Tuesday, March 07, 2006

 

Jowell: will she stay or will she go?

Will Tessa survive? It's a tricky one but let's have a look at the elements of the problem:

Why she should go

1. Labour Party MPs and members are still worried about: her apparently blithe signing of successive mega sized mortgage agreements; her unlikely claim that she knew nothing about the 'gift'; the very fact that she was party to such dealings with relatively vast sums of money. Labour rank and file are unhappy about ministers with plenitudes of cash when their rason d'etre is supposed to be the alleviation of problems caused by poverty. [The Sunday Times quoted and insider as saying that the reason New Labour people are so interested in money is that they mix with mega-rich people and begin to think they'd like the same levels of luxury for themselves.]

2. Jowell is down to lead the campaign for the London elections. Her position will cause problems- Kate Hoey has already asked her to step down from the role.

3. Hubby's ongoing involvement with Italian court matters offers up a very big hostage to fortune- what else will crawl out from the woodwork?

4. Alastair Campbell has said that anyone dominating the headlines with personal problems for more than 14 days, has to go as from then on the government is damaged by the inability of the minister to do the job properly.

Why she should stay

1. There is no conclusive evidence she was connected with her husband's dealings and she has been cleared by both Gus O'Donnel and the Standards Commissioner.

2. Labour MPs went out of their way to show support for her yesterday when she faced questions in the Commons. What is more, even the Tories held back from demanding her scalp.

3. Blair is apparently solidly behind her (though he would be wouldn't he?).

4. Much of the clamour for her head is media led by rightwing papers like Mail.

5. Despite 'Campbell's Law', Ruth Kelly was able to tough it out some weeks ago when her conduct in office was questioned and is now firmly back in the driving seat. What's to say Tessa can't do the same?

So will she survive? I think it's close- no more than evens if I were a betting man- and incidentally, even my betting- mad mate cannot find any odds on her going.[Though he did find 70-1 on Blair going by end of the month if anyone is interested]

Comments:
I've refrained from commenting on this whole affair thus far because defending New Labour ministers doesn't come naturally to me, but I honestly can't see what she's supposed to have done wrong.

Okay, so her lifestyle is a million miles away from that of the majority of Labour supporters, and that's a valid issue for people like Kilfoyle - but it was ever thus. Labour has always had its fair share of champagne socialists, and some of them (eg Tony Crosland, Michael Foot) were actually quite good socialists in spite of it.
 
I tend to agree Paul. Jowell has always struck me as one of the more honourable and genuine New Labour types, though it now seems quite possible her husband is a bit of a dodgy brief. Compare Jowell with Mandelson- 'completely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich'- and you can see the difference. Today, with the media focus on the NHS, I feel she is now more likely to survive- but one more revelation could easily sink her.
 
The problem is not that she is filthy rich nor with her life-style of - as Newsnight put it - "ferocious networking" (although the latter is a bit off-putting). It's partly how the money was acquired: by helping the mega-rich become even richer, and by consorting with people like Berlusconi and his friends on the far-right and in "the olive oil industry"; and its partly her dissembling about whether she knew about the bung from Berlusconi and the multiple-mortgages. (Whatever money Michael Foot made presumably came from the more innocent activity of journalism). Whether she stays or goes her political career is over: how could she participate in, say a Question Time debate on the Liberal-Democrats 50p tax proposal without justifiably inviting ridicule? Even if she survives in the short-term, she will I think be on her way to the House of Lords before very long.
 
The problem is not that she is filthy rich nor with her life-style of - as Newsnight put it - "ferocious networking" (although the latter is a bit off-putting). It's partly how the money was acquired: by helping the mega-rich become even richer, and by consorting with people like Berlusconi and his friends on the far-right and in "the olive oil industry"; and its partly her dissembling about whether she knew about the bung from Berlusconi and the multiple-mortgages. (Whatever money Michael Foot made presumably came from the more innocent activity of journalism). Whether she stays or goes her political career is over: how could she participate in, say a Question Time debate on the Liberal-Democrats 50p tax proposal without justifiably inviting ridicule? Even if she survives in the short-term, she will I think be on her way to the House of Lords before very long.
 
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