Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Peter M's Memoirs a Delight but Leave Unanswered Question

I have been so enjoying Mandy's memoirs. Of course they are self serving and reflect some of his worst characteristics but for those of us who also perceive democratic politics as a diverting parade of human weaknesses, it is truly a treat. I love the way he is apparently so reasonable, above the pettiness of others while Campbell's diaries record an incident when he had a spat with PM over how Tony's hair was to be styled and, in an extreme hissy fit, rained blows on the Burnley supporter and then a few more on the prime minister himself when Tony intervened.

To those who conclude, like Gary Younge that this is the history of 'little people', I'd reply that all of us are 'little' in so many ways- it's what makes us human and even the greatest leaders indulged in extreme pettiness from time to time. Bad rulers tend to be especially petty; if you crossed Pol Pot or Stalin, in even the smallest of ways, you could have ended up dead. It has also to be said that sometimes apparently petty things cn be the focus of more important issues. The spat over Tony's hair for example could have been the culmination of Mandelson's feelings of being excluded and his advice not being taken.

It does strike me though that the book, so far serialised in The Times is a none too covert attack on Gordon Brown. We learn today Tony though him 'mad, bad and dangerous beyond redemption' (The Times has now led its front page for four days on the memoirs). It seems a fair percentage of the Cabinet had lost all confidence in him yet were afraid or disinclined to support any coup attempts. While criticising them Mandeslon does not expalin adequately why, if he thought Brown so hopeless, he did not join in attempts to dethrone him before the May election. Ultimately his hatchet job on Brown, comes back to question his own resolution and political courage. 'A fighter, not a quitter'? Well, he didn't fight to depose the person who probably coast his beloved party a two or three dozen seats. Instead he effectively defended this political liability until it was far too late.

I'm too mean to pay to get through the Times firewall (I'd like to pass it off as a point of principle but being anti-Murdock seems to be a rather daft principle) so must make do with the crumbs reported elsewhere.

It's unsurprising that those who achieve high office are people of passion and, of course, passion leads to dispute. I've been close enough to a few multinationals' boardrooms to have observed the same sorts of events therein. But directors, being so much wealthier in general than politicians, don't tend to write high-profile memoirs.

We wouldn't want our leaders to be people of no passion would we? And being in government is hard work. Much harder than most of the population are prepared to acknowledge.

A great mystery to me, however, remains how Gordon Brown ever got to be leader and how his gang managed to snuff out all attempts to dethrone him. Why couldn't people such as Ed Balls recognise the terrible flaws beneath Mr Brown's vast political skills? The most damaging of these is his inability to engage with a mass audience.

I'm told he's charming face to face and is highly effective in small groups. But when I saw him in action at the 2007 conference I knew Labour was doomed to defeat. If he couldn't even charm roomfuls of eager delegates, and had to rely on an audience hyped-up by thumping music and his acolytes to cheer his less than convincing efforts in the main hall, what chance did he have with the general public? Answer: 29%!

If a rank amateur could spot it why couldn't all those other smart and much more politically experienced guys? I'm sure that many of them could but his mafia-style operation must have been too powerful. Of course a time was reached when it was clear that nothing could be done and everyone in the party had to make the best they could of a bad situation. I guess Peter M decided that that time had come in 2008.

It's a funny old life...
So nice to hear from you again! I agree with all your points. Re Balls, I thnink acolytes see their futures as indistinguishable from their masters' and so are...well, just acolytes. How Gordon made it is quite astonishing. The politician he most reminds me of, re mode of operating, is... Stalin!
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