Yesterday Labour was humiliated in a by-election triggered by Gwyneth Dunwoody’s death. And Labour’s former PM Tony Blair had a near-death experience. Add those two events together and what you get? In the next two years, the Labour Party had better look after its MPs very carefully. It wouldn’t be very Labour, but they might want to seriously consider private health care and private security for their precious Members of Parliament…
Archive for the 'Tony Blair' Category
As often, Bush’s simple straight-talk gets it right: yesterday, in meeting Blair for the last time, Bush referred to Brown as “the next guy”. Not as Gordon Brown. Not as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not as the future Prime Minister. Just the next guy. I guess it will always be like that for Brown, the guy that came after Tony Blair.
Can i work with the next guy? Of course.
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.
There is something seriously distasteful about the way in which Gordon Brown has opened his Labour leadership campaign. He is not campaigning for a general election; he is not campaigning to become Prime Minister. He is, only, campaigning to become the leader of the Labour Party. So Brown should really spare as statements like the following:
I want to lead a government humble enough to know its place (*)
It is only a consequence of the system, and an unwelcome one, that, by becoming leader of the Labour Party, he shall also succeed Blair as this country’s next Prime Minister. Both the LibDems and the Tories have called for a general election when Blair goes. Neither believes in it, nor do they try to hide the fact that they don’t really want it either. The LibDems are shuttered, and they need time to pull themselves together. Possibly under a different leader. The Tories are on the rise, but they appear to think that they need more time to rise high enough to beat Labour. And the Scottish Elections results confirm that: Labour is so far ahead that it takes huge advantages in the polls to gain tiny advantages in the number of seats (it’s not just partial PR).
But this is not the point: the other parties call for a general election because they know they ought to; and they ought to because it is undeniably the fairest way of deciding Blair’s successor. The interesting thing is that Brown’s only argument for succeeding Blair without asking the electorate is that it has happened before – it happened with Major, for example. Now, it’s true that, in this country, in the absence of a constitution, past occurrences carry legitimacy. But they can only do so if they were themselves legitimate. In short, if there is any reason for thinking that a general election isn’t necessary. And Brown hasn’t provided any reason aside from the fact that is has happened before.
It could be proposed that the reason is the fact that the present Parliament has been elected to serve a full term, and that therefore, until that term expires, the present Parliament has the authority to elect the new Prime Minister. This is true; but it is also true that the present Parliament has been elected on the understanding the Tony Blair would himself serve a full term. Since that arrangement with the electorate has not been respected, the electorate is now due a general election.
But we aren’t gonna get a general election. And it is disgraceful that Brown is shamelessly campaigning to become Prime Minister. It is only the Labour Party that will have a say – not the country. So Brown should only appeal to the Labour Party, because the country is completely powerless. And here there is another detail of paramount importance: even if one accepted the previous argument about the legitimacy of the present Parliament, and their right, bestowed upon them by the people, to elect the new Prime Minister, it is indeed not the Parliament that will elect the new Prime Minister. It is the Labour Parliamentary Party, the Labour membership, and the unions. The latter two, evidently, don’t share the right that the MPs might have if one accepts the previous argument, which I don’t.
In short, we ain’t gonna get a general election – we’ll live with that even though it ain’t just nor fair. But at least Brown could show some respect for this country’s democratic system by campaigning, only, for the Labour leadership. One final point: it would also be a good way to distance himself from the Blair years if Brown gave the impression, from the outset, that he understood the difference between the Labour Party and this country’s government. They have been one and the same for the last decade, but they are two distinct institutions. And when a party begins to forget that, then it is time for that party to go – opposition is a very good cure for that kind of allucination.
Well done to McGellie for catching the LibDems faking data on their electoral adverts for Edinburgh Central. I already couldn’t vote for Tory and SNP; now I can’t vote LibDem either… guess who’s left? Good old labour… so Sarah Boyack is probably gonna get my vote by default.
Which reminds me: SSP, Green, and Solidarity not having candidates for the Constituency vote is a huge favour to Labour – remember that next time they slag off Tony Blair or McConnell.
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?
For a while now I have been thinking that Brown is willing to offer Blairites a new Granita, inevitably shorter, given his age and experience (read: the fact that he isn’t PM yet, but the public is already tired of him). Confirmation comes today, through Jackie Ashley’s column. She appears to be arguing that Tories fear Brown more than they fear Miliband, but in the end her message looks much simpler: please, please, Blairites, give Brown a chance (and he will reward you):
Come the general election it will not just be a choice between one man or another. The teams matter too. On the Tory website the team, and their problem, are vividly displayed: one young guy in an open-necked shirt at the top, and a platoon of fusty-looking characters in ties. Brown’s cabinet will be the reverse – a mature character in charge, and a lot of young faces around him.
Brown has been telling friends that he does not intend to be leader for ever, but to pass on within a few years to the next generation. Now he needs to embody that message in a new team.
The offer is now public. Miliband only needs to decide whether he’ll be happy to be Chancellor – or maybe Foreign Secretary – or whether he wants the top job. After all, not only today Brown can offer less than Blair could in 1994, but also his offer will inevitably appear not as juicy as Blair’s offer looked to him then: because it has happened already; because the Tories are on the rise, and because Miliband might actually have a chance if it came to a contest.