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May 18, 2007

Brown anointed as PM–'elect'

Follow-up to The Blair Bitch Project from Esprit de l'escalier

Last week in my review of Tony Blair, I wondered why Gordon Brown was getting so much criticism. Channel 4’s Dispatches on Monday kindly summed up the evidence against him for me. According to various political insiders interviewed on the programme, Brown is basically a bit of a control freak, obstinate, and bears a pretty mean grudge.

Former Labour “insider” Derek Draper ultimately defended Brown’s suitability for PM; his behaviour was merely part of his strategy to secure the premiership. Now he was assured of the job, Brown would calm down a bit. Cool, I thought, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t give him a chance. I just assumed that there’d be a leadership contest and a debate about Labour’s future with McDonnell, which would give Brown’s leadership a little more legitimacy than his 1994 lunch with Blair was currently giving.

When McDonnell pulled out of the race on Wednesday my heart sank, of course. Then I read this in the Independent today. Simon Carr suggests that Gordon Brown had been personally lobbying for nominations in order to crowd out a challenge. This was according to “a journalist”. Say it ain’t so, Gordon! Did you really think it was worth shedding what remains of Labour’s integrity in order to remove the smallest risk of not getting to be Prime Minister?

Then again, if these alleged shameful tactics were meant to be publicised, he might have meant it as a big, alienating “fuck you” to his doubters, which I’d kinda respect.


May 13, 2007

The Blair Bitch Project

Title:
Blair's Premiership
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars

In news about as shocking as a typical My Family punchline, Tony Blair resigned on Thursday, opening the floodgates for the media to pore over his ten years of office and deliver versions of his legacy in handy souvenir pullouts. One wonders what the newspapers have up their sleeves for when he actually goes on June 27th. For what it’s worth, here’s my purely subjective take on his premiership.

Say what you like about Blair, he’s a fantastic politician. He made Labour electable again, but was it worth it? If I take my awkward question to mean was he good for the Labour Party, then probably not. For all the things he’s done to disillusion me, I have a grudging respect for him – sure he’s a shit, but he’s a charismatic shit.

It’s difficult to doubt his good intentions, but even his successes may not be so unequivocal.
- The minimum wage and low unemployment. The least he could do; I reckon more of the workforce is in the informal sector, employed by agencies, with low job security and no prospects, than when he came to power.
- Northern Ireland. There’s finally a power-sharing executive that might just work, but how big was Tony’s role in it since Good Friday?
- Solid economic growth and low inflation. Thanks to the independent Bank of England.
- Action on climate change. To me, this has only taken off since An Inconvenient Truth came out.
- Debt relief and development. What’s actually happened since Gleneagles?

To be fair, crime rates and NHS waiting lists have fallen, though you wouldn’t know it from press coverage.

Anything positive is outweighed by:
- Privatising anything with a pulse with a more-Thatcherite-than-Thatcher zealotry.
- Privatisation by the back door in the form of PFI, which, last time I checked, is still pretty discredited (The Guardian).
- Contracting out public service management to consultants who fuck things up so they can get paid again to sort their own mess out.
- Tuition fees.
- Top-up fees, though they are more redistributive than the Tories’ HE policies.
- Oh, and Iraq: selling out the country’s foreign policy and diplomatic power, starting an unwinnable war on false pretences, and eroding any moral high ground over Islamic extremists by undermining the rule of law and civil liberties.

Two out of five is generous.

The other day I realised that I agree with very little Labour have legislated on in the past few years. So I’m looking forward to Gordon Brown’s inevitable premiership and the new direction he’ll take the party. Apart from expecting “more of the same” I don’t understand the unremitting flak he’s been coming under for the past year. For God’s sake, Gordon’s hero is Bobby Kennedy – the greatest President America never had! They’re all just ants at a picnic.

That said, unlike the jubilant but naive 13-year-old on the morning of May 2 1997, I’m bracing myself for disappointment.


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