Comment at end
3rd November, 2008
WHERE & WHEN IS BROWN’S RAISING FROM THE DEAD GOING TO STOP?
In January, at the nadir of his unpopularity, I wrote a post here on “Brown & The Undead Government”. He then had an equally awful spring with by-election losses and not much else positive coming his way.
Then he picked himself up with a successful party conference speech in September.
Now thanks to the worldwide economic crisis handing the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Brown a new purpose and impetus as Prime Minister, internationally focussed as it may be, there is new … well newish life being breathed into the ‘corpse’.
But how far is this transformation going to go, I ask myself and anyone else who’s listening. After all, when Mr Brown killed off … replaced Mr Blair, we all expected and accepted the bloodletting of others too, such as the high profile and experienced David Blunkett and Margaret Beckett.
Most had been too closely associated with The Previous. And wasn’t the NEW Broom about to sweep all away with Mr Blair? A new dawn had … sort of … broken, had it not?
And of course Peter Mandelson was already history, as was Alastair Campbell.
But almost unnoticed they are creeping back, one by one into Brown’s government. So what’s going on here? Are the once ‘dead’ under Blair’s government being resuscitated one by one? The mind boggles.
The Mole asks: Is David Blunkett to return to government under Brown?
In Brown’s reshuffle at the beginning of October following Ruth Kelly’s departure to spend more time with her family, we saw the surprise return of both Margaret Beckett and Peter, now Lord Mandelson.
PETER, (LORD) MANDELSON
Peter Mandelson had a chequered career inside Tony Blair’s government, resigning twice, in December 1998 (letter of resignation to Tony Blair) over a loan he had failed to declare, and in January 2001 over questions of procuring a passport in the Hinduja case.
Seen as probably Mr Blair’s closest confidante in government and his political soul-mate, his loss for the second time was heralded by some as the start of a slippery slope for Mr Blair as he became, and perhaps even felt, a lonelier figure still in a famously lonely place – the top of government.
One of the few movers and shakers at the centre of the New Labour project the story is that prior to 1994 Mandelson was originally closer to Brown than to Blair. But in the battle to take over the party’s leadership after John Smith died he switched sides to stand with Blair against Brown.
There are inevitably differing versions of this story, but in fact it hardly mattered where Mandelson had thrown in his lot. The party at that time sensed that it had a winner in the affable, eloquent and attractive Blair, and they were moving in his direction regardless of Mandelson. Even the Trades Unions, sick of their treatment under the Tories and understanding the need to unite around a candidate with wide appeal were behind Blair.
Within a couple of years they were behind him again inflicting “the scars on my back” to which he later referred. He’s always had to mind his back. But that’s a whole other story.
Blair, 6 July 1999: “I bear the scars on my back after just two years in Government … so heaven knows what it will be like after a bit longer.”
But today Blair has gone and Mr Mandelson is back, yet again, to the horroe of some and the delight of others, lesser by number no doubt. Mandelson is still recognised to be a shrewd political mover. Until, that is, he gets it wrong. But maybe, as he quipped on his return, “third time lucky”.
With his wide experience after spending the years since 2005 as an EU Commissioner, appointed by Blair, he has useful and widespread experience and insights from which Brown can expect to benefit.
With such impressive contacts in the EU, and on the business scene, Mr Brown would have to possess an over-abundance of self-destructive genes not to have wished to bring his old friend back into government.
Then a fortnight later Alastair Campbell admitted to returning to the fold as a part-time, occasional adviser.
Alastair Campbell too was part of the Gang of Four – Blair, Brown & Mandelson. A highly experienced political journalist he knew how to sell the party’s message and how to get the write-ups required by any political party today. As with Mandelson, and Blair, the rush to criticise because of unpopular policy decisions or perceived manipulation or misdemeanours has caused many to forget how unusual a talent like Campbell’s was.
Not Mr Brown, to his credit. Never a political soul-mate of Brown’s, as he was to Blair and even intermittently Mandelson, Brown nevertheless recognised Campbell’s ability to sell the message. This combination of personalities at the top, mixed as they will undoubtedly be by Brown’s present PR people, may not be anything like as sweet as it was in Blair’s early government. Campbell has chosen wisely in choosing to be an occasional, semi-detached adviser to Brown’s government. He’d probably only last five minutes if he had to compromise with some of Brown’s present talent-limited people.
BACK TO THE FUTURE?
Well, maybe. It’s certainly reminiscent of the good old days, when New Labour seemed to possess all the necessary ingredients for electoral success: vision, determination, a message of “change”, a plan. Oh, and inspirational leadership.
A tiny oversight?
Perhaps Mr Brown will be inspired to inspire the rest of us once the present economic crisis is behind us all. Stranger things have happened.
So, who’s back next into Brown’s government? Could it be Blair’s last Home Secretary John Reid?
If so, well, it may not be long before the unmentionable but unforgettable returns in some form or another. (OK, that’s just me hallucinating again!)
And Mr Blair? Busy as he still is in international matters in the Middle East? Perhaps it really was too “hard to let go”.
Here you can watch Blair’s final speech to his party, September 2006, with its humour, serious message and heart-rending moments.
It strikes me listening to this again that I can’t recall the last time the British people were reminded of all of the progress Labour had brought to the country over Blair’s ten years in office.
WHY does Brown not mention this record? After all he was a major party to them. Wasn’t he?
People need to be reminded over and over.
And they need to be reminded of what the country might well have been like WITHOUT NEW LABOUR.
Old Labour and the Conservative party would have found Blair & Brown’s eclectic mix of policies anathema.
Perhaps Alastair Campbell’s touch will change all of this telling of the story.
If not, the press and the opposition from within and without Labour will ONLY remind the voters of the less comfortable things.
But first they must stop apologising by silent innuendo for Blair. HE IS STILL THE MAN WHO WON IT FOR THEM and they should be proud of that. History, in my humble opinion, will treat him better than it’ll treat any of the rest of them.
Unless he is not yet history.
Now, what a thought!
More of this kind of command of Parliamentary sessions …
Even if it terrified him …
And of this kind of persuasiveness and appreciation …
And of this kind of inspiration …
(… even if it DID end in crucifixion)
Could Blair yet be persuaded to return to help conclude the project?
The papers would have a field day!
My breath is truly bated.
As symbols of the state of Labour now that Brown has shown himself to be Blair Mark II without the charisma, as we always knew, I came across both these sites looking to breathe new life into the dead. Firstly, the Campaign for a Reformist Party based around Miliband’s – yes, Ralph Miliband’s theories. And this, Let the Work of Change Begin – aka – “The return of the Parliamentary Labour Party”. Hysterical, yes, I know.
Ah well. Nothing that a decade in opposition won’t fix.
Tags: alastair campbell, back to the future, Blair standing ovation in Commons, Brown (Gordon Brown & his Labour Government, david blunkett, from June 2007, Houses of Parliament, Margaret Beckett, new labour, Peter Lord Mandelson, PMQs, Tony Blair