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The Purple Gang - Labour looks for its lost soul

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The Purple Gang operated out of Detroit, Michigan during Prohibition, running bootleg alcohol. gangsters and outlaws

We've had Old Red Labour and New Labour, and Blue Labour, an attempt to recover something from the wreckage of the Party left by the Blair, Brown, Mandelson Gang. Now we have Purple Labour - an attempt to salvage the reputation and influence of New Labour, whilst accommodating itself to Ed Miliband's view of the Party, which in an attempt to reflect his customary crystalline clarity, could be described as

"I hate New Labour, but the bastards are still around and rich, and my brother is one of them, and I'd love to dump them, but I can't, and I can't go back to the old cloth cap Labour, so I'll have to pretend to go back to Old Labour, but I'll call it Blue Labour, because we're closer to the Tories really, and we can't apologies for our murderous, incompetent foreign and economic policies, but we must move forward, so maybe we should call it Purple Labour, just to give the idea that we're somewhere between New Labour and Tories, but with a tiny, nostalgic bit of red in there for the proles, and I'll get a former Home Secretary who was dumped for expenses scandals and porno videos - no, that was her husband - to front end it ..."

I have done my best to paraphrase what goes on in Miliband Minor's wee heid, which is not an easy task believe me.

In times like these, one must have recourse to Machiavelli, but this is always dangerous, because Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli has had a bad press over the centuries, and picking quotes invites others to cherry pick as well. Machiavelli was trying to stay afloat in early 16th century Italy, having lost his place as Secretary of the Republic of Florence when the Medici took power.

He was a true Renaissance man, literate, musical - a composer and playwright as well as a diplomat, and probably wanted to be left alone, but the Medici were not to be messed with, and Niccolò was not their pal. Having been tortured by the Medici by strappado - being pulled up on a rope affixed to his hands tied behind his back, and with Cesare Borgia around, not to mention his nice sister Lucrezia, whose Dad became Pope, Machiavelli had to be careful. Diplomat though he was, he could have used a spin doctor to get him a better press. A medieval John McTernan could have helped, by writing articles for the Florentian equivalent of the Scotsman along the lines of What the Medici Must Do!

But enough of this historical musing, let's get to what the man said, and pick a quote or two -

" ... it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."

Take heed, Edward - you number your brother among this group, and the Milibands have been about as familial as the Borgia's of late. As for the New Labour Gang, well, they're not going to lie down and die while the new Blue Gang muscles in on their territory, and the Purple Gang merger is not bonded by anything resembling values, principles or common humanity, just a lust for power at any price. And as has been observed, when red, blue and purples get mashed together on the palette of desperation, it tends to turn into merde - and the Merde Gang has even more unfortunate overtones than the others, however apposite the title might be.

THE BOOZE AND FAGS BIG FOUR

While we're on the subject of Prohibition and the abuse of alcohol, we must remind ourselves that booze and fags are a major problem for Scotland. I support the responsible alcohol industry (I made my living from it for many years), and properly regulated public house and a properly regulated alcohol industry are important parts of our social fabric. Exports of Scotch whisky are of major importance to Scotland's economy. But the abuse of alcohol is not an abuse significantly linked to the expensive blends and single malts beloved by the connoisseurs - it is principally caused by the amoral marketing of cheap booze by the big supermarket chains, often by loss-leading on price.

Minimum pricing will soon have its positive impact on that, now that a principled government with a majority can legislate in the way that they were blocked from doing in the last Parliament by an unprincipled opposition, including the tartan branch of the Purple Gang. But while the damage persist, and its consequence have to be paid for, it is fair and just that the obscenely rich and profitable big chains who peddle the cheap booze and the lethal fags should contribute to limiting the damage they have done to our society. The cost to them will be about 0.3% of their huge turnovers, and the amount it will yield is only £5m more than the £33m combined salaries of the CEOs of the Big Four.

In fact if they want to avoid the tax, since they are already fabulously rich men, they can donate their salaries to the health and crime programmes required by the damage they have done. The remaining £5m can be found in the face of such a magnanimous and long overdue gesture.