Thursday, September 04, 2008 

Lance Price and the safety elephant.

Meanwhile, over on CiF we've been treated to the comedy stylings of ex-spin doctor Lance Price, riffing on Charles Clarke:

Gordon Brown and his team have a bigger fight on their hands than they seem to realise. They cannot ignore Charles Clarke. He's a heavyweight if ever there was one.

I would at this point say in more ways than one. However, I'm unsure whether this is Price making that self-same joke and me missing it, or he confusing being morbidly obese with Clarke's complete lack of any support whatsoever.

What we are seeing is the stock response to an ex-minister who steps out of line. Brown's allies are dismissing Charles Clarke as embittered; a failure who offers no alternative solutions and is only damaging the party he claims to want to help.

But, err, he is offering no alternative solutions whatsoever. In both his interviews and in his New Statesman article he doesn't so much as mention one policy which Brown ought to institute or change, at least not directly, if we count his disapproval of Trident renewal. He undoubtedly is embittered, as he was after his defenestration by Blair also; it's just that he hates Brown a lot more than he hates Blair. All he's doing is damaging the party, reopening the wounds of early summer whilst not saying what the government should be doing to correct its course outside of the vague platitudes of stronger leadership etc. That instead has been left to Stephen Byers, who rather more constructively suggested that low-paid workers such as cleaners and catering staff should get above inflation pay increases by cutting the raises for senior executives.

If Clarke and what he represents can't be squashed, can it be squared? It may be too late by now, but Charles Clarke himself was eminently squareable for a very long time. He would have willingly returned to government or to a powerful party position in which his implicit claim to be able to chart a new and successful political direction for Labour could have been put to the test.

Except there are plenty of suggestions that Brown did offer Clarke a job or jobs, all of which he turned down. He's preferred to become the "maverick" outside the tent pissing in rather than the opposite, even when he's been fundamentally contradictory, having told Brown to (rightly) drop 42 day detention without charge for "terrorist suspects" when he himself helmed the battle to get 90 days on the statute book. His apparent feelings then against such illiberality didn't stop him from defending Blair.

Brown has been seriously considering offering a senior job to Alan Milburn, another ex-minister who shares Clarke's analysis. Only the chancellorship would do. If the offer is made and Milburn accepts we will know that the prime minister does intend to square his critics if he possibly can. The prospects are not good, however. The last time the two men tried to work together, in the run up to the 2005 election, it just ended in more acrimony.

Could that possibly be because Milburn's stewardship of the Labour campaign was widely regarded as disastrous, with Brown himself having to come in to save to day from the guy who came up with the brilliant slogan "forward, not back"? A long time ago it was, but most felt that it was through the implicit if not stated sentiment that if you voted Blair you would in fact get Brown, a soundbite which the Tories backed off of because it was actually something most were partial to, that helped towards the 60-plus majority. Milburn and Clarke had nothing to offer then and they have even less to offer now.

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Friday, January 26, 2007 

Re-evaulating Dacre's Cudlipp.

The more thought I give to it, the more I think my response to Dacre's Cudlipp rant was far too fair. Although I was harsh on his claim that the BBC is the most powerful media organisation in the world, it ought to be called for what it is: a bare-faced lie. His speech (PDF) was littered with such brain-addled distortions, ignoring his own role in editing one of the most hate-filled newspapers in the country.

To cover one of his points I missed out, it's true that the Mail deserves to be praised for its naming of the men alleged to be guilty of the murder of Stephen Lawrence -- yet you also have to wonder whether by doing so the men will now never be brought to justice. Their lives are continuing, while Lawrence's was taken from him in a vicious racist attack.

The more you read into it the more you in fact start to realise that this is actually Dacre excusing himself and his own paper's coverage on the controversial issues of the day by concentrating all his own venom onto the BBC for doing its best to report the same things as impartially as it possibly can, for not furthering commenting and moralising, which is the Mail's first instinct. He genuinely believes that his values, the conservatism which his paper promotes and that his commentators, such as Richard Littlejohn and Melanie Philips howl about, are the ones most shared throughout the country. To realise just how distorted and inflammatory some of the Mail's reports are, you just have to read this exemplary post, along with many others on Five Chinese Crackers, who does a superlative if lonely job of taking them apart.

It's also coming to something when an ex-New Labour spin doctor actually *shock* tells the truth and rips the Mail apart. Lance Price's response to Dacre's lecture is well worth a read. If only he and his fellow apparatchiks had followed a similar policy of taming the Daily Hate tiger when they were actually in Downing Street.

Update: Newsnight tonight is having a snigger about Dacre's speech, before going on to debate the issue between Martin Bell and Richard D North, which obviously proves just how biased the BBC is.

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