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schadenfreude corner - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2007-11-26 22:12
Subject: schadenfreude corner
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Mood:awakeawake
Music:david sylvian
I never thought I'd watch myself typing this, but I'm beginning to feel a little sorry for Gordon Brown. He must be wondering why the hell he made that deal with Tony all those years ago.
He must have been fairly relieved not to have to field the Northern Rock business, but his successor as Chancellor, Alistair Darling, was less than convincing. Then there was the incident where someone at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (presumably someone who has now been transferred to the benefits office on Baffin Island) burned the personal and bank details of 25 million child benefit claimants onto two CDS, sent them via courier to the audit office, and they went missing. Once again, Gordon must have been mighty pleased not to be Chancellor any more, because it was Alistair who had to get up in the Commons again. After years of bland anonymity, Alistair himself may be wishing he'd never agreed to be Chancellor.

And now this. The short version is, The Mail On Sunday this weekend ran a story about a chap who was a donor to the Labour Party. Except he hated the Labour Party and politicians in general. It turned out that he, and several others, had donated money on behalf of a businessman named David Abrahams, who wanted his donations to be anonymous. This is against the law. The sums of money keep going up, as well. It's now getting on for £600,000. Mr Abrahams obviously loves the Labour Party. He just doesn't want anyone to know about it. So keep it to yourselves.
The General Secretary of the Labour Party knew about the donations, but he says he didn't realise they were against the law. Now he's quit. Prime Minister's Questions is going to be unmissable this week; Gordon has not had a happy month.

And I've been quite surprised. For an arch political bruiser, a Chancellor who easily rode down his detractors, a Westminster mover-and-shaker par excellance, Gordon has been rather disappointing as Prime Minister so far. I know others disagree with me - Michael White of The Guardian, a commentator I have an enormous amount of time for, thinks he's doing okay - but I've found him strangely uncertain and easily riled. All David Cameron has to do is keep taunting him until he loses his temper. Even Vince Cable - a very able economist who is standing in as leader of the Liberal Democrats - has been able to land some punches in the House, which is strange to see. Like him or loathe him, Blair would have just slam-dunked the lot of them.

Actually, now I mention him, I don't think Vince Cable is doing too shabby a job so far. It might make more sense for the Lib Dems to just annoint him as leader, rather than going through yet another leadership contest.

With regard to the donations row, all I can say is that if Peter Watt is representative of the people who lead us, we may be in worse shape than I thought. Either he understood the rules and disregarded them, or he didn't understand the rules at all. Neither position is acceptable.

On a happier note - for me, not Gordon - I now have the DVD of one of Blackmore's Night's Paris concerts. So everything's right with the world.
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RealThog: morgan brighteyes
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-27 01:17 (UTC)
Subject: to be irritatingly trivial . . .
Keyword:morgan brighteyes
"I now have the DVD of one of Blackmore's Night's Paris concerts"

That must be the one wot I've found the CD of.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-27 16:23 (UTC)
Subject: Re: to be irritatingly trivial . . .
Yeah, but I get to watch Candice. I have to report that Ritchie Blackmore remains one of the most technically accomplished but visually uninteresting guitarists I have ever seen, though.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-27 19:47 (UTC)
Subject: Re: to be irritatingly trivial . . .
"but I get to watch Candice"

I'm shocked, jus' shocked, that this should be a consideration.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-27 21:35 (UTC)
Subject: Re: to be irritatingly trivial . . .
Secondary to the music, of course.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-27 16:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes, I've been hearing that the Electoral Commission has been in contact with the Crown Prosecution Service. This could be a runner.
I heard somewhere that this was going on under the previous two General Secretaries too, who presumably now also have Questions To Answer.

What surprises me is that these people were among the largest donors to the Labour Party, but if we're to believe Labour nobody was the slightest bit curious about them, didn't want to know who they were or where they were from, didn't even consider getting them in for a five-minute meet-and-greet with Gordon to say thanks. Which, if true, seems downright ungrateful.

And judging by what Gordon said, or rather didn't say, at his press conference today, Harriet Harman is toast.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-27 21:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
...I am certain-sure that every political party has local treasurers saying 'oh, that doesn't really apply to us', and they'll be finding out, possibly the hard way, that actually it does.

Indeed. I'm fairly sure the Tories and Lib Dems, as well as the smaller parties, are going through the accounts very carefully right now. If the Commission is spoiling for a fight, it won't stop with just one party. It'll go after them all, if only to deflect criticism that it's politically-motivated.

Just imagine if Gordon had gone ahead and called that election; would we be in the final lap right now, or would it already be over?
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-27 19:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Bearing in mind that I got more interested in politics a year or two after the war-criminal- formerly-known-as-the-prime-minister got into power, it seems to me that:

"For an arch political bruiser, a Chancellor who easily rode down his detractors, a Westminster mover-and-shaker par excellance, Gordon has been rather disappointing as Prime Minister so far."

Is rather missing the context. Before, he was chancellor, in charge of one of the most complex (hence easy to cover stuff up, eg PFI) and powerful (got the dirt on everyone, money talks etc) departments, yet not actually in the firing line. The buck stopped with Tony, whilst Gordon could get on with being Machiavellian behind the scences.

But now he is in charge of EVERYTHING. So when odd things pop up to discombobulate him, he is vulnerable in a way that he wasn't with uncle Tony in charge to take the flack.

Plus, the other fact is that much as I would like to be locked in a room with some stuff and Blair, Brown, Reid and one or two others, none of what has happened is directly Brown's fault.* But us plebs, or the press, are pretty much treating Browns rule as a continuation of Tony's, hence why he is getting pilloried, as if these things were his fault, simply because the gvt has been in power so long. And to be honest, I have yet to discern much of a difference.





*Disclosure- Alistair Darling is apparently related to me through my uncle by marriage in some complex family way.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-27 22:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Actually, now you mention it, I wonder if that isn't the reason for the awkwardness I've been detecting in him. When he was Chancellor he showed a fair old talent for being elsewhere when the shit hit the fan; I can't, for example, remember him saying anything significant about Iraq in public, at least not after the extent of the fiasco became apparent. Now the buck really does stop with him and there's nowhere to hide. Although I did note him not riding in to support Harriet Harman at today's press conference: the first he knew about it was on Saturday evening - when the Mail On Sunday presumably called the Downing Street press office for a comment - and her involvement in the affair is a matter for her.

I have to admit, I never expected his premiership to be a continuation of Blair's. I expected it to be very different - the two of them are very different politicians - but as you say, it's been hard to see what's changed.

It's true the lost CDs were not your distant relative's personal fault. Gordon's involvement in this thing...well, I don't know; as brisingamen and I were saying, it seems peculiar that such large amounts of money weren't noticed by somebody. It seems even more peculiar that nobody would mention it to the Prime Minister. But anyway, I think it all comes down to accountability. The government demands it from other spheres. The BBC for instance. Greg Dyke didn't actually write and broadcast the Gilligan `sexed-up' news item, but he was forced to step down. If we expect that level of accountability from our public servants, we have to expect it from all our public servants.

And trust me, you don't want to be locked in a room with John Reid. I did it once. It was a large room and there were lots of other people there, and he was still one of the scariest men I've ever encountered.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-27 23:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Now thats what I find interesting. A lot of people, who generally seem to be of a more (If you'll excuse the label and yes it is a bit broad) frame of mind, seem to think that Blair and Brown are different and would do things differently.

Whereas I, (going through my rebellious teenager stage 10-15 years later than everyone else), bearing also in mind that I have not paid close attention to the minutiae of Brown and Blair, do not see any difference worth mentioning. Sure, they have different hairstyles and different oratorical styles. But they both appear to believe in the market, in truth, justice and the american way, in old ladies cycling to Sunday church services, and in banging up people they don't like.


As for John Reid, it would be fun. I've personally disliked him ever since I heard him browbeat a poor female radio presenter 2 years ago. Reid was lying/ covering up teh truth/ dissimulating, and he went on the offensive when she tried to ask questions to reveal the lies etc. I got a bit angry. And I'm even angrier nowadays.

By the way, do you know who Reid is working for now? Blunkett is shilling for ID card companies. Who is Reid getting his money from?
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-27 23:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Whoops, I meant "more liberal frame of mind".
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-27 23:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I did expect a Brown Prime Ministership to be different. More austere, more socially responsible, than Blair's. Less showbiz, less Moral Conscience Of The Free World, just dour son`o'the manse Scottish politics. But it's been hard to tell what his prime ministership is like; he's limped from crisis to crisis almost from day one and the bombers in London and at Glasgow Airport.

I've seen Reid browbeat interviewers as well, although as he worked his way through the enormous number of offices of state that appear on his CV, he seemed to rein in some of his anger. When I encountered him he was Defence Minster and he was properly scary in a completely innocuous MoD press conference. I don't know what he's doing now, and I'm almost frightened to check. I know he's Chairman of Celtic.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-27 19:59 (UTC)
Subject: and regarding the donations
The reason I have a PhD in cyniscism from the University of Life is precisly because this sort of thing is entirely normal and to be expected. Ok, here in Britain things are actually quite good on the corruption front, but there is a great deal going on that we just don't know about.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-27 21:07 (UTC)
Subject: Re: and regarding the donations
"here in Britain things are actually quite good on the corruption front"

Yeah, I was looking for my cue to interpose the observation that, by the standards of political corruption here in the US, these latest revelations are astonishingly small beer.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-27 22:09 (UTC)
Subject: Re: and regarding the donations
That's true. What would six hundred grand buy in the US? A full tank on Hillary's campaign jet? We're such a parochial little country...
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-27 23:05 (UTC)
Subject: Re: and regarding the donations
Aye, but one reason for that is laid out in Christopher Broomyre's novel "Quite ugly one morning". To get things done, you have a network of cronies, pals, directorships, donate money to the right causes, appoint the "right" people to your board, speak to the "right" people etc. THe USA is still stuck in the 19th century. We've gone beyond that. The real corruption is that uncovered by Private eye every fortnight, to do with cost overuns, giving work to friends in non-competitive situations etc etc. The USA actually had some vestiges of a proper balance of power. The UK has never had such a thing.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-27 23:07 (UTC)
Subject: Re: and regarding the donations
Joking aside, the "financial irregularity", if anyone thought it worth exposing at all, would soon be buried by the media. (At least, if Republican. If Democrat, it'd be endlessly fulminated about by fuckwits like Bill O'Liarly and Rush Bumlaugh, even if immediately proven to be a false story.) The populace seems not to care less about political corruption, or to regard it with a grin as a sort of lovable laddish incorrigibility.

In the last two presidential elections it is a known fact that the results in at least one major key state were rigged (Florida in '00, Ohio in '04), and not only are the people primarily responsible for the rigging identifiable but those identities are nationally known, yet absolutely nothing has been done about it.

The Americans seem to have forgotten that democracy is something that needs to be maintained -- that a democracy in a state of disrepair is in fact not a democracy at all.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-27 23:07 (UTC)
Subject: Re: and regarding the donations
From what I've read about lawyer and drug and energy company friendly bills in Congress and teh Senate, all it costs is a few million dollars in teh right places, and you can make a billion dollars profit. Thats pretty damn cheap. You should write to your representatives complaining that they sell themselves cheaply, and they should jack up their prices.
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