Thursday, September 07, 2006

too little, too little

I'm no fan of Tony Blair, and quietly hopeful that Gordon Brown will be a more principled, progressive and patient Prime Minister, but events over the last few days don't really give me any satisfaction; it just seems patently absurd that we are witnessing the fallout of a twelve year feud which could surely have been avoided. Neither man emerges with much credit - Blair has been utterly discredited by his illegal actions abroad, and has there been a more mysterious politician than Gordon Brown? Not that I can recall; his conduct over the last five or six years has been astonishing, refraining in almost every instance to make his views heard on any major issue beside Europe and the economy. And yet his discomfort with his position and impatience to take the premiership has been palpable.

Looking back, it seems remarkable that Tony Blair has consented to so much clear disloyalty from Brown, and surely the great mistake was Blair's in not sacking him earlier. Equally, Blair's dogmatic refusal to share centre stage with the co-creater of the New Labour project has seemed at times an act of nothing more than hubris. How astonishing it is to note that the split between the Blair and Brown camps is fuelled by personal emnity rather than an ideological divide. How on earth have two such intelligent men not been able to resurrect a working relationship? And if that was impossible, how absurd that they have been tied together so completely. The whole relationship beggars belief. Worst of all is that (former) Labour party members by myself have had to watch the progress of our (former) party being utterly upstaged by the dynastic ambitions of two men.

Where do we go from here? The party is broadly united in its values with respect to domestic policies, with only market-based issues driving a real wedge, and should be able to articulate progressive ideas positively. We should be able to think beyond the Blair/Brown equation when thinking about alternative leaders, but even there we find it hard to think beyond the rivalry. No compelling alternatives present themselves, and it is hard not to wonder if one of the reasons for this is that the PM and Chancellor have so dominated the party as to block the progress of more youthful (or conversely, experienced) colleagues. There are plenty of interesting Labour MPs but they do not have the gravity of the likes of Robin Cook, Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Margaret Beckett and Peter Hain. Given the quality and experience of the politicians elected to power in '97 it's impossible not to include, looking back, that the Labour Party spent far too much time fetishising Blair. His contribution to that Labour victory was incalculable, but we had a whole range of experience from which to draw in that first term, and we/they didn't do enough to use that experience wisely. We did too little, too little, too little.

So, no conclusion. I dunno. I want to go back to voting Labour but I don't know if I can do it. I want Brown to be the leader but I don't like the way he's going about doing it. I feel enormously frustrated with Blair and it's getting worse by the day. I want to squash David Miliband. I want Robin Cook back. I want to turn back time. Oh well.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Can't see myself voting for Labour any time soon, to be honest.

Just sent you an email re The Art Of Noise, BTW.