Monday, July 28, 2008


Still no Alternative to Gordon in Sight

As a hard nosed spin doctor cum Number 10 political strategist, Lance Price, is worth listening to. In his piece yesterday he posits:

1) That under a different leader Labour would not have lost the Glasgow East by-election; 2) That a man or a woman with different personal qualities would be much better placed to expose the weakness of both the Conservative and SNP alternatives; 3) That a change of leader would significantly improve Labour’s chances at the next general election and avoid the prospect of a defeat so severe that most of today’s ministers would never hold office again.

It's impossible to say much about 1) though the vote did seem to be highly personal. 2) would seem to go without saying: virtually any senior Labour figure, right now, would do better than Brown at exposing Cameron. 3) is vitally important if you are a Labour backbencher and if I were one, I'd not argue with this point. The problem is, as we have all been realising in the past few weeks, getting rid of Gordon is fraught with highly risky difficulties.

Price suggests that if half the Cabinet told him to go he would have no choice. Would he not? Obsessives like Brown do not give up on their dream so easily, if ever, and what if he tells them to piss off? He knows that shifting him against his will runs the risk of a bloodletting so severe it might even produce the (currently ruling) Canadian Conservative Party 1993 scenario which ended up replacing an overall majority with only two MPs. That was only two.

Despite the fact voters have totally, irrevocably lost faith with him, Brown can safely survive on the reality of such 'meltdown' fears. I'm sure this provides his present bottom line assumption. And to get to where Price wants the Labour Party to go involves a highwire walk with no guarantee of success. I don't need the bromide words of Straw, Prescott or Blunkett to make me think Labour will 'hang on to nurse for fear of worse'. Whether we like it or not- and my sense is we don't- we are stuck with this dysfunctional Caledonian depressive until we slide down the slope to inevitable defeat. Conservatives everywhere must be made up. I do so wish I were wrong-but if you read Jackie Ashley today you'll see how even a former Brown loyalist has changed her views.

Bill, do you really think we could change leader again without calling an immediate general election and retain some credibility with the electorate? I would be stunned if you thought that was possible.

Which means a change of leader, the same economic uncertainty and concerns over inflation, and a political wipeout in the election.

Getting rid of Brown is not "fraught with difficulties" it is suicide, and backbench Labour MPs are not going to topple Brown to bring that on.
My post was really saying that the 'staying with Brown option' is probably the one which will be taken. I was merely expressing my impotent anger that this is probably the best we can look forward to. Have you read Jackie Ashley today?

A straightforward question:

Why is 'a hard nosed spin doctor cum Number 10 political strategist' 'worth listening to' on this issue?

That is, what special knowledge informing his view does Lance P have that those outside the Westminster corridors do not have about how people might vote with or without GB in charge? Or what, in his training/experience as a hard nosed strategist (I'm not very sure how you become one)gives him additional powers of analysis.

While it may sound it, it is not in fact a rhetorical question. There may indeed by stuff he has access to that I don't have and which informs his judgment on how poeple might vote in different circumstances, but his is a closed world to me, and I do have a bit of a suspicion is that the journalist/strategic advisor coterie has simply done a very good job at promoting its own strategic foresight prowess without ever having had any foundation for what has now become accepted.

In the same way, I'm always interested to see how many bloggers start their Sunday morning blogs by commenting on what the sunday paper commentators had to say. Again, what really gives them first shout on commentating? Wouldn't it be just as reasonable for the Sunday Paper journos to focus on commenting on what the bloggers like you and Bob have to say, given that you seem a bit more in the 'real world'? I thought that was the flow of information inherent to journalism?
Bill, unlike Jackie Ashley, I'm not a Brown loyalist, but with very few exceptions - Alan Johnson, primarily - I don't see anyone who could make any difference at all, particularly in the short time you would have (8 weeks) before an election.

Ashley is correct in saying Brown is a decent, uncorrupt, highly intelligent and serious man with good values, inspired by public service. Those qualities may not make him an electable Prime Minister, but from my point of view they do not make him the disaster that Ashley paints him as. Even if the economy improves we will probably lose next time around, I do not believe it will be meltdown though... unless we stab the leader in the back... then it could be.
I gave up some time ago reading the vacuum filling stuff that Jackie Ashley and the like churn out. But I'm told she's spent much of the last decade informing her readers that Mr Brown would make a tip top PM.

I suppose that, in a world where Carol Vorderman can "earn" a million quid a year for taking letters out of boxes for the delihjt of old folk watching daytime telly and where Paul Dacre, Ian Hislop and the like can make similar sums by telling the masses what a greedy bunch of wasters politicians are, it shouldn't be a surprise that people can make a living by writing the sort of stuff that pads out the broadsheets - but it is!
Your views on Brown are well-known Bill but do you really have to buy into the "dysfunctional Caledonian depressive" bullshit that Guido and his Ilk put about? Say what you like about Brown's political skills or lack of them, but I would not expect to see people abused for being Scottish on this blog, and as for the psychological stuff, well, the man has survived losing an eye and losing a daughter which is more than many people could cope with.
As I've indicated, I reluctantly have reached a similar conclusion: Gordon cannot win; there is no alternative to him; we have to accept the inevitable. But I think it could still be meltdown and I'm still not sure- as Price and Ashley seem to be - that someone else might limit the damage and give us a foundation to build on from 2010 onwards.
Maybe I was a bit out of order re the 'Caledonian' bit but I've read widely about Brown- all the biographies- and have spoken to people who have worked with the man and it all fits into the 'dysfunctional' mould I fear to say. Nothing to do with his Scottishness- he's just an awkward, awful colleague. I agree he's had some tough things to survive but maybe too his dysfunctiionality has been part of the cost..?
Paul(not the Linford one)
I've read stuff by Price and think he's generally on the money. Why don't columnists write about blogger views? Because we are not so well informed- it's not our fulltimer job after all- and, mostly cannot write such good journalism as these tried and tested professionals. Maybe this will change but not for a while is my guess.
The PM saved millions of lives with a aid releif to africa. We have just a had a bad four months get over it.
I wonder if he missunderstood glasgow east is a scottish catholic seat in sectarian glasgow. A scottish proddie is as alien in such a seat as an englishman. Was it really his backyard?
In most areas of the UK, and scotland people could not care less if you are a proddie or a catholic but it might have damped down the fact he was scottish. In glasgow.
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