Tuesday, March 28, 2006

 

Blair and the Melbourne interview: slip or declaration?

Well, everyone is writing and talking about when Tony might go so there seems little alternative to doing the same. Paul Linford's blog lines up all those calling for an early slinging of the hook- it seems to include most of the pundits plus the editorial writers. Blair's comment to a reporter in Melbourne that anouncing his intention, in autumn 2004, to stand down at the end of this parliament, was 'probably a mistake', seems to have reignited an issue which was still, in any case burning quite brightly.

The reasons for him to go are legion but lets identify a few of the major ones:

i) the debacle into which Iraq has evolved;
ii) the lying over WMD as the reason for invading-most of this emerging out of the David Kelly affair;
iii) the flagrant ignoring of opinion at home and in his party over the issue, especially over his overcosy relationship with a rightwing US president;
iv) the reliance on Conservative votes to pass the Education Bill's 2nd reading;
v) the retention of Tessa Jowell in his Cabinet when it seems clear she must have known about her husband's dodgy gift from Berlusconi- (his job as a high paid tax avoider for the super rich also upsets Guardian reading Labour supporters);
vi) the peerages for loans scandal which has seemed finally to rank Labour alongside Major's governmment for sleazy seediness.

In addition to this we had Jackie Ashley's column in The Guardian yesterday which argued the Melbourne comment was not involuntary but was a clear signal Blair intends to stay as long as he can. She interprets it as a signal to people like Charles Clarke to hang on until they have a chance of besting Brown in a contest. She believes he is now-rather, one supposes, like Churchill with Eden, Macmillan with Butler-actively seeking to deny the crown to its most obvious, and deserving heir. She declares the 'battle is well and truly joined' and urges Brown to 'pick up the gauntlet'.

Against this can be adduced:

i) Ashley is probably a Brown supporter and desperately wants Blair gone;
ii) Blair has possibly reached the point- the nadir- when his popularity is so low he can afford to ignore further criticism and rely on his enemies being too scared to spill the blood a 'decapitation attempt' would reliably cause;
iii) Will Hutton in the Observer, 26th March argues staunchly in favour of Blair:
a) Dromey and the NEC should have known something of the provenance of the £18m needed to fight the last election. At least Blair stepped up and accepted some responsibility;
b) the left are quick to criticise Blair but offer no 'coherent alternative';
c) Brown is 'New Labour through and through' so would be little different from Blair;
d) Blair is right to champion entrepreneurialism and has 'overseen a fundamental shift to the benefit of ordinary people';
e) 'Blair remains... the great persuader and the man who created the new coalition. If he's prepared to carry on soaking up the punishment, the liberal left should be grateful.'

One might also add that to me Blair's comment did not sound like a declaration of war but merely something added as an afterthought.

Comments:
a) Dromey and the NEC should have known something of the provenance of the £18m needed to fight the last election.

How could they know Will/Skipper, if it was being kept secret from them?

We still don't know (do we?) in which account the money was kept, and who put it there.
 
Roy
I'm only quoting Hutton here, not endorsing what he says. But it is a bit odd, is it not, that the Treasurer of the party was presumably signing off cheques for millions of pounds during the election without any idea of where the money had originated? Is this good practice? Would not a competent guy have investigated there and then?
Judged from this standpoint, his protestations begin to sound a little like those of a certain Mrs Tessa Mills who also 'knew nothing' about the then money coming into the household.
 
Hi, I've spent much time in Westminster, living in streets were politicians have 24 hour armed guards, and yes, I can believe in pure incompetance.

Dromey is a busy guy, people compartmentalise, politicians constantly change and re-master complex briefs, and things, inmportant to the outsider, do slip.

I've been married for many years to an extremely wealthy woman but money, where it comes from, what provides it, are never mentioned. That is the way of the wealthy.

Check out why Blair supported Bush. A buddy from the State Department suggested Bush threateded to derail the Good Friday Agreement. Another contact who served in Thatcher's cabinet argued cogently that Blair had to invent WDM simply to haul along (real) Labour backbenchers.

Cheers, your comments are valuable.
 
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