Comment at end
13th October, 2007
MESSAGE TO GORDON IN HIS HOUR OF NEED – WITH LOVE, TONY
Someone sent me this. Raised a smile ;0).
12th October, 2007
‘NOT WITH A GOOD TELESCOPIC SIGHT’, HINT TODAY’S DISAPPOINTED IN BROWN’S RANKS – HE WAS FAR TOO SUCCESSFUL!
There must be something in the psychological make-up of politicians and writers that prevents them from admitting when they got something wrong.
I don’t suggest Polly Toynbee’s missing Blair, well not yet anyway, but my goodness, how soon fairweather friends have deserted Brown. And how slow the disappointed are to understand that the leadership of their party and the country should never EVER have been about ‘not being Blair’. Well, not unless you asked the people first and that’s what THEY wanted. But they didn’t ask, we weren’t given a choice, and now there’s no-one else to blame if Labour’s future is now permanently pear-shaped.
“This was more than a horrible humiliation for the prime minister. This was the week that social democracy ebbed away in England. Those words had already slipped from Labour’s lexicon, never spoken by its leaders in public, rarely spoken outside the privacy of Fabian meetings and Celtic parliaments.
In 1994 Tony Blair and Gordon Brown purged socialism when they forged the New Labour project: Clause Four was indeed an archaic nonsense.”
And this, is arguably even more damning than her perceived “ebbing away of social democracy” …
“There is a stunned disorientation among Labour MPs, alarmed by both Brown’s vision void and his sudden incompetence. Talk to ministers and wise old heads of Commons select committees, and they are reeling with shock. The backbenches sat through Darling’s politics-free performance on Tuesday like the Animal Farm beasts gazing through the farmer’s window in the final scene. Far too late they realised something awful was happening before their eyes: you could have cut their silence with a knife.
How has Gordon Brown managed in such a short time to shipwreck himself and his party? The seriousness of it is only beginning to sink in after Labour’s long hegemony. Bungling the will-he-won’t-he election was a survivable self-inflicted injury. The intellectual injury is the real damage. Retreating armies raze the ground behind them to deny their enemy forage: but what Brown and Darling did on Tuesday was to flame-throw the ground ahead, right up to the far horizon beyond the next election. They have nowhere to go, nothing to feed on, no narrative path ahead, no clear political turf to occupy.
Start with the character question – politically the most lethal. For his first three months Brown was “the change” the public liked – a welcome no-glitz, slightly clumsy but honest contrast in a celebrity age. But when Cameron threw “phoney” at him in Prime Minister’s Questions, it stuck like napalm. He could duck the bottles thrown over his election funk, but “phoney” will stick because his comprehensive spending review smacked of panicky, comprehensive cowardice. He has lost his character just when he needs trust to strengthen his arm for the coming European treaty row. His party is suddenly gripped by doubt that the big brain has a strategy. Looking back on his content-light conference speech, it asks what he has been thinking this past impatient decade.”
Exactly, Ms Toynbee. Just what many of the rest of us wondered over this last year while the most politically and electorally successful prime minister that your party has ever given us bravely and conscientiously served out his time in office.
You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
10th October, 2007
OH, DANNY BOY!
Reading Daniel Finkelstein’s article on Tony Blair’s “airbrushing” by Labour at their conference was refreshing and interesting. And that was BEFORE Brown’s performance at PMQs!
Comments on the article have appeared at Harry’s Place. Someone there points out that Finkelstein’s article may all be a Tory tactic to discredit Brown. Well, he’s managed that all on his little ownsome.
Also I do recall watching Finkelstein in the last week or so on Newsnight, when I distinctly got the feeling that, unlike many in Labour, he did NOT despise Blair; I warmed to him there and then. So I don’t think he is necessarily being disingenuous here. And he’s right, anyway.
AIRBRUSHING BLAIR – DISGRACEFUL
The Labour party conference was, as Finkelstein describes, a “disgrace” in its treatment of Blair. Tony Blair was, and probably always will be, New Labour. And New Labour gave birth to Cameron’s new liberal conservatism. How those people in Bournemouth, in power for ten years BECAUSE of Blair’s New Labour, could sit there and listen to the uninspiring, insipid, vapid, boring stuff emanating from the “new” government without any real vote of thanks to Blair was incredulous. Didn’t they feel guilty? Embarrassed? Or have they been consumed so wholly by the liberal press, that they felt nothing but relief?
And for Brown to mention Blair but once, and then only in relation to the Middle East was shameful, discourteous, disgraceful!
“This was, after all, the man who led his party out of the wilderness and to three huge election victories. Leaving all politics aside for a second, common courtesy demanded much, much more.
Now you may wonder why a question of manners has got me so exercised. It’s because I believe in a simple rule. If you see a person you know behave unreasonably to someone else, you can bet your last pound that before long he’ll be behaving like that to you.”
Yep! Just who do they think they are? Rude so-and-sos!
Finkelstein argues that Blair got better as he went on in his premiership; and he did. By the end he was in full control of every policy issue, every argument. He had perfected the art of presentation, communication and debate. He was, imho, the politician’s politician, the communicator’s communicator, unless you were on the Left of Labour, of course.
And Finkelstein adds, to which I also concur:
I didn’t vote for Tony Blair to be Prime Minister, but for those who did to walk away from him now is worse than a crime. It’s a mistake.
PARLIAMENT – IRAQ, THE AIRBRUSHED ELECTION, & INHERITANCE
And watching them in Parliament on Monday was equally disturbing. They were like cats who’d got the cream. Grinning cheshire-like, secure, behind his chancellor, Brown looked all wrong in that seat. Any minute I expected Blair to walk in and the bench bottom-shuffle to begin, ready for the masterclass. But sadly that is history.
No more the air of gentle, unshakeable authority and self-deprecating, irresistible humour. A few months ago I was able to watch Tony Blair live at PMQs. It was a quiet day, and David Cameron was not too demanding, but Blair was impressive, courteous and in full, calm command.
On return from this summer’s recess, Brown on Iraq and the on-off election, and Alistair Darling on the Tory policies, the contrast could hardly have been more stark. The vacuity of original thought was astonishing. It was all blatant, unprincipled one-upmanship; “followership”, George Osborne’s description, was right on the ball.
No presentation; no vision; no overall big picture. No reason for getting rid of the previous great PM.
But apart from following Tory policies, there seemed nothing new. Did we, or should we have expected anything new? Well, since GB/PM told us he was all about change, er, yes.
Iraq troop withdrawals, perhaps a bit earlier than Blair would have done, but hey, we’re not there yet. Reserve judgement. Political decisions and events could alter many a plan.
And the papers and analysts having dissected the figures provided by the chancellor have not been too generous, despite money to health. Taxes up it seems!
But for me, the worst aspect of this session were the expressions on the face of the
chancellor prime minister. True, he was relaxed, for once. Laughing and sneering to cover his defensiveness – an overgrown schoolboy, like one of his own backbenchers on a bad day. Behaviour that Blair seldom, if ever indulged in. Certainly Blair would not have sneered yesterday. If he had ever allowed himself to be in that position – backing down from a big decision – then pinching the opposition’s policies, the embarrassment would have prevented it.
PMQs – A POOR PERFORMANCE
And then today I caught some of PMQs. David Cameron was confident and good, very good. Describing Brown as – “The first prime minister to flunk an election because he thought he was going to win it” – he took the gloves off to tackle fearlessly ‘the big clunking fist’. The fist did not crumble, but he was certainly floored for a few seconds.
GB/PM fought back, his voice betraying real dislike of Cameron, reciprocated evidently. But the faces around Brown told their own story.
After the performance today at PMQs I wonder if the reason they seldom mention Blair is not that they are apologetic for him, but in fact scared that we just might want him back?And now Alan Johnston, Health Secretary, has started stirring it for GB, even if unintentionally. Hasn’t anyone told them about stopping digging holes? He said that the prime minister may have left it too long to decide to go to the country! It hasn’t taken long for Brown to feel the dig of colleagues’ anguish and despair. Honeymoons often end in disappointment.
I wonder if Brown is thinking, “Where is Tony when I need him?”
‘Dead and gone’, Gordo. Don’t you remember?
To see a real master at work, watch this video.
All right, so it’s after 13 years of practice, but Blair is incomparable. [And Brown is hardly new to the dispatch box.] But watch this quick compilation of the last Blair PMQs and tell me you don’t miss this man’s control, composure, humour and complete mastery of the place; the place which he never quite took to. Imagine if he had.
SO WHO’S GOT MY VOTE?
You might wonder who I’m batting for here. Well, no-one yet, since I feel disenfranchised. A Blairless Labour party does not appeal much on present evidence. And I simply distrust them after the coup. But then, I’m not convinced about the alternatives. Yet.
A few days ago a long time regular commenter here at my blog wrote and told me he was saying “goodbye” because I was becoming “destructive”. He SAID he thought I was sounding bitter and not doing well by Tony Blair’s memory.
Well – he shouldn’t BE a ‘memory’.
But, still I pondered for a bit whether my commenter could be right. Tony Blair has been good for this country, and I don’t want to leave a bitter taste here if his name is in any way associated with my words. I thought about it. Then I dismissed the doubts.
After all, it’s like doing away with Churchill without a vote. Now if the people had voted Blair and his party out, that would be different. Blair was brought down by his own party, and, as far as we were permitted to see, by nonentities at that, who in the end would be unable or unwilling to change anything in reality!
Leave aside whether Brown was behind the coup or not, as it’s possible that the ditherer dithered so long that his minions decided to wield the knife. But it was THE big injustice of recent political manouverings, probably bigger than the removal of Thatcher by her own.
And in today’s world where none of the parties is really tackling home-grown terrorism, but leaving it to the police and security services whose hands are tied by civil righters and the Human Rights Act, that, to me, is unforgiveable.
We have been warned.