Blogging is really a form of diary keeping, with the hope that others will drop in. It is in this spirit that I raise up a few golden oldies, just as a source of continued amusement. The excellent Charles Crawford has summarised fragrant Polly Toynbee’s via dolorosa during the Brown Terror. My favourite snippet is this:
“…as they stepped into No 10 yesterday, here was as decent and clever a team of ministers as ever graced the cabinet table. Two Milibands, Ed Balls, Jackie Smith, Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson, Douglas Alexander, Peter Hain and Hilary Benn – with the likes of John Denham and Yvette Cooper in attendance – present a good front. It’s certainly the most genuinely united government in living memory…”
“It’s all over for Brown and Labour. The abyss awaits. As long as he remains leader, there is nothing that wretched Labour candidates can plausibly say on the doorstep at next month’s European elections. They are struck dumb. Why should people vote for them? The horse manure bought on expenses is garnish for a decomposing government. The heart of the matter is the economy, and Brown’s responsibility for the bubble years. He personally is to blame for Labour’s failure to ensure that ordinary people on median incomes and poor people at the bottom received a bigger share in national growth: it turns out that they fell back and only the wealthy prospered. Labour made the rich richer and the poor poorer: growth for the few, not the many.
That is a failure so fundamental to Labour’s purpose that the party can’t go into the next election led by the man responsible. His other failings as leader pale beside this one monumental fact. While he is there, Labour cannot claim “fairness” or “social justice”, so what is left to say? What is Labour’s offer?
Gordon Brown has been tested and found in want of almost every attribute a leader needs….”
However, the prize is awarded to the strangely coiffured and remarkably unpleasant Sion Simon, briefly a junior minister, reproduced in full, from the time of the Labour conference of September 2007. Remember, this man was actually given a responsible job in a functioning democracy, albeit it was a self-obsessed sociopath (Brown) who gave it to him:
“Shortly there will be an election, in which Labour will increase its majority’
Let’s be clear: this is a mad one. You won’t have heard it anywhere else, but you can take it from me. At the age of 38, this is my 17th consecutive Labour Party conference, and I’ve never been to one quite like this.
It’s in the nature of collective hysteria that no single act can be adduced to prove its existence. But there is a fin de siecle, self-destructive, decadent craziness about Conference 2007. Somewhere in the wads of twenty somethings and thirtywouldbes jamming the chintzy Bournemouth bars long after they’re normally silent lurks the jitterbugging desperation of the Twenties before the Crash, Berlin between the wars, London as Imperial Glory died with its queen. The collective psyche of this group of individuals who’ve never had it so good has rarely been so uncertain.
This is not a columnar conceit. I do not really have a thesis; no point to prove. I can only tentatively explain this atmosphere. But nor am I wrong. This mood is as real as the grief in the church. I am simply reporting what is here.
Perhaps the magnitude of the moment we face is too great for us collectively to bear. Shortly there will be an election, in which Labour will increase its majority, and in so doing utterly shatter the glass paradigm of cyclical politics which has contained us for the century since 1906. This ought to herald another decade of strong, confident, consensual Labour government. Which will finally and irrevocably transform the nature of politics and civic life in Britain.
That is a frightening responsibility. The young princes who now stride the parade ground with the confidence born of aristocratic schooling can never be afraid. They never have been. Like latter day Pushkins drilled in the elite academy of Brownian blitzkrieg, they are bursting with their sense of destiny. It’s not the Milibands, the Ballses or the Burnhams who are unconsciously nervous. This is the moment for which they were created. They are ready.
But for the rest, the officer class as much as the rank and file, it’s a daunting inheritance. The decade to date has been a long march to sustain. Those who led it have changed and re-changed, been shuffled and sidelined, died and retired from the field. But we – the poor bloody soldiers – are still here. Our boots are fresh and our uniforms re-supplied. We are rested and invigorated. Morale, if it anywhere was, can only be high. Yet still it’s a decade since we have been home. As we prepare to strike out again from our camp, we don’t wonder which army will triumph, but begin to ask what we will do if this march never ends.
For, that, indeed, is what this madness is: it’s the hour that we see that the march never ends.
We’ve learned that we cannot be killed. And we’ve come to accept that we’ll never go home. But now is the light headed dance, the fretful mazurka, of an army that knows it can never arrive.”
Three and a half years on, it is a gift that keeps on giving.