Thursday, November 09, 2006

“We have to listen more”

An interview with Hilary Benn in the Guardian today:

…he has a clear analysis as to what's wrong with Labour, calling for "a different kind of politics, a different kind of tone". In Benn's view, "a gap has opened up between the electorate and politicians. "We have to listen more." He wants a bigger role for the party in taking decisions: "One of the difficult things about being in government is that ministers become ministers, and the civil service machine takes you up, and the party sometimes feels that it's looking in from the window outside. I think it's really important that the party feels it's inside the conversation."

His big theme is the danger of cynicism - "not doubt, not scepticism, not querying, not criticism, not asking questions - all of those are absolutely legitimate - but if we fall prey to cynicism we are lost as a society." His answer is that politics has over-promised in the past, which is what has produced the cynicism among voters - too big promises followed by inflated expectations and then disappointment at the results. This pattern has been, he says, "profoundly unhealthy. I think it's unhealthy in personal relationships and I think it's unhealthy between government and the people.

"I think in life you should always be straight and set out what you are going to do, and how long you think it's going to take." It is a none-too-coded attack on the years of spin, and in saying this he sounds most like his father, nearest too to the radical non-conformist tradition of the Benn family generally.

Ask him what is the biggest challenge Labour faces and he replies without hesitation: "the challenge in my constituency is the same as the challenge in the world - it's to overcome the big gap between those who have and those who don't and that's what Labour came into being to do, and we've got a lot more yet to achieve. That's what I think."

I’m still some way away from deciding whom to support as deputy leader, but I could well end up as a Bennite.


Matt M said...

Harriet Harman gave a good interview in the 'New Statesman' a few weeks back. For me (I have to admit I haven't thought about this too much) it's between her and Alan Johnson. Though I might have to give Hillary Benn a look now.

Tom Freeman said...

You know what would be really funny? Blair as Brown's deputy.

Matt M said...

Well, he is going to be hanging around until the next election... although that might not be too long after he steps down as PM.

Roland Dodds said...

Very interesting. Although I am not English, I can agree that politicians of all creeds and nations over-promise to the point where every word said is taken with a large pinch of salt.

Matt M said...


I suspect that's why sitting politicians have the advantage. If someone's never held office then you can never really be sure of them.

The first task of a politician is gain power. The second to keep it. Principles only come third.