Saturday, October 24, 2009

Miliband rises as Griffin bombs

All the media attention this week was on Nick Griffin and the BNP. But meanwhile, some possibly more significant developments have been taking place behind the scenes in the Labour Party. Here's today's Journal column.

There is a widely-held maxim in our profession that all publicity is good publicity. But after Thursday night's Question Time on the BBC, I wonder if Nick Griffin would necessarily agree.

In the run-up to the programme, there were widespread fears that the British National Party leader's appearance would somehow give the far-right group the mainstream political respectability it craves.

Critics of the BBC's decision to allow him to appear cited the upsurge in support for Jean-Marie Le Pen's neo-fascist National Front party in France in 1984, following a high-profile television performance.

But in the event, those who were worried on this score need not have feared. Far from giving his party added credibility, Mr Griffin's appearance on the programme merely confirmed that neither he nor his party are serious political players.

If Mr Griffin was the political genius that his admirers - as well as some of his opponents - clearly believe him to be, then maybe they would have had a point.

But Mr Griffin is no Jean-Marie Le Pen, still less an Enoch Powell, and my overwhelming impression from watching the programme was to wonder why anyone would want to vote for this clown.

Grinning your way through a YouTube video about MPs' expenses as Prime Minister Gordon Brown did earlier this year is one thing. Grinning your way through a question about whether or not you denied the Holocaust is quite another.

For my part, I cannot disagree with Justice Secretary Jack Straw's verdict, that far from providing the BNP with a platform for a political "breakthrough," the whole episode has been a catastrophe for the party.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of serious politics....strange things seem to be stirring in the Labour undergrowth.

Today sees the return to the region of the one-time Hartlepool MP Peter Mandelson to deliver the annual South Shields Lecture in the constituency of Foreign Secretary and potential Labour leadership contender David Miliband.

The confluence of these two leading Blairites in the region at the same time has led to excitable talk that Lord Mandy may be preparing to throw over poor Mr Brown in favour of the perennial young pretender.

While this may be a case of putting two and two together and making 17, there is a certain political logic to some of the speculation, in that most Labour MPs now believe the Prime Minister to be incapable of leading them to victory next May.

But as Mr Brown's fortunes have continued to decline, Miliband Senior seems to have overcome the political banana-skins that afflicted him during 2008 to become, once more, the flavour of the month.

As I noted a few weeks back, his cause has probably been helped by the fact that his chief rival, Home Secretary Alan Johnson, has now said he's not up to the job of PM so many times that most of the party agrees with him.

As well as resuming his front-runner status for the Labour leadership, Mr Miliband is also being spoken of as a contender for the post of EU foreign minister or "high representative," due to be created once the Lisbon Treaty is ratified.

Mr Miliband used Twitter to deny the rumour yesterday, but some insist he'd be happier in that role than in No 10, and that it's actually younger brother Ed who is Mandy's chosen one.

I wrote several months ago now that I did not believe Mr Brown would lead Labour into the General Election if it became clear that the only consequence of that would be a catastrophic defeat.

The recent drip-drip-drip of information about the Prime Minister’s health, some of it emanating from within Downing Street itself, seems to confirm that an exit strategy is being carefully devised.

At the moment, I suspect Mr Brown is keeping his options open in the hope that something will turn up, but yesterday’s news that the country is still in recession will hardly have lightened his mood.

One slogan heard doing the rounds this week was “New Year, New Leader” – and once again, the name of Miliband seems to be in the frame.

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Alfie said...

Miliband? A political pygmy still awaiting his first proper job since leaving Uni'.

Still, with the arrogance that comes with deciding not to wear your spex on the telly, and of the narcissistic incompetent that he is, I shouldn't think that would bother him one bit.

Whatever happened to having a career, getting experience in the world of work and then going into politics in order to give something back?

Anyway, this former lifelong Labour voter of over 30 years couldn't give a rat's ar**e who takes over from Brown - because the Labour party are toast - hopefully forever.

If the New Labour project was to completely screw the country up then Tone, Gordy, Mandy and Prezza have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Unfortunately for the Labour Party, this has meant the certain destruction of the organisation as anything other than something wallowing under the Monster Raving Loonies...

Still, the aforesaid Gang of 4 won't be too bothered I shouldn't think - they'll be too busy making millions and millions just like the good socialists they are...

I'll bet Keir Hardy's cap on it....

Malcolm Clarke said...


Miliband is an excellent speaker and confident politician. He is the natural heir to Gordon Brown and it will be a Michael Howard style coronation (hopefully more successful however) if the election is lost and a new way forward is needed for Labour.

Robert said...

he is excellent as a New labour leader, he is another who believes Thatcher was the queen and New labour should live by her ideals. sadly new labour have to now make the middle class swing voters agree with them, because I doubt any of the working class does, I notice Unions are now asking what do we do if Labour lose, I suggest give money to the Tories, well we might as well we have been giving it to New labour.