Friday, October 03, 2008

Plotters routed

We were told that seven ministers were going to resign, that Ruth Kelly's was just the first in a series of departures which would deliver a crushing blow to the Prime Minister's authority. We were told that others, including John Hutton, would refuse to serve or be moved. And today, Gordon Brown has stuck a triumphant two fingers up to the lot of them.

The key to this reshuffle, for Gordon, was to find a way of demonstrating that he can unite the Labour Party and thereby isolating the rebels. Today he has done that - and then some.

Gordon's tactic from the start was to find a senior Blairite who would be prepared to join his team and help heal the party's wounds. Alan Milburn rebuffed him, while Charles Clarke simply rubbished him, but what did Gordon do? He recruited the archest Blairite of them all.

As a demonstration of "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" it could scarcely be bettered. If he'd persuaded Mr Tony himself to come back as Foreign Secretary, then maybe - but getting Peter Mandelson on board as Business Secretary was surely the next best thing.

The message to the rebels is unmistakable. To paraphrase Chapter Eight of the Book of Romans - if Mandy Mandelson, Maggie Beckett, Dolly Draper, Ali Campbell and yes, John Hutton are all for me, then who can be against me?

In other words, relative political nonentities such as Joan Ryan, Graham Stringer and Siobhain McDisloyal have been put very firmly in their place.

It's not perfect. I'd like to have seen Jon Cruddas given the housing job, while I think the very talented and articulate Shaun Woodward is wasted at Northern Ireland - and you don't often see those two guys praised in the same sentence.

But that apart, this is a cracking reshuffle which demonstrates Brown using the power of incumbency to absolute maximum effect to make both the Tories and the rebels look irrelevant. The public loves a fighter, and Brown is fighting, fighting and fighting again to save the party he loves.

  • You can read more of my thoughts on the past week in politics - and where it leaves David Cameron - in my Journal column which will be posted here tomorrow as usual.

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    Barnacle Bill said...

    Fighting to save himself more likely Paul.
    The public may like a fighter, but one who's trainer is a dodgey dealer?
    What sort of message does this send to the public, who maybe struggling to meet their mortgage repayments, facing redundancy, and increasing bills?
    Here is a man who fiddled his mortgage application, involved in some murky passport applications, and about to get his P45 next year from his present employers the EU.
    Now he is rewarded with employment for life with a peerage, unaccountable to the Commons by this, and finally unaccountable to us the electorate!
    From a political point of view it may have been a cracking appointment, but from where i'm sitting it has a whiff of rotting flesh about it.
    Word verification= mazfha (mafia?)

    Anonymous said...

    Paul I think our Dave can't believe his luck,Brown had a few weak one's at his back and then he calls in Mandy a nasty piece of work,I hope Brown has borrowed a stab vest,he's going to need it.

    James Higham said...

    Yes but does one necessarily want a Rottweiler in there? Still, he's obviously very "proud" to be part of the end of the Labour government.

    ChrisC said...

    The message to the rebels may be unmistakeable.

    And the message to the public?

    Mandelson and Draper...I'm sure they'll play well in Glenrothes!

    Unity said...


    Remember what LBJ said about J Edgar Hoover...

    It's better to have him inside the tent pissing out than on the outside pissing in.

    Londinium said...

    Bringing back Mandy could well turn out to be a disaster, but Paul is right about one thing - those backbenchers plotting against Brown look very small today.

    Any reservoir of support they may have had in the Labour Party is drying up.

    Anonymous said...

    'Plotters routed' is fair comment. GB has always been under-estimated as a politician, just as he's always been over-rated as a Chancellor.

    Mandelson was respected by his civil servants more than any other minister back in those dreamy early days of govt. He was one of the few who was not too self-important to actually read his red boxes. But we he pull in the same direction as the rest of the govt?

    As is chacteristic of GB, a canny political move. But too little, too late to make any significant difference.