Monday, 7 November 2011

Good riddance Lord Gould

It's a commonplace argument that you shouldn't say anything critical about someone when they die, however dishonest, unprincipled or objectionable they were in life.  It's a view that I completely reject, as I shall now demonstrate.

Lord Gould, the advertising man the Labour Party hired in the mid-80's as a pollster and strategist, has died aged sixty-one after a long illness.  His track record has been predictably eulogised by other "architects of New Labour" including spin doctors Lord Mandelson and Alistair Campbell as well as Tony Blair.

Mandelson claimed that "Philip was as brave in his illness as he was in his politics, always doing things differently."  In fact, the opposite is true.  Gould pioneered the use of focus groups and policy making according to opinion polls rather than principle.  His so-called "bravery" in politics consisted of transferring the techniques of the advertising agency to it, adopting or dropping policies not according to what he thought right but the whims of media-influenced public opinion.  Given that  media was largely owned by Rupert Murdoch, another toxic influence on New Labour, Gould's role in the labour movement was akin to the cancer that killed him, spreading a life-threatening poison.  Rather than "doing things differently", he helped to ensure that the 1997 Labour government was a continuation of the Thatcher-Major governments that preceded it, maintaing the anti-union laws and bowing down to big business over the minimum wage.

Blair, Campbell and Mandelson are right that Gould's legacy will outlive him.  For those of us who have to live with that in terms of a hollowed out Labour Party, the only reason to join his funeral cortege would be to make sure the coffin lid is firmly nailed down.

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