As I have said, I am pleased that Ed rather than David has become Labour leader. David was the continuity candidate, building on the legacy of Tony Blair. His outburst of irritation at Harriet Harman, for clapping Ed for saying the Iraq war was wrong, encapsulates the problem. I have no doubt that David is clever but I fear he is too conscious that he is clever. He got promoted too fast too soon and it made him rather arrogant. But anyone, including Blair himself, who thinks continuing Blair’s policies will bring Labour back to power, is living in cloud cuckoo land. Blair himself conveniently forgot, when he criticised Brown for losing the election that 4 million of the 5 million votes Labour lost since 1997 had gone before Brown took over.
Ed said in his speech that some of the things Labour had done were good but that the record on Iraq, civil liberties, claiming to have abolished boom and bust, allowing Britain to become increasingly unequal and by implication, driving the prison population so high were all errors. His words on the siege of Gaza and the flotilla were also brave and very welcome. If any of the other leadership candidates had gone to the backbenches, they would have been accused of being petulant; David claims he has done it to help Ed. We will see, I fear the Blairites might go on conspiring; I hope I am wrong.
I went to Hackney to speak to students at B6 which is sixth form College. The students were bright and thoughtful and I enjoyed the meeting. But on the train from Liverpool Street a young black woman got into the carriage and started to talk on her phone very, very loudly and aggressively. It was very unpleasant and nasty to hear her aggression and threats to others and her foulmouthed swearing. An elderly cockney sitting beside her gently remonstrated and she poured out vile nastiness in response. The one good thing is that there was no racism in any of it. I’m afraid all I did was tut tut, fairly quietly. The nastiness of it all left me feeling quite shaken up, as I am sure it did most people in the carriage. It demonstrated how atomised we have become. We used to have conductors on buses and trains. The young woman should have been told to be quiet or to leave the train. Heaven knows what was troubling her, but if such behaviour is not corrected general behaviour tends to deteriorate and people fear to intervene because of the threat of violence.
I am travelling to a conference in Kampala this evening. It is focused on local government in developing countries. I will be representing Cities Alliance which is a coalition of the World Bank, UN Habitat, representatives of slum dwellers and countries. We’re trying to get the world to wake up to the fact that the poor of the world are urbanising. This is not just in megacities but also small towns, everywhere they are growing. Governments do not welcome this, I think they fear the poor concentrated in urban areas can riot and protest, they therefore do little to provide water and sanitation because they fear more will come, but towns grow anyway and squalor spreads. Similarly, development organisations ignore slum dwellers and informal settlements. Cities Alliance is campaigning to change this and trying to spread exemplary policy. I believe that urbanisation is going to transform the politics of poverty, just as in Europe, when the poor concentrate in one area they can organise and riot, and criminality is likely to spread. There will be mess, ill health and suffering but the poor will have more power. I look forward to that.