Thursday, May 17, 2007

The right man wins

It's a pity, in a way, that there wasn't a contest. Had either the hard left or the uber-Blairite right succeeded in launching a challenge to Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour Party, they would have been rightly humiliated and Gordon's mandate for taking the party in a fresh, post-Blairite direction would have been strengthened.

But no matter, the important thing is that Gordon Brown will become Prime Minister on June 27, 2007 and for once in politics, the right man has finished first.

The speculation will continue about why first David Miliband, then John Reid, then finally Charles Clarke all ruled themselves out of the running, about why John Denham didn't spot the opportunity of a challenge from the sensible left, about why a trail of past would-be contenders from Stephen Byers to David Blunkett to Alan Milburn all fell one by one by the wayside.

But the single biggest reason was because Gordon was, all along, the best candidate - and his opponents knew it.

Over the past few months, there has been a concerted attempt on the right-wing blogosphere to portray Gordon Brown as both sinister and sleazy. This has gone way beyond the normal left-right party politicking, and has demonstrated at times an intensely personal dislike of Brown on the part of the ringleaders.

This has included accusations that Gordon abused his position by allowing a charity set up in memory of his close friend and mentor John Smith to use No 11 Downing Street, and various spurious attempts to link him into the cash-for-honours affair.

Had I joined in this witch-hunt, I have no doubt that my monthly traffic figures would now be soaring towards six figures. As it is, it is pretty clear from my stats that some people of a right-ish persuasion stopped reading my blog because they wanted to read bile about Gordon Brown, and didn't want to hear that he is a genuine guy with deeply-held values. So be it.

It's obvious why the Tory bloggers hate him so. They knew all along that he was the man who will show their leader David Cameron up to be the sub-Blair pretender that he is, and so set out to hobble him below the knees before he had even stood up against Cameron at the Despatch Box.

But if Brown's triumph is a victory against these politically-motivated bloggers, it is also a victory against a mainstream media which seemed determined to provoke a challenge for its own savage amusement.

Improbably led by the Labour-supporting Guardian and its Sunday stablemate the Observer, certain newspapers set out over a number of weeks to create the conditions in which a Cabinet-level challenge became seen as inevitable.

The intention was that, in the days following Blair's resignation announcement, the clamour would reach such a fever-pitch that some opportunist somewhere would be persuaded to dance to the media's tune. Indeed I myself fully expected that this would be the case.

As things turned out, it seems I both under-estimated the good sense of Brown's would-be opponents, and over-estimated the power of my former profession. And for that, I am grateful.

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Anonymous said...

Paul - once again you have outed youself as a fan of Saint Etienne!

The phrase "savage amusement" always lands me in the middle of their gorgeous single Avenue from the autumn of 1992.

You see? There's always someone, somewhere, with a big nose, who knows...

Guido Fawkes said...

My hatred of Gordon Brown is a pure and unyielding thing.

It is a personal dislike, but more than that it is political. New Labour had the chance to reform the public sector, something that is almost impossible for a centre-right party to when it will be inevitably attacked by a party of the left and the unions.

Gordon Brown hindered Blair at every turn- a course of action against the national interest.

The Smith Institute and the use of public money and what is effectively transfer pricing to finance his private political ends is corrupt. It deserves exposure.

Incidentally my readers prefer tottywatch to stories about abuse of office.

skipper said...

I agree the right man has won but I'm worried since that despatches programme who will be in control Dr Jekyl or Mr Hyde?

Davide Simonetti said...


It's not just the right-wingers that are unhappy with Gordon Brown. As Chancellor of the Exchequer and an architect of 'New Labour' he bears much of the responsibility for the the failings of the Blair era. Of course he was going to win the leadership contest, that wasn't really the point. The point was we wanted a contest so that a much needed debate could take place within the Labour party. That debate has now been stifled. If it had taken place Gordon Brown would have had to counter John McDonnell's arguments. If he had been successful in doing so he would have won the leadership with a stronger mandate and if John McDonnell's arguments had merits he would have had to have made some concessions which would have meant he'd have some more clear-cut policies rather than offering more of the same. If his policies are so fantastic then why was he so determined to prevent that debate from taking place?

Preventing that debate from happening means that Gordon can still be ambiguous as to what he will actually do when he takes over and, just as seriously, it has denied Labour party members a say in who their leader is creating some real anger among the rank and file Labour part members...not a very good start. This can't be good for democracy. Brown has been promising us a "new kind of politics" and a commitment to democracy. How does being chosen for his new role because of a discussion in an Islington restaurant in 1994 reflect on those promises?

Anonymous said...

Brown isn't in office yet and already it's slight of hand politics.It's "Britain" this and that.His claim to improve the "National Health "service only applies to England and Wales.
Is he repatriating powers from Holyrood ,not a chance.Your fawning welcome displays any lack of political principle other than opportunism or party loyalty.

Anonymous said...

Paul your public support for GB worries me. I had always read your blog for a well balanced view of things that I was only on the periphery.
But such open support also seems to be sympathetic of a more general amnesia that seems to be creeping into the minds of the gneral public and media.
Brown's hands are stained with the same blood of our fallen service personnel as Blairs' are.
If he had done the honourable thing, like Robin Cook, and resigned over Iraq. I would view him in a more favourable light.
If he had once condemned the "Cash 4 Peerages" scandal, I would be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
But this is a man who has been joined at the waist with Blair and ZaNuLabor for the last ten years.
Please wake up, take the rose tinted spectacles off, and see Brown for what he really is - a devious, back-stabbing, snout-in-the-trough ZaNuLabor politican.

Unknown said...

I am surprised that you seem to accuse right-wing bloggers of acting 'in concert' with their criticisms of GB. Little happens on the internet 'in concert'. If they are attacking GB unorchestratedly, that is scarcely a shock.

So there are no mainstream challengers to GB. Is that because there is nobody else of any ability or stature within the cabinet? Or does GB tower over them all? It couldn't be because as soon as another minister shines, he is undermined by the brownites? That would be thinking small---GB couldn't be accused of that, could he?

Inflation has been beaten on GB's watch. He didn't allow Britain to join the Euro. Major successes. Against that, the gap between the state of public finances he inherited compared with what he is leaving for the next man is the biggest in history. A greater negative 'added value' than ever before.

Paul Linford said...

Some good comments there - I shall respond to three in particular.

Guido - Your response at least has the merit of honesty, and I commend you for being so open about the fact that you personally hold Gordon to blame for the Blair Government's failure to privatise everything that moves. But our respective definitions of the "national interest" in this respect are always going to be subjective ones. I personally don't think it would have been in the national interest for your chums in the city to end up owning our schools and hospitals as well as our trains and public utilities and I think Gordon shared that view. There is a huge debate to be had about whether privatisation has actually improved anything for the end user, particularly where local services are concerned. Most refuse collection and hospital cleaning services for instance were handed out to private contractors in the 1990s. Few would argue that they have improved as a result.

Davide - I too would like to have seen a contest, but not between Brown and McDonnell as it would have been a waste of time. John McD is a nice bloke but he isn't prime ministerial material in a million years and that is the reason, rather than his left-wing views, why only 29 MPs were prepared to support him. As I said on this blog several months ago, I think a contest betwen Brown and John Denham would have enabled the party to have a debate, both about the war and about its political direction generally, but unfortunately Denham wasn't interested and there was no other anti-war MP of sufficient stature to take up the challenge.

As for Barnacle Bill, I am sure Brown has complete contempt for the way certain Blair cronies behaved over cash for peerages. But if he had said so, there would have been a full-scale civil war in the party and Brown would have been depicted as an assassin. He will make clear soon enough that things will be different on his watch.

Anonymous said...

Paul, you've come out as a Brown supporter. So all that bile you have spouted of Blair had a purpose.

You sound like my brother, somehow somewhere Nu Lab will come good.

Brown was there when Blair start the war. He is not Sleeping Beauty, awoken with a kiss to start afresh.

Not best he is a wimp, possibly demostrated by his Stalinist crushing of a leadership election. Not worst he is 'Blair II'

I personally hope he will got down in history as the shortest term Labour prime minister. Election June 2009, along with the euros, 'cos Labour are broke

Liam Murray said...

I share Barnacle Bill's disappointment that your usual balance seems to have deserted you Paul (and notice that you didn't address his Iraq point - Brown is more culpable since he stayed in office to serve his ambition whereas Blair believed in what he was doing and put his job on the line - even if he was ultimately proved wrong)

Many people (myself included) could tolerate Blair because he genuinely tried to get past left / right ideologies and recognised that they often served no purpose. As per his resignation speech he knew it wasn't as simple as public money good, private bad or Europe good, US bad - those attitudes from governments of any colour had poorly served the British interest and his embodiment of this principle made him the electoral asset he was.

Fundamentally Brown rejects this and political expediency alone forces him to embrace it publicly. That's why he attracts the contempt he does - certainly from me.

Blair once said "It's worse than they think, I believe it" - with Brown it's likely to be as bad as we fear - he doesn't.

(apologies for the rant but my own blog is no more s I need a soapbox!)

The Daily Pundit said...

All good right-wingers should celebrate the Brown coronation. He's about to make Cameron look like the lightweight Lib Dem soundalike toffee nosed southern ponce that he is. As for Brown, if he scares the useless Tories into coming up with some actual policies, then it can only be a good thing. Incidentally, where's all these nappies and rocking horses we were promised by the hooray henry's? Has Oliver Letwin borrowed them?

Anonymous said...

Bemused by all the surprise at your Brown-ite leanings Paul, you've never made a secret of it. I share much of your optimism over what could be our first truly Labour government since the IMF intervention in 1977. My only worry is whether his natural caution will restrain him in reversing the harm of the 30 years since.

Anonymous said...

Stephen, are you honestly suggesting that things were better in 1977 than they are now?

Our future dream might have been a shopping scheme, but I can't imagine that many of us would like to go back there.

Anonymous said...

I know it sounds nuts, but studies suggest the people were happier with their lives in 1976-7 than they are today.

Paul Linford said...

I was certainly happier with Callaghan as Prime Minister than I ever was with Thatcher, Major or Blair (although I would still have preferred Big Denis!)

Anonymous said...

David, things are better for me than they were in 1977 and, I suspect, for you. The harm I referred to has been done to those left behind. Blair's failure to deal with widening social divides means history will regard him as little more than an interesting footnote to the chapter on Thatcher. Brown's choice is does he want to be a footnote to the footnote, or does he want to write a whole new chapter?

Paul Linford said...

Blimey Stephen that was a good pay-off line. You'll end up writing my column for me if you're not careful!

Anonymous said...

Stephen - would you say that anyone in the UK was genuinely poor any more?

I'm talking ragged trousers, starving hungry, proper rotten poor, here.

[Incidentally, why can't this bloger thing accept the capital letters that I prefer to use to start each word of my name?]

Anonymous said...

Bit late on this but like many in the Labour Party am horrified at Brown's coronation.John McDonnell IS a very "nice bloke." He's honest, says what he thinks and takes people at face value.More fool him as he was utterly shafted by Brown and his nasty apparatchiks. Clearly, Prime Ministers can't be nice.They have to be devious,manipulative bullies.
The brief 24 hours when I thought John was going to make it onto the ballot made me glad to be a Labour Party member. people were signing up on the internet and asking me how to go about it .....Now it's New Labour business as usual. Bloody depressing