Monday, October 02, 2006

A guest posting: Anarcho's Cap

Anarcho's Cap was one of our first commenters, and he's kindly submitted a post. Here it is!

Labour has one serious candidate - but it also seems to have a death wish

The bullying Reid was yesterday unleashed on a hogtied Brown to warn of the dangers of straying from the Blairite path

'Rottweiler Warning," the headline flashed up on Sky News, just as John Reid stopped speaking. It turned out to be a dog-eat-child story, not the home secretary at all. One delegate was heard to hiss loudly: "I'd vote for Cameron if Reid won the leadership. I'd rather have the nice Tory than the nasty one."

Fair enough, however I suspect there are probably a few older Tories who would vote for Reid rather than Cameron. Also, one delegate? Anecdotes do not an argument make…

This must have been one of the most unpleasantly jingoistic, rightwing rabble-rousers a Labour conference has heard in quite a few years. This was Britishness as from the Millwall terraces. "No no-go areas," he boomed: "We will go where we please, we will discuss what we like."

So we should encourage the segregation of Muslims by not going there? Politicians should stay out of areas where people don’t like them? Much as I dislike John Reid – at least he’s got the guts to say what he thinks, and go into these areas to say it. All that cock Brown can do is waffle on about “Britishness, shared values, security” – which is fuck all use when someone is trying to blow you up.

No fool, he's hard to fault on particulars: the poison is all in the sentiment and tone. How proudly he gloated that Cameron had found his policies too extreme. Indeed, if he was one of Cameron's team, that speech would have got him fired.
Reformed old communists have this in common: when they swing the other way, they always go that bit too far. They never take off their combat kit: the progressive social democratic gene is alien to their psyche. So there was nothing progressive about his performance yesterday.

I’m sorry Polly, this makes no sense, I know it’s hard to force out 1500 words of drivel a week, but at least try an make it lucid. Also, Social Democratic Gene, does that mean we could screen you lot and remove you from the gene pool?
Roy Hattersley will not be alone: his threat to shoot himself if Reid becomes leader could turn into a mass die-in of Labour supporters.
Oh, shame.

But there was Tessa Jowell, first up within seconds to tell the BBC what a wonderful speech it was. Indeed, rhetorically it was a barn-stormer. So is this it, the last throw of the shrinking group of Blairites? Is this war, after all? No, take a deep breath. It probably isn't quite.
But it is a sign of something almost as depressing. I lost count of the number of times Reid used the word "leadership" in his tough, tough, tough speech, as he put his marker down to be first among possible challengers. So far it's just a threatening gesture from the bruiser lurking in the alleyway. It smacks of both bullying and cowardice: without the bottle for a fight, he will hang about flashing that stiletto under his coat, hoping Gordon trips up all by himself during the next excruciating months of uncertainty. Only then might Reid, more hyena than rottweiler, scavenge up his 44 nominations from MPs, only making a move if he senses a smell of death around the Brown camp.

No, the cowardice and lack of bottle for a fight is Brown’s, his smug statements that he’d “welcome a contest”. No he fucking won’t. He expected this conference to be his coronation (as did you) and now you’re throwing your toys out of the pram because it isn’t. He’s terrified of a straight fight, because he’s realising his support isn’t as solid as it might have been. Tony clearly wants someone else. Also, if Reid loses to Brown that will be the end of his political career, Brown will see to that, and that takes courage to take that kind of political risk. So you’re wrong, in so many ways you think bitch.

What will be the effect of this lurking? It is designed to make sure Gordon Brown strays not one step from the Blairite straight and narrow: at home on the NHS and public-service reform, abroad on the war and Bush. He will make this interregnum yet more needlessly fraught, flashing that glint of a knife whenever Brown tries to shape his own style and agenda.

Well, if Reid’s trying to stop Brown doing something mental he has my support. God knows what he’s planning.

If they hobble him sufficiently, he may flounder, and Reid can step up. Or some anyone-but-Reid challenger might charge through the middle, anything better than the old attack dog himself. Who knows? It will spawn enough conspiracy theories to keep the media happy and the voters bored and angry - deeply damaging to Labour.

I think the real reason voters are bored and angry is the lack of a contest not the potential for one. The anger stems mostly from rising taxes, worsening services and the sheer incompetence of the government?

Waffle about focus groups on Newsnight, reid came out better… "Reid is seen as very aggressive. Scots, old, bald, and he's hardly known. Brown has undoubtedly suffered a bit in recent weeks - but these ordinary women voters hadn't noticed the coup. He has to be more cheerful, but he has enduring strengths with them."
Ordinary women voters, well that’s it all sewn up for Brown then, 50% of the population – oh hang on, that’s not a majority. Also, Brown is not popular (well we know you like him, Pol), most people see him as dour and unfriendly, and no amount of contrived interviews about his children will change that.

She is as critical too of the recent Guardian poll that assessed Brown and Cameron's personality qualities. "It's pretty meaningless to ask about a list of attributes. Most of these have nothing to do with how people actually vote for a prime minister. It's not an application to be a charming receptionist. Cameron may come out as nicer, but this isn't about niceness. If it was, Neil Kinnock would have beaten Mrs Thatcher easily. Mrs Thatcher was never seen as 'nice', but she was admired and respected. Gordon Brown need not be rattled by this stuff. Concentrate on his strengths. Some of this polling seems designed to trip him up."

Of course, the Brown = Thatcher thing has a flaw, a lot of people genuinely liked what Mrs Thatcher did, up until the poll tax. Brown is a high taxing tinkerer who just won’t fuck off.

But what if he can't win? What if, in this celeb-struck era, the smiles do matter more than a strong economy? Even Brown admirers are nervy, alarmed by the polls since the failed coup. "Stable but fragile," a close Brown minister described the situation, no better than that.

Strong economy? Slowing growth, pitiful productivity growth, increasing tax burden, debt laden consumers, increasing inflation and a housing bubble looking like it could burst? That’s a strong economy, to you on your £140k it might be, but not to the rest of us.

As for the failed coup, given Brown organised it, he deserves to get hurt by it, Assuming Tom Watson 1500 mile round trip the day before was not just to say hi to Gordon and the bairn?

There is a fatalism, bordering on a death wish, hanging over some in the party right now. Just when new ideas and new faces are needed - and there are plenty around - everything hangs in suspended animation, delaying a contest that never comes, waiting for a hustings that never happens. Just when the probable next leader needs freedom to step out and show what he can do, he is kept gagged and hogtied until Blair finally sets him free.

Gagged and hogtied, oh, you’d like that wouldn’t you Polly, getting a bit rough with Gordon, a little Kinky, he could take his eye out and.... hmmm

Meanwhile, the Tories gain a stronger foothold: their conference will give them another lift. Labour's navel-gazing must weary voters beyond endurance. Is this a party almost willing itself to fail?

Please yes, please, please, please

Here they are, with only one serious candidate - yet bent on destroying his authority and reputation every day that goes by. If enough people really think that he is not a winner, then dump him now and choose someone else fast. Get it over. But if it is to be him, get behind him now. Build him up, don't pull him down. Much more of this and they will be staring certain and well-deserved defeat in the face.

To be honest I don’t care. If they had any real respect for the electorate they would have an election shortly after the new leader is appointed. Fat chance. The choice is pretty uninteresting. Reid will take 100% of our liberty and 90% of our income, Brown will take 100% of our income, and 90% of our liberty. The choice is like being asked which bit of dog-shit you’d like for your dinner.


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