Saturday, September 09, 2006

 

Clarke shafting of Brown will benefit Johnson

In my last post I wondered if it had been 'sorted'; a couple of days later it would seem the answer is definitely 'not at all'. My suggestion that Gordon had overplayed his hand proved more or less correct as his behaviour served to unleash some vitriolic attacks which cannot have done him any good at all. The most spirited and focussed intervention over the last few days came from Tony Wright, Chair of the Public Administration Committee, who pointed out that Gordon really had not got such a bad deal- strong possibility of becoming prime minister within a year and, assuming things go well, for another term as well. He urged Gordon to 'earn his inheritance' by showing leadership qualities and helping to stablize the party.

Various other people have used this opportunity to settle old scores with the curmudgeonly Scot, including Frank Dobson and Charles Clarke, pictured looking like the overweight policeman we came to know but not love when Home Secretary. He it was who delivered the sharpest rebukes to a man with whom he has had many tussles but of whom, unlike many other of his colleagues, he had never been afraid. In the Daily Telegraph today he delivers a swingeing attack, seriously questioning whether Brown has the qualities to become an effective premier. He also calls him 'stupid' for displaying that gloating grin coming out of Downing St after meeting Blair as well as being a 'deluded control freak'. In his view Blair would never endorse him as prime ministerial material.

There is something to say in support of this view. Just watching the statements by Blair and Brown, it is obvious Blair has a lightness of touch and an ability to defuse tension with humourous self deprecation which Brown could never match. Blair's apology for bringing a 'friend' along to one meeting- Alan Johnson- followed by the quip, 'he is my only friend'. was a perfect example of a wit to which we Brits warm. We also learn from several sources that Brown hates to be challenged- hence his fury at the suggestion by Byers that inheritance tax be abolished; as a financial proposal Brown saw this a Blair inspired attack, instead of a legitimate suggestion which has already been implemented in Sweden. Being so sensitive to criticism is not a quality compatible with successful leadership and bodes ill for his chances of achieving much even if he does become leader.

And this is now in doubt too. Alan Johnson, the likeable, very popular Education Minister, has perfect credentials for the leadership: a trade unionist who is quintessentially English not Scottish and who can laugh at himself he probably has as many, if not more, friends as Gordon has enemies. And he has a brilliant additional aspect of his biography: his drunken father left him at 8, his mother died when he was 12 and he was brought up by his sister, leaving school without qualifications. But evne better, this classic desperately hard childhood took place in Notting Hill, the location of a Consersative set led by someone who received an infinitely better start in life. Combine all this with the fact that Johnson refuses to say he won't stand for the leadership and there are grounds to expect the odds on him shorten rapidly in the next few months.

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