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rotten boroughs - a week is a long time in politics - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2009-06-07 17:35
Subject: rotten boroughs - a week is a long time in politics
Security: Public
Location:home
Mood:calmcalm
Music:bob mould
I'm still trying to get my head around the events of Friday and Saturday. I can't remember a British government ever going through a twenty-four hour period quite like it, certainly not in peacetime.
If I'm wrong, I hope someone will correct me, but I counted seven MPs and ministers jumping ship, some of them former heavy-hitters like Margaret Beckett, as the results came in on Labour's worst local council election results in...oh, ever such a long time, and Gordon desperately tried to reshuffle his Cabinet into some kind of credible shape.
The two eye-catching departures were James Purnell, who left calling for Gordon to `stand aside,' and Caroline Flint, who was replaced by Glenys Kinnock as Europe Minister in the reshuffle and whose resignation was accompanied by comments that Gordon treated female ministers as `window-dressing.'
Oddly enough, I think Gordon could survive these attacks. Purnell was obviously hoping other ministers would follow him, but nobody did, and he wound up like an officer going over the top on the Western Front, only to get halfway across No Man's Land and realise he's all alone. Flint's resignation and her comments have been regarded as a fit of pique for not getting a Cabinet job - the evening before, she'd said in an interview that she was `proud' to serve under Gordon and had no plans to resign. She's been at it again in one of today's Sunday papers, accusing Gordon of `using women for his own political ends,' but in the same article claiming she doesn't want to be a `wrecking ball directed at the Prime Minister or the government.'
Both she and Purnell are already fading from the public consciousness. Yes, they've chipped away at Gordon's authority, but only for other MPs and political journalists who like to write about how many MPs can dance on the head of a pin. They're gone, over.
More damaging may be the rumours - apparently true - that Gordon wanted to move Alistair Darling out of the Chancellor's job and install his old crony Ed Balls instead. There's a less credible story that Gordon wanted to move the boy Miliband out of the Foreign Office as well.
Anyway, neither of these things happened. If the stories are true, Alistair flat-out refused to shift, which is interesting as it makes you wonder just what he has on Gordon that enabled him to dig his heels in. It also makes you wonder what it bodes for the relationship between Prime Minister and Chancellor in future.
The commentariat hasn't been slow to point out that the big winner in all this has been Peter Mandelson. I did wonder, when Gordon brought Mandelson back into the fold a few months ago, what could have possessed him - it's said that the two men heartily loathe each other - but now I know why. Mandelson played an absolute blinder in the media over the weekend, taking on television pundits, defending Gordon and the government, and he was rewarded in the reshuffle with more power. He's now Deputy Prime Minister in all but name. Gordon knows he had no choice but to deploy Mandelson, but I think he also knows he's going to regret it.
Saturday, Gordon attended the D-Day commemorations in Normandy and I thought he looked terrible, a man in the depths of a nightmare for whom the 65th anniversary of the Overlord landings must have seemed like a few moments of light relief. Mind you, in comparison to President Obama, whose speech was genuinely moving, anyone would have looked bad.
Today, though, Gordon attended a council meeting in East London. It was televised, which is not usual, and it was obvious that this was something of a Potemkin meeting - everyone there was a friend, nobody asked him any hard questions - but I thought he looked pretty good. He'd obviously got some sleep, he made a good speech, he dealt easily with the questions. He looked hopeful, and that gave me pause.
I think he believes he's got away with it. The results of the British votes in the European elections will be released later - we voted on Thursday along with the council elections, but Europe traditonally votes on a Sunday so our results have been held back - and, once again, Labour's prospects don't look good. But there are ways the European results can be parsed that could minimise their impact. If the socialist parties across Europe also do badly, Gordon can say poor results here are simply part of an EU-wide trend, for example. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't think he could survive that, too.
Looking back, it seems that Thursday and Friday were the make-or-break time, and Gordon got through it intact. He did the important thing in putting together a Cabinet, and he seems to have circled the wagons.
Tomorrow he faces a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which is likely to be full of very annoyed and rather fearful backbenchers. If he can calm them down and get them to believe it, I wouldn't bet against him surviving that too. It depends how many backbenchers want rid of him.
I'm starting to suspect that if he makes it to the end of next week without a leadership challenge or being caught cruising the streets of Soho at four in the morning in his official car with a brace of showgirls and a kilo of cocaine, he might survive this crisis. Which would be an extraordinary thing.
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User: sarcobatus
Date: 2009-06-07 17:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wow. News media here across the pond are barely covering Britain's political events.

*Houston, ah think we gotta problem*
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2009-06-07 17:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, it's not really a sexy story. Just a little internal political hiccup on a little island off the coast of Northern Europe. Compared to the state of Brad and Angelina's marriage it's barely a story at all.
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User: sarcobatus
Date: 2009-06-07 17:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Jeez, you got that right. Shameful.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2009-06-07 18:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Nah, not really. It's just the reality of news. Rod Blagojevic's little difficulties were barely mentioned over here, but they occupied rather more than a couple of column-inches in the Tribune. Whereas Brangelina are a pan-national phenomenon. Or something like that.

Edited at 2009-06-07 07:08 pm (UTC)
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2009-06-07 19:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
:-)
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2009-06-07 19:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The chances are the biggest outcry would be about him misusing his official car.
I agree with you about his family, though. He seems to be an intensely private man who views that Blairite kind of circus with great distaste, and that's to his credit.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2009-06-07 20:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That's true. I've spoken to people who've met him in informal settings, and they say he really is very charming and amiable.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2009-06-08 06:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well I want him gone, but chucking him out now and calling an election would be a bit silly given the madness of crowds etc.
Plus the conservatives are no better anyway.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2009-06-09 10:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We might have to wait until next Summer. And it's true, there's not a lot of choice.
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