Thursday, November 16, 2006

But whose Big Clunking Fist?

The next election contest, said Tony Blair yesterday, will be "a flyweight versus a heavyweight." He said of David Cameron: "However much he dances around the ring beforehand he will come in reach of a big clunking fist and, you know what, he'll be out on his feet, carried out of the ring."

He's right about Cameron, of course. The public will find him out before long and the Tories will discover that they have massively overestimated the impact that Blair's departure will have on their electoral prospects.

But did Blair's comments constitute the long-awaited endorsement of Gordon Brown, as seems to be the consensus this morning, or could it be, as The Sun suggests, that John Reid could still be the one to send the Boy David crashing to the canvas?

After all, as the commentator Peter Dobbie wrote a few years' back, the Home Secretary does have something of a reputation as a pugilist in Westminster circles.

What does seem to be clear is that Blair has endorsed Brown or Reid, as opposed to any other candidate - which is exactly how it should be. The two of them are head and shoulders above any other candidates when it comes to experience, gravitas, and the ability to command an audience, and if there is to be a contest, then those should be the two names on the ballot paper.

In other words, it's surely now time for Hutton, Milburn, Johnson and all the other John Major-alikes to crawl back under their stones and let the real men fight it out.

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Gracchi said...

Come on then Paul charisma is a disqualification in certain circs. It may be that Labour need a non-divisive figure like Straw or Hutton because it is so divided. that might be what is needed if the divisions after Blair run too deep.

RedEye said...

Milburn did himself no good by flouncing out of the Cabinet twice. Having heard him speak, however, at a fringe meeting two years ago, I'd say comparisons with John Major are ill-deserved. He's far more fluent and charismatic. What a pity he can't work with Gordon Brown - they'd make a great team. Their rivalry could ultimately set back the Labour modernisers' cause in the same way the rivalries between Crosland, Healey and Jenkins cost Labour's old right so dear.

Paul Linford said...


Alan Milburn is an interesting case and, I have to say, not one I fully understand.

I was a great fan of him in his younger days and actually worked fairly closely with him when he was an opposition Treasury spokesman. I do however agree with Bryan Gould's analysis that he became very pompous when in government, as reflected in his rather supercilious attitude to the regional press hacks who had helped him in his early career as a Labour rentaquote.

Maybe the comparison with Major was glib; he is indeed a better speaker and a deeper political thinker whose ideas deserve to be taken seriously. But in the context of the leadership election, he and Hutton are indeed the John Majors to Gordon Brown's Michael Heseltine.

G Eagle Esq said...

Dear Paul

How high does the relentless rise in Unemployment Levels have to go, before you come to question Mr Brown's "Gravitas"

Would you (or the ever-informative Redeye) feel differently if you or your Children were newly qualified Nurses or Occupational Therapists who are unable to get jobs or if it was your Pension Funds that have been brought to financial insolvency, because of Mr Brown's massive tax increases, costing Pension Funds £50 billion ++ since 1997

Your obedient servant etc


RedEye said...

Re. the pension funds, I'm sure I've acknowledged that as a mistake on Brown's part in posts passim (if I haven't, I do so here).

As for unemployment, it would be higher but for Brown's policy of independence for the Bank of England. Against many predictions, Britain escaped recession after the slowdown in the world economy seen after the bursting of the dotcom bubble and the World Trade Centre attacks.

On the other hand, as Larry Elliott noted just after the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, manufacturing has had real problems since 97.

And you know my views on tax credits.

Re. Paul's comments, it's a shame if Milburn became pompous in the way Paul described. But Gould is noting a speck in someone else's eye while ignoring the log in his own, when his dreadful memoir 'Goodbye to all that' is one of the most self-regarding and banal political memoirs I've ever had the misfortune to read, in which he comes across as Kenneth Widermpool, Mr Pooter, and Adrian Mole rolled into one. They make the Blunkett Tapes read like an exercise in humility.

The comparison with Major isn't bad when it comes to Hutton, what with their both coming across as bloodless (and dreary) technocrats.

RedEye said...

Sorry, misprint, I meant Widmerpool (many people think he was modelled on Edward Heath, but the late Anthony Powell insisted he was based on a barrister called Capell-Dunn, while Powell's in-law, Lord Longford, thought that Widmerpool was based on himself).