Tuesday, September 16, 2008

There can be no happy outcome

Firstly, I apologise for the lack of blogging during the past few days. Partly it's down to other commitments, but also it's down a feeling of deep despair about the current state of politics and the apparent sad denouement to which the Gordon Brown administration appears to be heading.

Today has seen the resignation of David Cairns and by all accounts two more Ministers of State are likely to follow. Take your pick from Tony McNulty, David Hanson, Liam Byrne, Jim Murphy, Kim Howells, Pat McFadden, Bill Rammell and Ben Bradshaw. It could be any of them, though Byrne would probably be the most damaging.

I still think these are essentially too disparate a group of people to be acting as part of some dark plot being co-ordinated behind the scenes by John Reid or even by Tony Blair as some bloggers have sought to suggest. But in that probably lies their strength.

If this was a Blairite plot, I think the charge would have stuck by now, and the party rallied much more strongly behind Gordon. The right-wing bloggers who delight in taunting Brown may find it hard to believe, but the very last thing the Labour Party wants - or for that matter needs - is a return to Blairism.

I myself thought it likely for some time that Gordon would face a leadership challenge this autumn, and before the recess, I argued that he probably should face one, on the grounds that he has failed to restore Labour's lost moral compass as his supporters hoped.

However he still had a few cards left to play - the September relaunch, the reshuffle, the conference speech, and finally the electoral test offered by the Glenrothes by-election. In my view, he should have been allowed to play those cards before the party was forced to reach a conclusion about whether his leadership should continue.

As it is, I think the failure of the party to remain united at this critical time has made it moreorless inevitable that there can be no happy outcome for Mr Brown. In other words, the rebels have created for the party a self-fullfilling prophecy - which no doubt was the intention of some of them.

It's not about numbers - remember that Chamberlain was never defeated in the Commons in 1940 - it's about momentum. And the political narrative created by these sackings and resignations will ultimately ensure that all roads conspire towards one end.

But what most deeply depresses me about all this is not the fact that a politician I still admire has failed to live up to the high hopes invested in him. It is the fact that politics is increasingly starting to resemble a reality TV show.

Political leaders who once might have expected to be around for a generation as Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher were, or going further back, for several generations in the case of Gladstone and Churchill, now have a shelf-life of only a few years before an increasingly superficial electorate becomes bored of them.

Over the past 11 years, the Tories have had five leaders, the Liberal Democrats four, and by the end of the year Labour will possibly have had three, but I don't think this rapid turnover is because the quality of political leadership is declining. It is rather a by-product of a national obsession with celebrity which in turn demands a style of political leadership based on glitz and "personality" rather than solid achievement.

For me, the accession of Gordon Brown represented a chance to put an end to all this rubbish. The most baleful legacy of his apparent failure will be to condemn the United Kingdom to twenty or thirty years of showbiz politics.

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purplepangolin said...

I agree that our society has become obsessed with celebrity, but I don't think that you can blame that for the political parties changing their leaders. It is not as though we are voting them out via text message.

The truth is that Gordon has failed to live up to expectations, and I think that it is a bit rich to have expected him to return us to a golden age where parties stuck behind there leaders through thick and thin given how he became PM

Anonymous said...

But many recent leaders have lasted, and chief amongst them, Tony Blair. The fact that weak-minded Labour MPs and activists schemed to remove him, led by that political paragon G. Brown doesn't change the fact that he survived all that the worst of the Labour Party could throw at him for five years.

Only a blinkered schemer, which looks as if it includes you, could believe that Brown would not have shown his true ability as soon as he grabbed his chance: he was a poor Chancellor, with little understanding of either domestic or world finance, and we are living the consequences daily. He has an unswevering belief in his own ability, good for him, but the reality is that his own good opinion of himseldf is just delusion. Every day shows us all how deluded he is. Political colussus, not.

Ted Foan said...

It's the Labour Party that's the busted flush, Paul. Brown's tenure as PM has just hastened its eventual demise.

Stephen said...

However decent Gordon is as a man, and however much might feel that at heart he shares one's core political beliefs, the truth is that he has had more than enough time as PM to show us what he is likely to deliver. He has patently failed to take that opportunity, and I doubt if there are many inside (let alone outside) the Labour party who think that things will get any better while he is in charge. Part of the problem has always been his long tenure as Chancellor where he had the good fortune to preside over a long period of boom. Unfortunately it has been left to his successor to deal with the consequent and inevitable bust.

It is still not inconceivable that Labour could win the next election. But a new leader and soon are the only hope of that. If Gordon remains in charge it is possible that it will be the Scottish Nationalists who will be Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition come the next election.

skipper said...

But Paul, Brown, to a large extent has himself to blame for his decline: his shying away from trhe election a year ago, his 10p tax band decision, not tpo mention his inability to provide a 'vision'[ of what the party wanted to do let alone engage the nation in any way whatsoever. At least Blair managed 10 years and managed to get a rousing send-off even by the Tories,

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The Daily Pundit said...

Maybe Blair and Thatcher made the job look easier than it really is.

Anonymous said...

"The most baleful legacy of his apparent failure ... to condemn the [UK] to 20 or 20 years of showbiz policy"

Dear Paul

"The most baleful legacy" ????

How about running a Quiz, so that your many Visitors could nominate their Candidate for the most baleful legacy of Mr Brown's Chancellorship/Prime Ministership

I have several Suggestions :

1. the Government's irresponsible over-expenditure & over-borrowing & Enron-Accounting (Paul Foot was a great "admirer" of PFI) so that this wretched Government now has no financial room for manoeuvre

2. Gordon the Pension-Snatcher's near-wrecking of our Pensions, by increasing their taxation by £66 billion since 1997, with a further £6 billion per year in every future year

3. The destruction of British Manufacturing Industry and the expulsion of UK Jobs to China/Indonesia/Malaya etc

Yr obedt servant etc


Anonymous said...

The party does not need a change of leadership yet.
We have recession about to happen rising unemployment. Now would be an insane time to install a new leader. A new leader would just get the blame for the rising unemployment. I say wait until after euro elections.
To change the leader now would be a waste of a change. As I have said it would like brushing your teeth then having a can of coke.

I still think it is plot of Blairites. I blame Reid.
They do seem more interested in their vindictivie hatred of the man who got rid of their hero, than letting the party have a chance to recover.

Blair went to public school and Oxbridge so was always seen as one of the tory's own. So they never had the same hatred as their do to this leader.

Anonymous said...

Chamberlain was, as Paul says, not defeated in the House of Commons. Numbers did, however, have something to do with his downfall, when the vote after the Narvik debacle saw the National government's majority reduced from 200 to just over eighty.