Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Bluff-Goons

Update: Channel4 took soundings from the different blogosphere perspectives: 'too late to make a difference', 'a fantastic political farce' and 'damaging' is what they say.

Hmmm, more cloak and daggers.


So Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt have caused fresh questions to be raised about the leadership of the Labour party by circulating a letter trying to draw out any plotters who are undermining Gordon Brown's credibility from within into the public and mount a proper challenge.

These kind of political shenanigans really excite the people inside the bubble because it is all a game of bluff and double-bluff - looking at the government names who have committed themselves one way or the other it is all just a case of as you were: the same old discontents are discontented, the pawns do the work for their masters, the ones who might are still holding their cards close to their chest and in the end nothing happens because nobody is prepared to put the knife into the tyrrant.

What this tells us is that this letter is a gambit stemming from Gordon Brown himself (though probably with the connivance of Peter Mandelson) and that it is his only tool for reasserting his dominance over the party.

It shows he is actually the best man to lead the PLP because he is the most calculating, but also that he emerges from a very weak batch of contenders who will tear themselves apart as soon as they find themselves on the oppposition benches again.

It also tells us that this is how Labour intends to run their election campaign, by concentrating on themselves, all the while repeating the mantra that they are 'getting on with the job'.

The fact that this is going on at all says that all of the names who are regularly bandied about have missed the boat. What we are watching is like the last days of the Major government with different groups saying different things according to who the audience is. The air is ripe with conspiracy and corruption... or rip with something.

This is a vital period for UK politics. It is a turning point. In one sense we will see the emergence of the next but one power group as the old king finally has his grip removed, and indeed this letter has to be seen in terms of the pretenders jostling for position. But in another more important sense because the route to power dictates the course in which it may be taken once the throne is reached we are also watching what has the potential to happen a generation hence.

From the outside, while watching Labour go at it while Cameron's cheshire grin grows all the wider by the minute and his brow furrows with frustrated twitches of concern and disdain for the mess the hoi polloi are making of the office he fully expects to inherit, this is an ideal moment to strike your hammer blows for change as the coals glow hot.

While the government is tossing itself around and the opposition is telling everyone who is prepared to listen that it would put a steady hand on the tiller (without actually doing so), there is a once in a generational oppportunity to make a lasting impression.

It takes being in the right place and choosing the right moment to use the right words, but there is a chink in the establishment armour now as the phoney election is turning into a real election - there was only so long each side could keep up their pace while still holding anything in reserve and this final breath before the sprint may well catch the frontrunners gasping.

So today's letter retrieves the terms of the election as it was carefully set out by David Cameron earlier in the week and marks the final moment to remove Gordon Brown as Labour leader: it pitches a change in the merry dance of power.

And thus the battle lines are drawn: Labour is the indecisive leading the hesitant; Conservatives are the posh being pushed by the rich; LibDems are neither one nor the other and the others are something else entirely!

I would say that I'm relishing the next few months election campaigning as the drawing of blood will now be legitimised, but on the evidence of a failure of any side to land any potentially knock-out blows in the sparring bouts so far indicates to me the next government will be unable to make any fundamental changes and therefore that the struggle for authority will continue.

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