Monday, April 28, 2008

Reflections on Arizona...and on what I've been missing

Okay, so leaving aside being mistaken for Phil Collins and nearly getting septicaemia, what else did I do on my holidays - and what do I make of what's been happening politically in my absense? Well, I'll come to that in a bit.

Each of my three trips to Arizona have been laden with emotion. My first, in 2003, was for my sister's wedding when I stood in my late father's place - one of the proudest days of my life. Unfortunately she got married right in the middle of the party conference season, and I was only able to stay a couple of days before dashing back to England in time to hear Duncan Smith turning up the frigging volume.

My second trip, for my brother-in-law Mitch's memorial service, has already been previously documented on this blog. The ten-and-a-half-hour flight to Phoenix that weekend was the saddest journey I have ever had to make, and I spent most of it listening to Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head. That line "God gave you style and gave you grace, and put a smile upon your face," will always remind me of Mitch.

So this, my third visit, was the first which my wife Gill and I have undertaken which didn't involve taking part in a rite of passage, and also the first we have undertaken with our two small children. It was certainly more relaxing than the first two, yet the place has such meaning for me now that it was impossible again not to be touched with emotion at being there.

Part of this is down to the sheer grandeur of the scenery. My sister lives in what are called the "desert foothills" and her garden, framed by panoramic mountain views all round, is a special place, populated only by cacti, mesquites, paloverdes, lizards and the odd tarantula.

It is at its very best in the early morning, before the heat of the day, and I loved to settle down there with a good book and put all the cares of the world behind me. As previously mentioned, my main choice of reading on this trip was Piers Morgan's Don't You Know Who I Am but I found this a rather odd mixture to be honest.

Although it has its funny bits - such as Morgan telling Charles Clarke to "stick it up your big fat arse" during a Labour conference reception - I found Morgan's obsession with becoming a celebrity slightly disconcerting and I think on the whole I preferred him in his tabloid editor incarnation, when he had a healthy contempt for the whole business.

Aside from chilling out, we found time for a trip to the Grand Canyon - my first time and Gill's second. It's certainly awesome but I suspect you would only get a true idea of its sheer scale by walking down into it and back up the other side. That's definitely one for another year.


I purposefully didn't blog while on holiday because I wanted to take some time for reflection on the current state of British politics. I have to confess to being somewhat depressed by this, and to be honest I have been for some time.

Like a lot of people of a naturally progressive bent, I did have very high hopes for the Gordon Brown administration, above all that he could impart some fresh moral purpose to Labour after more than a decade in power. Not only has he not done this, he has done the cause of the left terrible damage by appearing to surrender Labour's hard-won reputation for competence.

I still believe Gordon to be a good and decent man. I will continue to vigorously oppose those in the blogosphere who seek to attack him on the grounds of his so-called "psychological flaws," as if they themselves somehow have none.

But what I can no longer defend is the failure to set out some higher purpose for his administration other than simply remaining in power - a failure which risks handing the next election to David Cameron on a plate.

During my time away there has been mounting speculation about "civil war" breaking out inside the Labour Party if this Thursday's local election results are as bad as currently expected.

In my view, the suggestion that Brown should make way for a new leader remains fanciful without a very much clearer idea of what alternative his critics intend to put in his place. Simply substituting him with Jack Straw or even David Miliband will have zero impact unless other things change too.

Nevertheless, it is already clear that a leadership challenge this summer would have a very much better chance of success than one last summer would have done.

Maybe, just maybe, that was the Blairites' game plan all along....

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Anonymous said...

"I still believe Gordon to be a good and decent man."

I think he is calculating and scheming; this is what has got him into well deserved difficulty over the removal of the 10p tax rate.

Stephen said...

I agree with you Paul, he is a good and decent man, although his competence as chancellor is somewhat overrated; the errors he made there have come back to haunt him somewhat. The current financial 'crisis' is probably the first significant challenge in that area he's faced in all his time in government, and already he's dancing to the tune of the perceived public opinion.

It's a great disappointment after hoping to see the back of TB for so long, particularly as it's difficult now to see Gordon having the skill required to turn the situation round; as things stand he's quite unelectable.

Jack Straw as a potential leader? My heart sinks!

The Daily Pundit said...

It's sad to say it but I think Cameron could beat Miliband, Balls, Burnham etc. So what about Geoff Hoon as leader? I knew you'd laugh. Thing is, he's a bit of a dark horse is Hoon and I'm convinced he harbours leadership ambitions.

MorrisOx said...

May I say, first of all, that your post was a pleasure to read, Paul? The way you combine the political with the personal without venturing into the weary dogmatism that seems to infect some centre-left blogs has turned yours into an oasis in what is, right now, a very arid desert.

I'm no Brown fan, and do suffer from acute bouts of libertarianism. But while acknowledging my own moral/psychological weaknesses, I still can't ignore Brown's. Even if you wish Blairism away (and there sre some on the Left who would cheerfully airbrush it from history), you are left with a Chancellor whose deep-seated commitment to funding fairness and equality saw him sup with the market devil on a grand scale.

Indeed, it seems to me that he encouraged it to party on until, last summer, it did the usual thing and crashed and burned again. On that basis, he is father of his own demise even without the psychological flaws.

I do not bear him any ill-will, and wish he could summon leadership that would plot a plausible way out. But there is no easy way out, certainly not one that could follow a rigid dogmatic course.

Pink sunsets aren't confined to Arizona. We've been suffering one here for months.