Sunday, 10 January 2010

Some Blairite and Blair-Bashing (And Why Not?)

The Vanguard of Ultra-Blairism breaks through the gates of Downing Street to storm the Brown Bunker, bringing the Renegade from the Principles of Hey-Look-Y'Know-Murdoch-Kowtowingism to justice...oh sorry, false alarm...

New Year, New Decade- hope you are all well. It has been pretty cold out there for a good week. However, I've finally warmed up a bit and events have encouraged me to post something.

I think I was trying desperately to keep or get warm on Wednesday afternoon gone. Whatever I was up to I missed the coup attempt against Gordon Brown. The attempt by Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt (almost typed 'Patrician' there- Freudian slip?) to force a ballot of the Parliamentary Labour Party to decide whether GB should remain as leader was a bit of a fiasco. Not least, as a Though Cowards Flinch has pointed out, the entire Labour Party still decides who becomes Labour Party leader, not just the PLP. So unless GB resigned pretty quickly in the face of a ballot and a coronation (yet another one) of a new leader took place within days, the Labour Party would have had to organise a leadership contest. This would have taken a minimum of several weeks and cost the party a fair amount of cash when it is hardly rolling in it. Once elected, a new leader would almost immediately have to get ready for a General Election (latest date it can be held is June 3rd). I can hardly imagine anything worse that a bruising (and quite possibly highly personal) leadership (and almost certainly deputy leadership) contest to ensure the Labour Party lost the 2010 General Election very badly.

Perhaps that is what the plotters planned. It is ironic that Patricia Hewitt wanted to use a PLP-only secret ballot to bring down GB. Thirty years or so ago she was in the forefront of campaigning by the Labour Left to make sure future Labour leaders were chosen by the whole Party, via an electoral college, rather than just the PLP, which was the case until 1981. She has not been alone in taking the road from ultra-Bennism to ultra-Blairism, although not all erstwhile bastions of Labour Party 'democracy' get to be a 'special consultant' to Alliance Boots.

When Geoff Hoon hung out with The Big Cheeses: 'Hey pal, I've shaken Saddam Hussein's hands a few times, but I do have standards...'

Geoff Hoon once told his fellow Labour MPs: 'What's wrong with managerialism?' (Nick Cohen Pretty Straight Guys, 2003, p.254). Mr. Hoon has always come across as a rather over-promoted middle-manager (and one definitely not good enough to organise an intra-party coup d'etat) or a very average member of the Outer Party of Ingsoc in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The trouble for those who, frankly, would like Tony Blair to still be Prime Minister is that they are hardly an inspiring bunch. Ultra-Blairite Lord Mandelson does not want to help them (why should he, when he could get a job with the real 'Heir to Blair'in the next few months?) and Charles Clarke's constant moaning about Gordon Brown is hardly clever politics. One would expect him to lead the struggle in a more clever, more covert manner- as behoves a man who almost joined the spooks at MI6 following the 1992 General Election (Francis Beckett & David Hencke The Survivor: Tony Blair in Peace and War, 2005, p.125).

I will stick to my oft-made prediction that the ultra-Blairites in Labour's ranks will end up in alliance with the Tories after the next General Election. (Think the National Labour Party led by Ramsay MacDonald in the 1930s.) The fact that Tony Blair's Vicar On Earth, Martin Kettle, has discussed a Grand Coalition between Labour and the Conservatives after the next General Election gives an inkling of where the Blairites think British politics may be heading.

As for The Great Man himself? I think he will be pretty happy to see 'Call Me Dave' in Number 10. Providing he does not end up in The Hague on war crime charges, 'Call Me Tony' might end up doing something more in the next few years than getting lots of money from JP Morgan, getting his autobiography ghost-written and watching the Middle East burn. I can well imagine Mr. Cameron is in awe of his idol's ability to bullshit and will find him some high-flying, well paid, but ultimately pointless, position (for example, trying to repatriate powers back from the EU)for the Media Class to follow ad nauseum.

I have come across a few things written about TB's political life which I doubt will make their way into his autobiography. Previously referred to in this post is the best single biography of Tony Blair I have come across, Beckett and Hencke's The Survivor (previously published as The Blairs and Their Court). I thoroughly recommend you buy or borrow a copy. Lots of interesting bits and pieces in it.

For example, there is anecdote worth citing for when people say TB has 'the common touch.' The Survivor (pp.104-5)recounts a time when Labour was still in opposition and TB was not leader:

…Sedgefield’s council’s chief executive, Alan Roberts, came down to London with the then leader of the council Brian Stevens, and another councillor to see their local MPs.

They were taken to the crowded and smoke-filled Strangers’ Bar in the Commons to have a few pints of cheap Federation bitter and rub shoulders with some well-known figures. The job of hosting them was shared somewhat unenthusiastically between Blair and an MP from a neighbouring constituency, Derek Foster. Foster asked his political adviser, Roger Pope, to join them. It must have been a remarkable scene as the teetotal Foster and the occasional drinker Blair reluctantly joined the councillors and other officials for round after round. As Pope remembers it: ‘Suddenly Blair turns to me and asks me to come outside the bar, and makes his excuses to the Sedgefield councilors. We get outside and he gets his wallet out, pulls out a fiver and gives it to me. He says: ‘Go and buy them a round. I’m off. I can’t stand these people.’

The Survivor also provides evidence, if any is needed, that TB has total contempt for the Party that made him more than a jumped-up lawyer from a feepaying school and for those who led the Party before him (ibis, p.264):

Roy Hattersley recalled…a lunch with Daily Mail executives….One of the journalists asked why the Blairs should not simply send their children to the local comprehensive. ‘Your children will go to university. Wherever they go to school,’ he pointed out. Blair said he wasn’t so sure: ‘It didn’t work for Harold Wilson.’ The journalist observed that Wilson’s children had done all right: one was ahead teacher, the other an Open University lecturer. Blair retorted contemptuously: ‘I hope my kids do better than that.’

It sort of puts TB's declaration during the 97 General Election campaign that his Government's priority would be 'Education, Education, Education' in some sort of context. His contempt for the idea that a child of a Labour Prime Minister might want to work for the Open University I find particularly irksome, as one of the few achievements of the 1964-70 Wilson Government which people from all across the political spectrum admire is the creation of the Open University. (I get a feeling most people here are also rather glad Harold Wilson didn't send troops to help the US in Vietnam...) Indeed, I seem to remember reading that Margaret Thatcher, Education Secretary in the 1970-4 Heath Government, was opposed to the abolition of the OU, as she saw it as a way for people to improve themselves. This is one of the very few things Margaret Thatcher has done in her political career I have a fair amount of admiration for.

One book I haven't read yet is Lib Dem's MP Norman Baker's The Strange Death of David Kelly. This, apparently, might have more information about TB which is very unlikely to end up in his autobiography. However, that is for another time. I seem to be have typing and looking up stuff for this post longer than the Hewitt-Hoon coup lasted!

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