being returned with an aloof, tittering "Good for you".

Anonymous said...

Exactly, last Anonymous!!

Bryan Gould was a total contrast. A good man; a gentlman; a clever man; charismatic too.

Would have been a terrif Leader/PM.

Bryan, WHY did you take your bat and ball away and go home?

Still missed.