Wednesday, July 30, 2008
How Political Methods Change
Shortly after King Canute had defeated the forces of Edmund Ironside at Ashingdon in 1016 (for a contemporary comparison, refer to events at Edgbaston today), he married Edmund's mother, former wife of Ethelred the Unready, Emma of Normandy who was nine years his senior. The idea was to legitimise his future heirs in case of a contested succession. His son with Emma, Harthacanute, did, in fact, inherit the throne but held on for only two years before dying after collapsing with a drink in his hand. Cnut also promptly killed Ethelred's eldest son and caused other possible claimants to flee for their lives to Normandy and Hungary. But it was nothing personal; just the 'business' of early medieval kingship.
I relate the above merely to illustrate how we have learnt to handle transfers of power differently; today we do it with articles in The Guardian it would seem. The Evening Standard this afternoon referred to Miliband's 'ferocious onslaught'. What did he say? Well, er, he didn't mention Gordon Brown once.
Young David denies his article was a shrewd piece of positioning and a covert bid for the leadership. But it was. Oh yes, it was. Every word had been carefully chosen to provide a subtext which said: 'Gordon has failed and I am the man to take over if you want me'. To add weight to his bid, he sketched out the policies he would pursue as prime minister. And David cannot say he had no idea it would be misunderstood. As the brightest member of Blair's former aides(and they mostly were very bright), he has been immersed in politics for over a decade and knew perfectly well how it would be interpreted.
Does it change much? Well, it will infuriate Gordon as well as his Cabinet colleagues who also nurtured homicidal thoughts regarding their Great Leader but have not had the bottle to make a move. Given Miliband's disinclination to stand last June, this represents an impressive strengthening of his political nerve. Will it lead to a leadership contest? It just might, as conference season approaches. Is David the saviour of his party? I don't think he can save a defeat at the next election and he would have, I think, to accede to Cameron's demand today that an election be held if a new leader emerges before 2010. Three leaders without an election and Labour would lose all credibility with the political class and huge slices of the electorate too.
Would he do better than Gordon in such an election? Again, I'm doubtful but on balance, I think he would, This is not because the ultra Blairite, Miliband, has much of his former leader's charisma, but he is articulate, young and has a good smile. Given those advantages plus that of not being Gordon, I'd reckon a few score Labour backbench MPs with majorities under 5-8,000 might be prepared to take a punt on him. Mind you, if we were back in the 11th century I reckon the Scottish king would be planning something exquisitively nasty for Young David, for when he got back from his holidays.
For Labour, especially those terrified backbanchers, this makes sense. He can save a number of them who will otherwise perish under Broon. Judging by his Press Conference, he has no intention of standing against Broon. But that does leave open the possibility of the PM being asked to step aside in Sept. And this now looks very likely. Whether he will go will go is entirely another question, and probably depend on who asks him. I would think it would need to be all of the senior figures in the party and probably the wife as well(she is perhaps the key player in Mental Gordon's strange Government).
Before today, I would have assumed DM wouldn't have wanted the job in the short term. But he clearly does. He probably believes that he could do well in the election, and possibly limit Dave to a majority of less than 50(in my book that would be a good result). He would take creidt from this and he would be a formidable leader of the Opposition. And who knows, he might even do better. Brown is surely proof that those who wait for things to fall into their lap in politics are rarely winners. Action now.
For the first time in weeks, I think someone can actually see where Labour need to head. But Gordy may have other ideas.
As a Tory, I hope GB stays on for another two years. A Dave Government wouldn't be half as much fun as his shambles.
I agree, this is the first chink of light for a while. But it all depends on whether GB goes of his own volition or not. The chances must be that he won't as he is the archetypal stubborn Scot. Problemn for DM is that he can't really avoid an election soon after his election unles he has more brass neck than I think he has. Can he gather enough credibility after a win in the time available to make a decent fist of leading Labour into such an election, perforce, before 2010? Big ask, one has to say. I agree Toriesd wouold like to see him stay in place. I remember asking Osborne at a conference in November 2005 who he would prefer as an opponent for Dave: Brown or DM and he said immediately Brown.
His generation - not yours, mine or Mr Brown's!
Didn't hear it but have long been aware I am no longder of the generation which matters- unless it's election time and parties want my vote cos we DO vote and the younger buggers don't bother, to their shame.
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