Friday, October 03, 2008 

Reshuffling towards oblivion.

It's difficult to overstate just how desperate the cabinet reshuffle shows Gordon Brown as being. Desperate both to win the next election and desperate also to attempt to show that there really isn't any difference of opinion any longer between the Blairites and the Brownites. Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but the rehabilitation of Peter Mandelson, who for over a decade could not stand the sight of Brown, let alone work with him, was not the way to go about it.

This is not because Mandelson is
the uber-Blairite, that he was one of a whole bevy of habitual liars, that he, more than Alastair Campbell, helped to establish the current political culture of spin that has so demeaned politics in the eye of the public, but because he is simply the wrong man at the wrong time. Very few dispute that Mandelson as a minister was effective and good at what he did, whether he was at business, his old and new job, Northern Ireland or as European Commissioner, but there is one quote that more than ever suggests that this is not his moment. He, along with Blair, declared to the City that he and New Labour were "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich." Well, they did, while everyone else didn't, and now this is the man to spearhead Brown's new regulatory agenda. Jesus wept.

Brown's lack of new ideas could not be more summed up by this latest relaunch. It's almost as if it was 1997 again, just with Brown in Blair's position: we've got Derek Draper back advising, Alastair Campbell quite clearly helping out but doing so from the sidelines and Peter Mandelson, ennobled and in the cabinet. All we need is for Brown to bring back Lord Levy to glad-hand the business folk and it'll be as if we've gone back to the future. Nick Brown, the uber-Brownite to the Mandelson's uber-Blairite, is even back as chief whip. The problem with it is obvious: 1997 is long gone, and so are the benign circumstances of that year.

The counter to that argument has been the setting-up of the economic council, half-stuffed with somewhat sympathetic businessmen, but still those that got us into this mess, and the other half with the, err, politicians that got us into this mess. The disastrous appointment of Digby "sod the workers" Jones as the minister for trade, now to be the council's ambassador, hardly inspires confidence that this will be anything more than a talking shop where the most limited possible re-regulation will be rubber-stamped, all while sticking two fingers up at the PLP, just as Jones's initial appointment did.

If that wasn't rewarding failure enough, then Margaret Beckett's appointment as minister of state for housing is almost tragicomedy. Having presided over the cocking up of the CAP payments to farmers while head of DEFRA, whilst being easily the worst foreign secretary of Labour's reign, she will doubtless have much to offer just as the repossessions spiral out of control. John Hutton, who was reprising Mandelson's filthy rich line earlier in the year moves to defence, while Des Browne returns to the backbenches, quite possibly because like Ruth Kelly he intends to vote against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill when it comes back before the house. Kelly incidentally is standing down as an MP as well, probably because she knows full well the Tories will be taking her seat in any event.

Jon Cruddas, meanwhile, heavily tipped to take the housing job, apparently declined because Gordon was unwilling to countenance the council house building programme which Cruddas believes necessary. Downing Street has denied he was offered any job whatsoever, which ought to tell its own story.

Whilst the day's manoeuvrings do show just how desperate Brown is, they also prove that for now the attempts to overthrow him have been delayed, if not put entirely on ice. Whether it was because he did enough at the Labour conference or because of the financial meltdown earlier this week, which even prompted the Conservatives to come over all bi-partisan, is less clear. If the rumours that Hazel Blears and especially the female ministers in the cabinet were the ones moving to wield the knife, they still all remain except for Kelly, but have been undeniably weakened. The next big challenge is the Glenrothes by-election, which few still believe that Labour can hold. It may well come down to how big the defeat is that decides whether the move is back on, but no one can claim the Brown is anything other than further personally weakened by having to bring the old team back together.

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Friday, June 29, 2007 

Cabinet resnore part 2.

There's only thought which comes to mind when examining Brown's full reshuffle. Christ, if this is a government of all talents, then what would a government of no talents look like?

Let's begin with the elevation of a true cunt of capitalism, "Sir" Digby Jones, former head of the Confederation of British Industry, as well as a former director of
iSoft, the company which has so comprehensively failed to deliver the National Programme for IT either on time or on budget. It's not his fault though, and neither should he have known about the accounting irregularities at the company, because "there is a limit to what independent directors can know." He'd also rather that no one had ever found out about those problems in the first place: he dispatched legal letters to the Grauniad suggesting that the paper's enquiries were damaging the company. More recently, despite being the supposed skills envoy, he proposed the rewriting of the dictionary definition of a McJob, because McDonalds argue that err, a McJob isn't a McJob and it's also "insulting". Certainly a noble cause.

Still, he'll doubtless be a revelation as trade minister. According to the BBC:

He said Labour would "increasingly" become less "in thrall" of the unions, who he hoped would "get into a 21st century agenda".

As in roll over and die. Those expecting even the slightest improvement of the relationship between the government and the workers can therefore go hang.

Next up we have Lord Stevens, who's going to become Brown's adviser on international security matters.
Judging by his fine body of work as a News of the Screws columnist, this will mostly involve blaming the Muslims and saying they've got to sort it out rather than anyone else. David Davis seems to be highly optimistic in suggesting that his appointment will somehow result in a "more measured" response.

Of the other "outside" appointments, two Liberal Democrats have ignored Campbell's eventual decision to deny any of his actual MPs joining the cabinet, with Baroness Neuberger (who?) advising on volunteering (why?) and Lord Lester giving his thoughts on constitutional reform. Mark Malloch Brown has been talked up as an Iraq-war critic,
and the Scum has denounced him as anti-American, but as his profile on the Grauniad notes, he counted such quite wonderful people as Paul Wolfowitz and Elliot Abrams as friends, even at the time as that other delightful personality John Bolton was condemning him. A surgeon you've never heard of, Prof Sir Ara Darzi, has become a health minister dealing with patient care, and another heavily titled military man, Admiral Sir Alan West, has become a Home Office minister for security.

The rest of the junior ministerial appointments have been delayed by the discovery of the car bombs, with only a few other jobs announced, but with
Jim Murphy, another execrable Blairite keeping his job, there seems to be little to get excited about. Jon Cruddas may additionally disappoint some people by apparently turning down a job, but he may well have more of an influence campaigning outside the ministerial tent rather than having to compromise inside it.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007 

Cabinet resnore.

Around the only real surprise appointment in Brown's new cabinet was Jacqui Smith as Home Secretary, which resulted in both the nation and hacks asking "who she"?

In line with the last three home secretaries, Smith is both a bruiser and a Blairite, coming from her previous job as chief whip, itself previously occupied by that other aggravating Blairite, Hilary Armstrong. Her only real interaction with the public at large has been on Question Time, where she proved herself just as bad as her predecessor and fellow minister Hazel Blears at actually answering questions, instead of just spouting New Labour rhetoric. Her last appearance was noted for her egregious support of the Iraq war, using both the worthless if we hadn't acted Saddam would still be in power argument, followed up by the chestnut about everyone believing that Iraq had WMD, despite Robin Cook for one mentioning in his resignation speech that he didn't believe Iraq had WMD which was actually usable, as well as others such as Scott Ritter, a former weapons inspector who said that Iraq had been effectively disarmed. Doubtless she'll be expected to follow the hard line set out by Blunkett, Clarke and Reid, appeasing the Sun first and thinking about the consequences second, although with the creation of the Ministry of Justice, handed over to Jack Straw, she'll have a lot less to do than they did.

Speaking of Jack Straw, a former Blair ally who saw the way the wind was blowing and swiftly ingratiated himself with Brown, his appointment is despite his blatant lies over what he and the government knew about extraordinary rendition, denying that the government had been involved in the programme whatsoever, something subsequently proven by the EU report into rendition as completely untrue.

Keeping with liars and links with extraordinary rendition, Geoff Hoon has been made chief whip, despite his execrable performance both at the Hutton inquiry, which proved that while he was defence minister the MoD left David Kelly out to dry, contributing to his subsequent taking of his own life, and when he gave evidence to the EU investigation into rendition, which subsequently described him as distinctly unhelpful and evasive. More recently he gave an interview to the Grauniad which was notable only for its ignorance and belated conclusion that he and the rest of the government ministers had no influence over US policy on Iraq whatsoever. It only took them 4 years to admit it.

The Tory turncoat Shaun Woodward has been made Northern Ireland secretary, which should be a nice reward for 6 years of complete loyalty to the Blair regime. Hazel Blears, quite possibly the worst politician to ever hold a government post of any sort, despite her well-deserved drubbing in the Labour deputy leadership election, moves from party chair to communities and local government secretary, which must have mayors and councillors across the country groaning/reaching for the cyanide pills. Everyone's favourite member of Opus Dei, Ruth Kelly, moves from that job to transport secretary, where her religious beliefs shouldn't interfere too much, at least compared to when she was disgracefully given the equality brief.

For some reason known only to Brown, Tessa "I've never met my husband" Jowell, despite being removed from the culture secretary job, keeps her role in cocking up and increasing the cost of the Olympics, where she'll hopefully be more inquisitive about the figures involved than she was with the paying off and taking out of mortgages on her home.

About the only really welcome addition was John Denham's return from the wilderness after he resigned over Iraq, no doubt frozen out by Blair for daring to disagree with him in such a manner. He becomes secretary of state for the new department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, when he would have been much better suited to be either home secretary or justice minister, considering his well-respected chairing of the home affairs committee. As expected, Brown promoted the most obsequious hangers-on/friends of his, Ed Miliband the new Duchy of Lancaster, Nick Brown becoming deputy chief whip and minister for the north, Ed Balls to schools, Douglas Alexander taking over from Hilary Benn at international development, with Alastair Darling the new chancellor, while Des Browne stays defence secretary.

Despite the spin about Brown's government being one of all talents, so far only that wonderfully successful businessman "Sir" Alan Sugar has been appointed as "business adviser", which the Scum has already capitalised on with its quite brilliant witty take on the cabinet appointments, with Brown saying "you're hired!". I wonder how long it took them to think that one up?

Like yesterday, the whole thing was a predictable let down, which has left the BBC sexing it up by screaming "biggest cabinet change since second world war!" and "surprise changes!". Some of the Blairite deadwood might have been removed, but some has inexplicably escaped the chop, probably only not to cause immediate ructions between the warring factions.

As for that invisible member of the cabinet, the Sun has already told Brown what his immediate priority should be. Schools? The NHS? Pensions? Iraq? Immigration? Housing? Err, no.

In the first days of his Premiership, Gordon Brown must decide how to deal with the controversial treaty.

How so?

And if the new Prime Minister means what he says, he will trust the British people he so admires.

In a referendum on Britain’s future role in Europe.

Ah yes, with the people reliably informed by the nation's favourite and most truthful newspaper. Heel, Gordon!

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