Monday, June 30, 2008

Labour Party living in “interesting times”.

Having been an intermittent reader of the Economist for about 15 years I was quite surprised at the tone of this weeks attack by Bagehot. Normally the Economist is measured in its condemnation of politicians, but this week it has gone to town on Gordon:

Part of the problem is—how to put it politely?—the prime minister's proclivity, under pressure, to be prudent with the truth. It isn't only his tricksiness with statistics, his fondness for misleading historical comparisons (for example, on inflation) and self-serving exaggeration (such as his wild rounding-up of poverty-reduction figures): all that is more or less routine, and passes unnoticed by most voters. Much more damaging have been his periodic assertions that black is white—as in his claim that Wendy Alexander, Labour's leader in the Scottish Parliament, had not urged a referendum on Scottish independence, despite her call to "bring it on", or his avowal that no inducements had been offered to Unionist and backbench Labour MPs this month in return for their votes on his counter-terrorism plans

We all expect politicians to be economical with the actuality and to paint events to suit themselves, we all do it on CV's and conversation with our friends and acquaintances, but Gordon has plumbed new depths. He no longer picks the good bits, he just makes them up and lies to us. He also never, ever answers a question now, he just makes banal statements as Bagehot points out:

Sadly (for him and Labour), Mr Brown has a bad habit even more damaging than saying impossible things: saying nothing at all, often at excruciating length. He sometimes seems to have accepted a dare never to answer an interviewer's question. Instead he responds to an imaginary softball—along the lines of "in what ways are the country's problems not your fault, and didn't it use to be worse?"

The online version is subscription but I'm sure that with a bit of effort you could dig out a copy somewhere, it is well worth the effort.

And this is bad news for those of us who like to see a humiliating defeat for Gordon at the next election. Whilst Bagehot's reflections may not be read by the average voter, or even 98% of voters, the will resonant in the Westminster village where Labour MP's are looking down the barrel of a an election massacre and the end of the gravy train. They will reckon if the deep think Bagehot is putting the knife in then what hope is there of Gordon ever turning public opinion (none IMHO) and that they may as well go down fighting with a new leader. It worked for the Tories, they will start to think, so why not us?

We could be in for fun summer and conference season as Labour works out if it is worth throwing the dice of a leadership change and finding someone who would be wiling to stand. John Major was a compromise candidate who was a safe pair of hands and was seen as being above the factions of the Tory party. Who could do that for Labour and would they be willing? I haven't got the poll data but I would be willing to be bet that Labour's standing now is a damned lower than the Tories at the end Maggies' term so would any of the bigger hitters be willing to sacrifice their career for the sake of the party?

As the Chinese would say, Labour is living in interesting times.

No comments: