Tuesday, January 11, 2005

clang! in steps clive!

Politics is vastly complex, and sometimes very simple. All the talk about Blair and Brown an the endless rounds of briefing against each other clearly fascinates a great many people, and - right now - is clearly posing a serious threat to party unity and the way in which people see Labour as a party of government. Brown wants to be prime minister. Blair's quite happy where he is. And Brown, apparently, will apparently no longer believe a single word the prime minister says. Leaving aside the fact that Brown finds Blair reprehensible not because he sanctioned the slaughtering of a hundred thousand Iraqis, but because he broke an eleven year old promise made in an Islington restaurant, one wonders quite why so many people so enjoy speculating over this 'feud'.

David Aaronovitch (who looked so thin on Question Time last week!) says there's a Shakespearean parallel there, but that comes as little surprise as old Shakey tended to have these things pretty much down pat. Much of it, he says, comes down to this curious culture of 'camps' in downing street circles, which is certainly true. But for all the waffle elsewhere, I'm confused that it took this long to find an article like today's sketch by Simon Hoggart, who, although off my christmas card list after recent activities, gets pretty much right to the heart of the matter.

"The point about the Brown-Blair problem is this, and it has nothing to do with a bad marriage. When they both came into parliament in 1983 and shared an office, Brown was very much the senior partner. He knew about economics, and - even more important - he knew about the Labour party, how it worked, who pulled the strings and levers. He knew where to find the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain.

Once he and Tony's plans had succeeded, he assumed that he would be the first of the pair to become leader. So when he learned in the Granita restaurant back in 1994 that he wasn't going to get the job, it came as a quite horrible surprise.

Imagine being the eldest son of a wealthy peer, and being told on the old man's death that not you but your younger brother was to inherit the title, house and land - and all because he looked better on TV! You would receive the consolation prize of being estate manager.

It's hard to comprehend just how enraged you would be, how embittered, how frantically anxious to find fault with almost everything your little brother did.

And if he had, perhaps, hinted that he might, all things being considered, possibly get just a tad bored with the job and hand it on to you, well, you could hardly wait for him to stick to his word and bugger off to perdition.

Gordon Brown feels deprived of his birthright, and he will never find peace until the day he gets it back."

Someone else apparently sick of all the murmerings and keen to get the facts straight and the house back in order is my fellow blogger Clive Soley, MP, who ended his last post with ominous warnings that

"I am getting angry about the manoeuvrings between the Blair/Brown camps. It is very demoralising to Party activists and just wipes the many good news stories off the front page. I predict a reaction at the next Parliamentary Labour Party meeting!"

Now I pick up my newspaper to see, on the front page, that

"Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were last night subjected to a "blistering" dressing down by Labour backbenchers furious that their renewed squabbling over the party leadership could jeopardise the government's hopes of a third term in office."

and that...

Last night's attack was led by Clive Soley, ex-chairman of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP), now its unofficial shop steward, in terms which some witnesses later described as "blistering" and "a gold-plated bollocking".

Although the quote, mystifyingly, does not appear on the online version of the story, Soley apparently told the PM and Brown

"Unless it stops I will start naming the briefers. Put it right and put it right fast". Yay! Go Clive. It's about time someone goes in there and starts clanging some heads together. Clang!

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