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."