2008 presidential elections, Blairites, Britain, David Miliband, general elections, gordon brown, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Iraq, John McDonnell, John Reid, labour leadership, Labour Leadership Contest, Labour Party, New Labour, Politics, Scotland, SNP, Tony Blair

Brown vs McDonnell

Brown got what he wanted (or, anyway, what he should have wanted): a contender who cannot win, John McDonnell. This is a much better outcome than no contender at all, which would have looked bad and it would have reduced Brown’s and Labour’s chances at the next general elections even further. It is also better than a Blairite contender with a chance, namely Miliband. Even if Brown would have defeated Miliband, which is probable, that kind of contest might have weakened New Labour; and, in the attempt to distance himself from Miliband, Brown would have probably lost a lot of the votes that will decide the next election. The only outcome which would have probably been better for Brown than McDonnell would have been an unelectable Blairite like Reid – who was wise enough to desist from his heroic journey of self-sacrifice.

McDonnell’s good for Brown: he will provide the Chancellor with a platform to discuss Iraq, and, if Brown cares to, that will be a chance to distance himself from Blair’s foreign policy. But Brown might discover that the only meaningful way to counter McDonnell’s anti-war rhetoric is to stick with Blair’s legacy of liberal interventionism: that would, indeed, be an interesting development. Otherwise Brown might end up in the kind of middle-ground trouble that Hillary’s in across the pond for not apologising over voting for the war.

Also, while the parliamentary vote is quite obvious, and the unions’ vote can be expected, it’ll be important to see how the popular vote goes: if McDonnell doesn’t do better there than in the parliamentary vote, then a lot of the anti-NewLabour rhetoric will have to go. There has been a lot of talk of New Labour losing votes on the left (the SNP in Scotland could be an example): this is a good time to verify that theory.

It might be objected that the kind of votes that New Labour has lost on the left aren’t votes of Labour Party activists and members. But that’s not how it is often put: people tend to say that, in the pursuit of Middle England, Labour has alienated some of its core vote. If none of that goes to McDonnell, then either New Labour has actually interpreted its core vote better than most commentators, or it has alienated it so much that people have left the party altogether.

UPDATE: it looks as though we should have waited before commenting on McDonnell’s challenge to Brown. The left-winger is still 18 (some say 16) nominations short of the required 45. He’s got until tomorrow noon.

Alan Milburn, Blairites, Britain, Charles Clarke, David Miliband, gordon brown, John Reid, labour leadership, Labour Party, New Labour, Politics, Tony Blair


David Miliband said yesterday that Brown is “an excellent prime minister in waiting”. Of course, we don’t mind Gordon as prime minister in waiting either. He has actually been the source of much entertainment as prime minister in waiting over the past decade. So much so that we hereby propose that the next labour government creates the post of prime-minister-in-waiting; they already have by far the best man for the job this side of Pluto (with the post comes a stately home, and a willing secretary).

Needless to say, then, Miliband hasn’t answered the real question: will Brown be an excellent Prime Minister?

Britain, Conservatives, David Cameron, discrimination, Home Office, John Reid, Labour Party, New Labour, Politics, racism

“steal our benefits”

New Labour has long adopted conservative policies. Now they have embraced conservative language too (and one that even Dave C would probably avoid):

It is unfair that foreigners come to this country illegitimately and steal our benefits, steal our services like the NHS and undermine the minimum wage by working. (*) (it’s him speaking, needless to say)

Britain, Home Office, John Reid, Politics, The Guardian

ailing authority

The Home Office really is falling to pieces (you should do something!). Here’s a extract from today’s back-page illegal workers’ ad in The Guardian:

Hiring migrant workers who aren’t entitled to work in the UK is illegal. If you’re caught you could be fined or even face a prison sentence. And it will be reported in the local press, with all the damages to your reputation that this implies.

Britain, gordon brown, John Reid, Labour Party, Politics, Tony Blair

Reid: Blair’s insurance policy

Why the only eventual Blairite candidate against Brown left is John Reid? Reid cannot win a Labour leadership contest; even though he might win a general election (chance that, for the reason just given, Reid is not going to get). So not only Reid’s eventual candidature would not be meant to win; but also the present rumors over Reid’s eventual candidature are not aimed at defeating Brown. But this does not mean that keeping Reid’s threat hanging in the air is not a way of weakening Brown. I think it is, in fact, a way of making sure that the next Brown, the one who will be, in this order, Labour Leader, Prime Minister, and then Labour candidate at the next general election, will turn out to be a Blairite. Reid is, today, Blair’s insurance policy on his retirement years: a way of making sure that Brown does not turn around on the issues over which he might, conceivably, turn around. ID Cards, for example; but more generally Britain’s and the West’s relationship to Islam and ‘The Other’. That Brown, differently from what still too many believe, won’t be a different PM on economic and social policy than he is a Chancellor, goes without saying. It isn’t obvious, on the other hand, that Brown will maintain Blair’s take on foreign policy and integration at home (especially given that there might be a general shift away from there, already started with the Mid-Term elections in the US). This is why Reid is there: not so much to reserve his post as Blair’s Big Man in Brown’s next government. But because Reid’s ghost, or eventually his candidature, will make Brown commit himself from the beginning (from the leadership contest) to the side of Blair to which Brown is not ideologically committed. And, which is the most important, the fact that Reid is there to lose means that Brown has already accepted all this – finally becoming PM is well worth enduring some bullying – even though the bully is a pretty scary wide-jawed one.