Category Archives: Gordon Brown

Let’s Play Consequences


The electorate is a sceptical lot. So far that has worked in favour of the Coalition. After all it has to be accepted by reasonable people that the budget deficit must be lowered as rapidly as possible and if the OBR tells us that there will be more people in employment  by the end of 2011 then who will gainsay them. Opposition doomsayers predicting a 1930’s style depression  for some years can be safely shrugged aside. ‘They would say that wouldn’t they’ being  a common reaction. However, today’s increase in the  unemployment figures may make a difference to all that. Whichever way you look at it these are grim figures. So far the Coalition has benefited from the Labour fiscal stimulus and the first economic upturns in world trade. But as the blessed Gordon has told us there has been no follow through internationally to a viable global economic growth stategy. The moment has been lost and the monetarists have had their day. Goodness! Might Gordon (blessed be his name)  have been right all along? 

So far the Tories have been continued to ride high in the opinion polls at around 40 percent , marginally higher than in the General Election  while the Lib Dems have incurred the  public wrath with 60 percent of their vote disappearing. As the recession grips this will change , although given the nature of Tory  support among the affluent it is likely that support will  remain in the 30’s. The Tory position relies on  self-engendered high levels of confidence and David Cameron’s exuberant leadership. It can be expected that he will lash himself to the mast as the storms break upon the ship of state but not all the crew will remain. Some will cower below deck while others will wash overboard. The storm reaches an early climax in May with local and assembly elections and the AV referendum.

It is not all cheer for Ed Milliband. He has sought to play a long game and to plead unpreparedness for an early tilt at power. Might it not be desirable to build an acceptable platform much earlier than he has supposed? Come on Ed, get on with it. I have always believed that there should be good odds for an early General Election, say June 2011. I notice that the smart money has shifted  to it with the odds shortening  from 20/1 to 4/1. There is still time for you to put your money on. 

And a word to the besieged Lib Dems. Jump now while you have the opportunity to do so. Labour could do a deal not to oppose Lib Dem MPs linking  loosely with Labour at least in those seats in the south where the Libs may still have a chance. After all if the ship is sinking who could blame you for wishing to save yourselves.

You might think that I am in advance of my self and you would be right. But judgement is crucial in politics as in life itself. For God’s sake jump, your country needs you.

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All Right on the Night?


The play has been extensively rehearsed. Not everything has been well executed. Observors have remarked that there has been too much playing to the gallery. Not all has been word perfect. But at  4pm on Saturday next all this comes to an end and all (if not all, many) eyes will turn to centre stage. Enter stage left our leader and prophet. And what will he say? We should know but we don’t.

The actor has the briefest of moments to catch our attention. We know the play but as lovers of this form of entertainment we remain open to its eternal attraction. We long for  a new interpretation, a new vision. Even at this moment we are distracted by other visions. I knew this player’s father. I get an image of a semi circular group of us lapping up something called historic inevitability. Karl Marx had a neat turn of phrase. I remember, ‘Man is responsible for his own destiny but not the circumstances in which he must find it.’  Or something like that. Our principal actor is now responsible for his fate and the blessed Gordon of beloved memory is no more.

And he says…Well, of course, I do not know what he will say. What he must demonstrate in a very few words is that he is a pathfinder. He must have a vision of an alternative Britain to the one the Coalition offers the voters. A vision true to the past, which takes account of the reasons which enabled the Coalition parties to grab power and  to the necessary changes that are occuring in British society and he must give us – the voters- hope for a better future.

I can offer no advice. It is too late for that. What I do know is that while this leading player must oppose, for it is the first duty of a Parliamentary Opposition to do so, he must also propose. What is the Big Idea? In an edeavour to distinguish themselves with the Labour Party electorate, the leading actors gave us parodies of their Big Concepts. One of these Milliband’s  gave us the concept of Back to the Future, we had the Party of the Working Class and  the Man of the North while Diane Abbott was content with The Past We Never Had. None of these will do for the real electorate.

Here is a warning. Fail this test and the game is up. Prepare well for it because if feet begin to shuffle this play is over and something more traditional takes its place. Of course, a good beginning is not everything. But the experienced actor senses the moment, an almost audible sigh of contentment grips the viewers, it is content, expectant and a magic has been woven linking audience with actor. Now is the hour of… Well go on finish it!

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No Labour Resting Place


In politics there are two things you should not vote for: standing still and moving backwards. The first of these seeming options rests on the assumption that the duty of the Opposition is to oppose – a necessary function –  and not to propose. I guess the electorate is  heartily tired of the obfuscation of all Labour politicians confronted with the straight question of how to deal with the deficit. What would you cut then ? And to reform. Does the NHS need reform and if so of what should a reform programme consist?  The second option is even worse. Going backwards to a golden age leads to nowhere. There was no golden age. Your father may have known Lloyd George but I doubt it. The 1983 Labour Manifesto stands as a stark warning. Described as ‘the longest suicide note in history’ it led an enthusiastic Labour Party to the brink of disaster. In retrospect we all adore Michael Foot. In my experience of him Michael had one speech and a very good one at that. The first time I heard it I was greatly moved, on the second occasion I clapped politely, and on all subsequent occasions I made for the exit. But like a good sermon it should not be lightly abandoned.

Reform is both necessary and, in the end, unpopular. But there is no alternative. Hard judgemnts have to be made; and, yes,  some people lose their jobs and retrain for others. Reform is inconvenient: few people want constant change. Stop the train, I want to get off. Gordon, of blessed memory, wanted to get off, the Parliamentary Party was fed up with the constant stream of reform bills, trade unionists just hated losing members and tea and crumpets in Downing Street. Let’s get rid of this man Blair who wins us all these elections and restate Labour values and policies. It’s Buggins turn. He has waited too long and no.10 is his by right of presence and ‘all who sail in her.’ Well, we know where this led the Labour Party.

What has this got to do with anything? Well there is this issue of the election of a new Labour Party leader. Who should we vote for? Choice is always a difficult matter BUT thank goodness there is choice on this occasion. My advice to a perplexed electorate is to choose the person who most wishes to commit him/herself to a rational reform programme and studiously refrain from voting for any candidate who makes you yearn for the past – the illusory golden past. Choose the candidate who will give the Labour enthusiast a hard time, will make you think hardest, who will lead you to new pastures.

Well cocky, you might say, if you are so clever dick, tell me  who is this person of steely resolve and visionary gifts? I’m so sorry. I  have listened, I have read, but alas I cannot tell you? Perhaps you, if you have been thinking about it, would kindly tell me how you are going to vote?

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Reading the Economic Runes


The economic runes become unreadable at moments of transition. Clearly the West has been moving away from a severe global downturn  but only after a massive world-wide financial intervention by European and US administrations and at at huge political and economic cost to  the participating countries. There is little appetite for more financial pump-priming, necessary though it may be, among  electorates, parties or governments. As at all times of transition there are good signs and bad: employment in Britain is rising, currencies are stronger, the cost of financing debt has fallen and the balance of payments is moving in our favour. However, these changes lack permanency for we are selling into stagnant markets and are busily destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs; consumer and business coinfidence has fallen steadily to be  suspended now  in no man’s land.

It cannot continue like this and although,  in economic management as in life, experience is not normally at the extremes, these coming  moments may be different. We cannot look to Obama and the United States for economic leadership for the President is running scared of the mid-term elections and Gordon Brown (of blessed memory) is no longer with us. In his place we have governmental pygmies and a painful and unconvincing contest for the leadership of the Labour Party which so far has served us ill.

The proving ground (I almost wrote killing ground!) comes upon us in  October with the pre-budget report. If, as I believe, the economic position will have worsened something (surely something!) must be done to steady our ship of State and to draw back from hara-kiri. There is a key role for the Opposition: it is a time to be clear and decisive about what must be cut and what saved and what more can be done internationally and nationally to prevent the drift into a decade of economic depression, and   a downward economic cycle. It is only when we have a clear political alternative  that we can find an economic one. Might this not be the time when an olive branch can be given to those glum Lib Dem members that occupy benches on the wrong side of the House and shouldn’t we be thinking of it NOW. It took the Coalition six days to cobble together a programme for Government. What can the progressive Left put together in ten weeks? Surely something a good deal better,  not just for Britain, but for the world’s trading community, can be fashioned from the ruins of the old?

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Come Back Gordon…


… all is forgiven. Well, not quite all. We miss you, the benighted of this land, for the world’s economy has faltered in your absence. To escape the economic consequences of the global financial crisis requires – has required – the world to stay and act  together in a vast concerted effort to move the advanced industrial countries out of economic danger together. There is  no one but you who could have done it. Your vast bullying presence, the sheer tenacity and determination you  can summon up, and your understanding of the technical issues and machinery of international institutions is what we need now. These exasperating qualities may be uniquely wrong for British politics at this time, but profoundly right for saving the world from prolonged economic depression in the future. 

Alas, it is too late now, and we must look to pygmies. In a pygmy society size is not considered a problem for every one is miniscule. H G Wells explored the advantages of a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Surely that must constitute an  advantage to all. But if my memory is right, the blind united to kill him. Move over Gordon, or else… As I recall it when last at Piccadilly Circus I did not see any pygmies although there may have been some at Whitehall!

You think I exagerate? Alarmist, I hear you mutter. This is an economic downturn like any other and we can predict a recovery just as in the good old days of the eighties and nineties. And what is more don’t take my word for it.  We had Sir Alan Budd,  who is sage in these matters, tell you so with tables. With tables, and charts, you say, that’s an advantage. By the way whatever happened to Alan Budd?  Surely he has not gone the way of John Stonehouse (who by the way I had lunch with a few days before he did his bunk and who certainly hid his intention from me). I detect a chill in the air – in August! Yes, in August it is a dangerous month. Just think of all the wars which came upon us in August. September 3,  is not of course August but you can give me this one. It all happened while Whitehall slept and country estates prepared for the shooting of grouse. Believe me it is a wicked month. This August there is a  presentiment, a ground swell that all is not well and that the Western world will sink back, if not into this famous double-dip recession, to a long period of stagnant growth, and with inflation to -boot. A slide into stagflation to use the jargon. Will Obama save us then? Will growth in the USA save us now as in the past? Unfortunately, Obama is human and there is a small matter of mid-term elections and the possibility of a one-term Presidency.

Boy George is a a man of firm conviction and detemination. He knows what he knows. Keynes pointed out to us that most of those who claim to be economic experts, and particulary those who seek to lead politically , are firmly in thrall to some discredited economist and economic theory. As he looks into his glass one sunny August evening, George will muse upon the nation’s fate as it quivers under his attentions, and he will say to himself, and anyone listening at the time, ‘The medicine is working although the patient be faint. Let’s have more of it.’

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