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The star who plays a LAB MP in tonight’s new BBC political thriller is worried about state of the party

February 12th, 2018

Why Don Brind thinks he shouldn’t be

David Mars is a Labour MP worried about the state of his party and at odds with his leader. Described as a “frustrated but hard-working member of the shadow cabinet” the central character in tonight’s BBC2 thriller Collateral “despairs at the state of the Labour Party and many of its policies .. he’s not afraid to be outspoken and on more than one occasion he finds himself in hot water with the party leader.”

John Simms, the man who plays the fictional MP, is also worried about what he sees as Labour’s ineffectiveness. He told the Big Issue  “Everything is all fucked. And until Trump leaves the Oval Office, I will not think we are not fucked,” he says.

“Every day I am expecting the end of the world. It is terrifying. I despair. Like most people, I am horrified by all of it at the moment.

“This government is in disarray, and I can’t see any immediate challenge from Labour, really. They are standing in front of an open goal and no one is really putting it in the net.”

You wouldn’t have to go far at Westminster to find a real life Labour MP to echo the worries of John Simms and his character. Even before the run of recent polls showing the Tories in the lead there was a nagging concern that Labour is level pegging with this uniquely incompetent government.

“Why, then, is the leadership not more depressed? The question is posed and answered by the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush, the journalist you turn to for the best insights into what is going on in Team Corbyn.

The leader’s inner circle, he says, reckon last year’s election realigned politics – the trouble is “that realignment wasn’t enough to deliver a Labour government.” The reason they remain upbeat, says Bush, “is a belief that time favours Labour. The government will have to deliver a Brexit deal that falls short of May’s rhetoric, the public realm, particularly the NHS, will continue to be under growing pressure, and the housing market will continue to shut out growing numbers of voters under 45.”

    Another way of putting it is that Team Corbyn believe are doing the right things and will eventually get the reward.

For instance, having recently chided Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott for not campaigning hard enough on crime I was delighted to see her boss get stuck into the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions – winning this plauditfrom Tony Blair’s biographer John Rentoul: “ I never thought I’d say it but Jeremy Corbyn manipulates PMQs brilliantly. Simply by raising the subject of crime, Corbyn is winning.”

More substantially there is a great deal of policy development going on, some of which was on show at last weekend’s Alternative Models of Ownership conference. The top line was the assertion by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell that public ownership would have zero cost for taxpayers.

A friend who attended the conference was mightily impressed by John McDonnell’s “careful and reasonable-sounding presentation”.

For the record, my friend is not easily impressed – definitely not a Corbynista rather a very savvy, business-friendly former MP.

What came across was that “while the Tories were obsessing about Brexit and who was going to be their next leader, Labour was putting together a serious agenda for government.”

The plan is to use Labour’s powers at council level effectively (especially if Labour win more in May’s elections) to make the blueprint for municipalisation work. “This would improve Labour’s electoral chances even more.”

On the issue of privatisation and outsourcing “McDonnell accused the Tories of dogma and an ideological commitment to an idea they knew didn’t work. The alternative model being presented was free of dogma and ideology but was looking at “what works” (very Blair).”

The verdict on the conference — “The Labour Party seems to have a very clear strategy of what it needs to do between now and the general election while no-one else seems to.

So how to answer John Simm’s point that Labour can’t put the ball into an empty net? What more could Team Corbyn be doing at the moment?

The answer, rather boringly, is Not Much.

Don Brind