Leaks, dragons and stitch ups
By Peter Jackson
ON 6 May 1999 New Labour managed the impossible - it lost the Rhondda, a Labour heartland for most of the last century, to Plaid Cymru. The defeat came on the heels of the election of Alun Michael as leader of the Welsh Labour Party.
In reality Alun Michael was chosen by Tony Blair and forced through by the Welsh Labour executive and the trade union leaders. In Dragons Led by Poodles: The Inside Story of a New Labour Stitch Up, Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, exposes the stitch up. He follows the story from the electoral college, which made each MP's vote worth 300 ordinary members', to the "shape shifting" of previous left wingers such as Peter Hain whose only concern was to get Michael elected.
Flynn was not a bystander in the story. He put himself forward as a prospective member of the Welsh Assembly with the single intention of stopping Alun Michael. "True Labour, not New Labour" was to be his slogan. He has shared an office with Alun Michael and says he has always liked him. Yet he has an unremitting hatred for New Labour.
This book offers a useful insight into New Labour's fixing, but Flynn does not argue for a wholesale alternative to Tony Blair. His attitude to PFI schemes sums up his approach. He writes, "The trench war between Labour and big business was futile and damaging. "We needed to get into bed with them. But surely it is going too far to allow them to consummate the relationship?" The New Labour stitch up in Wales is all here. Change the names and you get a fair idea what New Labour is up to in London.
- Dragons Led by Poodles by Paul Flynn, Politicos, �7.99. Available from Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. Phone 020 7637 1848.