BARACK Obama’s two books, Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope, are amongst the high-water mark of recent political writing.
With his usual fluency, they crafted a back-story onto his political vision, and introduced a junior Senator from Illinois to the world. They were translated into at least 30 languages, and bestsellers everywhere they went.
Sir Keir Starmer’s treatise on the Labour party, meanwhile, is unlikely to be the best read book in his own house – let alone his own party.
Platitudinous sentence follows platitudinous sentence, and rather than policies or concrete ideas of what the party stands for we have the introduction of such concepts as fairness, and equality of opportunity. Pray tell which politician is not in favour of such things?
But in the Labour leader’s defence, it is hard to see where he can go. What could he stand for that would distinguish him from a Government that has abandoned traditional fiscally conservative policies in favour of big-state centrism?
When the Tories took Hartlepool in a by-election last year, Labour’s top table descended into Brutusian blood letting. Why? The northern town voted for a party that favours higher taxes on business, centrally dictated industrial strategies, and believes that the state has a guiding role in the economy. Rather than being so frustrated with the result they should have rejoiced that Gordon Brown was back in charge of the country.
Starmer’s great problem is that the Tory party he is fighting is now in many ways indistinguishable from the successful, centrist, electoral machine that was New Labour. The question is not then about how Labour fight back – but whether the economically liberal, free market Tories can win back their party.