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Afghanistan, Brown, Geof Hoon, Gordon Brown Labour leadership, Peter Watt

Are the Blairites trying to lose?

  “Out of the night that covers me; Black as the Pit from pole to pole; I thank whatever gods may be; For my unconquereble soul”.  Those who’ve been speculating about the Prime Minister’s state of mind had further material yesterday in those lines from “Invictus” by the High Victorian poet William E Henley, which Gordon Brown says consoled him during his recent trials.  The poem also gave moral sustainance to Nelson Mandela when he was incarcertated in Robben Island. 

  Make of that what you will.  Certainly, there is a darkness surrounding Gordon Brown’s personality.  But there is also defiance, dogged determination.  He is, in lines from the same poem, “bloody, but unbowed”,  a fighter not a quitter. Which makes it all the more bizarre that the leaders of the Midwinter Mutiny last week bothered with their comic-opera coup.   Over the weekend, commentators struggled to explain why two senior Labour politicians, Geof Hoon and Patricia Hewitt – not noted for their rebelliousness in the past –  should  have launched their  revolt when they hadn’t even secured the backing of any cabinet ministers, let alone significant back bench support.  Surely they realised that this prime minister would need a whole army of grey suits to prise his bitten finger nails from the door of Number Ten. 

   It didn’t make sense, and it still doesn’t.  Why did Hoowitt choose to strike in the very week when Labour appeared to be recovering in the opinion polls and Gordon Brown had his best outing at Prime Minister’s Question Time in months?  Why, indeed, launch an attack on the Labour leadership at the very moment when the Tory leader, David Cameron, had stumbled into his worst policy error since he became leader over tax reliefs for married couples? Do they want Labour to lose the election?  A BBC/Daily Politics poll on Thursday showed that 60% now believe Labour is the most divided party –  and as we know a house divided is a house defeated. 

   Well maybe they do want Labour to lose.  It may seem unbelievable that Labour politicians who have devoted their lives to the Labour Party would actually want  to lose the general election.  We haven’t had that kind of active disloyalty since the days of the far Left Militant Tendency that tried to wreck the Labour government of  Jim Callaghan in the 1970s.  But I’m having great difficulty coming up with any other explanation.  It’s not the first time either.  Think back to the ‘Night of the Stilletos’ in June when three women cabinet ministers resigned along with the work and pensions secretary, James Purnell. That was on the eve of the European elections, which Labour went on to lose so badly that it came third behind UKIP.   Even then Brown stayed put.

  Could it be that Blairite diehards are now afraid Brown might remain in charge even after a general election defeat?  Are they now trying to ensure that Labour goes down so badly that there is no question of Brown remaining as leader?  I’m beginning to think that this is the only plausible explanation.  Certainly, the destabilisation campaign is continuing.  Yesterday, Geof Hoon released highly damaging correspondence to the Sunday Times suggesting that the Prime Minister vetoed the purchase of vital military helicopters for British troops fighting in Afghanistan. This is tantamount to saying that Gordon Brown endangered the lives of British soldiers.  Serious stuff – especially since Hoon, the former defence secreatary, is due to appear before the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq War.  Moreover, the current defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth a close friend of Hoon, is thought to be on the point of resignation over the situation in Afghanistan. 

  In another move clearly designed to destabilise the Prime Minister, the former general secretary of the Labour Party, Peter Watt, has said that Gordon Brown is not fit to be in Number Ten.   In a book serialised in the Mail on Sunday he gives further evidence of the PM’s unpopularity in his own government. He quotes one of Brown’s longest and closest political allies, the development secretary, Douglas Alexander, as saying:  “We’ve spent 10 years working with Gordon and we don;t like him.  The more the public get to know him he less they will like him too.” Watt also reveals bungling and treachery over the abortive 2007 election-that-never-was and over the “donorgate” affair when businessman David Abrahams was allowed to disguise his cash payments to Labour by registering them under false names. The former general secretary claims he was lied to and set up by Brown. 

   The Watt revelations are clearly motivated by personal grievance , and some of the charges – such as that Gordon Brown sulked at a dinner party with US politicians – are faintly ridiculous.  Nevertheless, scheduling this embarrassing account of domestic life in the Brown cabinet on the eve of a crucial general election campaign remains highly damaging, and calculating.  Watt’s actions should surely be condemned by every member of the Labour Party.  Indeed, you wonder how the party can expect its footsoldiers to start canvassing the icy doorsteps this winter when the leadership seems to have acquired a death wish. But once again, this could be exactly what the Blairites want:  to so weaken Labour morale as to guarantee a Tory landslide.   

    If this is indeed all part of a ‘scorched earth’ campaign by the New Labour old guard – and I’m not the only person who’s thinking this – then the sections of the party that are not determined to lose the election need to consider how they respond. It’s one thing to believe privately that Brown isn’t up to it; quite another to side with the Tories.  Retaliation is necessary,  but it is hard to fight back without making he party look even more divided.   

    Brown’s last line of defence is the Scottish MPs who have in the past acted as defenders of Labour’s core values and as his Praetorian Guard.   Perhaps they need to make a move now to isolate the Right and ensure that Labour, under Brown, fights a principled campaign based on social democratic policies.  Following the financial crisis, and given the behaviour of the banks, this should be Labour’s moment.  The public are waiting for a lead against the plutocrats and banksters. It isn’t too late. Time for all good men, and women, to come to the aid of the Labour Party.


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About iain2macwhirter

Writer and journalist.

Discussion

13 thoughts on “Are the Blairites trying to lose?

  1. The reality is that there are two parties in Labour, your reference to a Scottish 'Praetorian Guard' merely confirms the duplicity with which New Labour have apporached the population of these islands – promising tax breaks to middle England whilst proclaiming help for the poor in Glasgow.All a lie and all unravelling now.Having the 'Praetorian Guard' act will only further drive apart that difference and have many starting to ask, do the public partly loathe Brown because he's Scottish, not in a racist way, but because they are aware of Scottish policies in education, health & justice – and they are well aware of Brown and other Scottish MP's lack of control over these policies because of devolution.In other words, has 'devolution' done for any PM, other than an English one?

    Posted by Anonymous | January 11, 2010, 8:56 am
  2. Good analysis then strange last sentence (I nearly choked on my porridge this morning when reading The Herald).Why should anyone came to the aid of the Labour Party?They have shown themselves to be a bunch of unprincipled chancers, and deserve to spend a long time in the wilderness.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 11, 2010, 10:42 am
  3. “Brown’s last line of defence is the Scottish MPs who have in the past acted as defenders of Labour’s core values”The majority of these defenders are based in Glasgow.According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation,Glasgow has Scotland’s highest rate of people on out-of-work benefits, the highest rate of people with limiting long-term illnesses and drug addiction, the worst problems with overcrowded housing, and the highest concentration of pensioners living below the poverty lineGlasgow also has the lowest life expectancy in Britain. Data for 2004-2006 puts life expectancy in the city at birth at 73.7 years (70.5 years for men, 77 years for women), based on current life expectancy trends. The best indicators for Glasgow average point to a figure of 69.3 years for men and 76.2 year for women. This falls even further in the most impoverished neighbourhoods, such as Calton, with male life expectancy at a staggering 53.9 years.These statistics provide a damning indictment of the historic failure of New Labour and their so called “core values”.One week before his historic election win Barack Obama asked the American voters this question.“In one week, we can choose hope over fear, unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo”.Americans gave their answer lets hope when the time comes Scotland’s voters have the same courage to reject these Scottish Labour MP's and their core values.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 11, 2010, 10:58 am
  4. If Watt was set up and used by the Prime Minister, I wouldn't wonder that he's feeling ratehr sore. Before he became PM, we were warned by various people of Brown's tantrums, moods and general weirdness. Frankly I don't find the described behaviour too hard to believe. I'm certainly inclined to believe Dougie Alexander's predictions. He was bang on. The more I get to know about Brown, the less I like him.I think Anonymous has it. There are two Labour Parties: one for the Home Counties and one for "up north".Of course every party who wishes to gain power has to be a little two faced. Britain is far too divided a society for a party that only makes promises to the rich or the poor. You have to promise to both sides, but clearly Labour only needs to keep its promises to the rich. The poor have nowhere else to go, or so they believe.

    Posted by tris | January 11, 2010, 11:05 am
  5. I'm keen on Henley's 'Invictus', myself. There is also, I think, a little touch of the Gospel about the notion of the reviled righteous, striving against an uncomprehending and hostile world – but crucially, plugging away, plugging on.Brown does not, perhaps, sit in his gloomy garret, chanting John 1:5 "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." Such ideas can haunt a man, the archetype becoming identify with the self – however implausible or absurd that may seem to external observers.

    Posted by Lallands Peat Worrier | January 11, 2010, 1:07 pm
  6. Certainly, there is a darkness surrounding Gordon Brown’s personality. But there is also defiance, dogged determination. He is, in lines from the same poem, "bloody, but unbowed", a fighter not a quitter.He's a limpet not a fighter. The week he disappeared off the face of the planet after the Scottish elections in 2007, the bottled election call in 2007 which he denied ever planning and his failure to face down his critics in a, "back me or sack me", leadership election like John Major show he's no fighter but that his speciality is to hide under a blanket in a huge sulk while refusing to relinquish control over anything.Over the weekend, commentators struggled to explain why two senior Labour politicians, Geof Hoon and Patricia Hewitt…should have launched their revolt…It didn’t make sense, and it still doesn’t.Why does it have to make sense? There are three options. One, that shadowy figures inside Labour set up Hoon and Hewitt in order to extract concessions from Gordon Brown, two, that Hoon and Hewitt were deliberately trying to damage Labour as you seem to think or the most likely option of all which is that, three, Hoon and Hewitt are clueless and launched a coup at the wrong time with no reference to the actual rules of challenging a sitting labour leader and no backup from any other MP's.In another move clearly designed to destabilise the Prime Minister…Peter Watt has said that Gordon Brown is not fit to be in Number Ten.I think you may be mistaking personal infighting, score-settling and grudges coming home to roost at the top of the Parliamentary Labour party for a co-ordinated campaign. What's ridiculous about the charge that Gordon sulked? He sulked for weeks after the SNP manged to become a minority government in Scotland and refused to speak to Alex Salmond and his odd behaviour on a couple of TV interviews when he thought the cameras were off have highlighted his odd childish behaviour.Brown’s last line of defence is the Scottish MPs who have in the past acted as defenders of Labour’s core values and as his Praetorian Guard.What are Labour's core values? It's an easy phrase to say but a hard one to pin down. If you look at actions not words it's slavishly following US foreign policy, warmongering, eroding civil liberties, bunging cash to their chums in the PFI scams and the banks and trying to turn Britain into a, "papers please", state with their demand for ID cards. On that basis you're right. The Scottish MP's have in the past defended Labour's core values.Perhaps they need to make a move now to isolate the Right and ensure that Labour, under Brown, fights a principled campaign based on social democratic policies.There is an odd misapprehension here that underneath that nasty Blairism that infects Labour their is a principled left wing trying to get out and Gordon Brown is the man to do it. Quick reminder here. Who was Blair's wingman and Chancellor who said nary a word about Blair's policies all through the years of his reign in the Labour party? I can't actually differentiate between Blairism and Brownism on policy. It seems to be entirely based on personality cults inside Labour.Labour ran the country and the financial regulators for twelve years before the banking crisis. In fact they set the regulatory system up and the Government owns RBS and Lloyds and have done nothing to the bankers. This should be Labour's moment but only in an ideal Hovis advert world where Labour still wear flat caps and don't go partying on billionaires yachts in the Med like Peter Mandelson. The one that's in your imagination.Time for all good men, and women, to come to the aid of the Labour Party.You're having a laugh. Aren't you…?

    Posted by DougtheDug | January 11, 2010, 1:46 pm
  7. "Time for all good men, and women, to come to the aid of the Labour Party"Iain your continuing impassioned plea, nay mantra, is becoming risible.The great soul of the Labour Party (if ever there was such a thing) left the rotting corpse some time ago.Your solipcism is shared by fewer and fewer and by hardly any 'good men and women'.The notion that Gordon could (or would) lead a principled election campaign is fatuous to the point of surrealism.

    Posted by voiceofourown | January 11, 2010, 2:00 pm
  8. There are far to many apologies on behalf of the Labour Party in this article. To many apologies on behalf of Gordon Brown.This is so easy to understand.Brown and his Scottish MPs are nothing more than political professionals, using the Labour Party as the vehicle of choice to take their careers to the choosen destination; Westminster.Every one is dishonest, to the core, while failing their constituents. Hoon and Hewitt are just lightweights; with little common sense. You give them to much credit. The English electorate will make them pay.Back to Brown; a thoroughly unpalatable individual, just pathetically unpleasant.And that last phrase that you use! You are clearly not in touch with public opinion.

    Posted by Craig | January 11, 2010, 2:49 pm
  9. DougthedugBrown’s last line of defence is the Scottish MPs who have in the past acted as defenders of Labour’s core values and as his Praetorian Guard.I think you missed a couple of things off your list about Labours core values.Where were the Scottish MPs when the 10p tax rate was doubled to 20p? About one million of the lowest paid in Briton disadvantage and they still are.What about the 75 pence per week pension increase when one measure of inflation was used to increase taxes, and one (lower naturally) was used to increase benefits.Where were the Scottish press? posted missing as usual, probably happy that their tax bill went down when the million poorest saw their tax bill increase.Core values!!! you could not make it up.

    Posted by Dubbieside | January 11, 2010, 3:45 pm
  10. Here's a thought experiment for you. Imagine had wrote the line:Time for all good men, and women, to come to the aid of the Scottish National Party.What would the reaction have been? Iain would be pidgeon-holed as an irrational nat not worthy of listening to. This demonstrates exactly why the ruling commentariat and anyone wishing to get ahead assumes a unionist disposition regardless. Iain is obviously one of them.Neil

    Posted by Anonymous | January 11, 2010, 4:10 pm
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    Posted by Anonymous | January 13, 2010, 4:35 am
  12. Brown’s last line of defence is the Scottish MPs who have in the past acted as defenders of Labour’s core values and as his Praetorian Guard. Perhaps they need to make a move now to isolate the Right and ensure that Labour, under Brown, fights a principled campaign based on social democratic policies. Following the financial crisis, and given the behaviour of the banks, this should be Labour’s moment. The public are waiting for a lead against the plutocrats and banksters. It isn’t too late. Time for all good men, and women, to come to the aid of the Labour Party.———————–Iain you are dreaming -mind you your analysis is spot on.

    Posted by Observer | January 13, 2010, 8:55 pm
  13. The South of England just won't vote for that, and we are too few.We can't square that circle. Can't be done.

    Posted by Observer | January 13, 2010, 8:57 pm

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