Wednesday 3 June 2009

No Tears for Blears

Guys, before you read this, I feel obliged to insist that however pissed off we are at our politicians, it's still hugely important to vote tomorrow. Meanwhile, though, is anyone else completely sodding disgusted with the filibustering going on down on the Westminster farm today?

In case you’ve been living in a bag eating candles, Hazel Blears and Jacqui Smith have just resigned, leaving us without two quite important cabinet ministers, with Blears giving a statement timed to do maximum damage to Brown just before Question Time today. 'Rebel' Labourites are calling for his resignation and they just might get it. Guardianistas are rubbing their hands and cackling armchair anarchy into their cappucinos whilst the government crumbles around them. Brilliant. Thanks, Hazel, that's absolutely what we needed to get us back to what's important in politics, like that grassroots unrest you keep talking about despite the fact that you wouldn't know community organisation if it jumped out of your tiny designer handbag and hit you on the head.

I'm not about to disagree with anyone who believes that Brown should be gone, and soon. Far from it. But this isn't a measured process of leadership challenge, it's not even a response to public pressure: it's a playground pile-on born of panic over the woeful expenses fiasco, and it is STUPID. It's stupid, it's so stupid and so childish and so far from what politics should be about that it even makes bits of Blair's government look good by comparison.

To explain what I mean, let's take by means of comparison another Labour resignation speech by another shamelessly goblinesque gingerite: Robin Cook. Here is the text of the speech; even as a 16-year-old with no faith in mainstream politics I remember being roused. The idea that politicians of principle could challenge their government so nobly and with such knife-twisting decorum, in protest at a military offensive which the people of Britain and the world were desperate to halt in its tracks, was exciting. It was magnificent.

It was magnificent and they went ahead and invaded Iraq anyway. They didn't listen to parliament, they didn't listen to two million people on the streets of London, they didn't listen to international opinion. They went ahead and did it anyway, to the cost of many thousands of Iraqi lives, hundreds of British lives, billions of pounds poured into the defence budget and a permanent soiling of this Labour party in government.

Labour 'rebellion' from the backbenches actually used to mean something, before it was stained with futility and disillusionment. Now, as Nick Clegg (the only person talking any sense today) declared at Question Time, 'The country doesn't have a government; it has a void'.

I'm not impressed by this 'rebellion'. I'm more impressed by the weary loyalty of Alan Johnson as he - please gods - prepares for potential leadership than I am by Blears' smirking, scruffy attempt to play rebel-without-a-cabinet-portfolio, even if she does have that very shiny motorbike. I don't think it's responsible to knock over the cabinet from within, not unless your prime minister has just declared martial law. Which Brown, for all his shambling clampdowns on Habeas Corpus, hasn't.

What depresses me is that this 'rebellion' is not a matter of principle for any of the ministers and MPs involved. It's a cowardly, schoolyard attempt to kick an unpopular prime minister when he's finally down, just like the weedier gang-running kids who yell 'we never liked him anyway!' when their school bully is dethroned, and it's come far, far too late. It's not about the politics: it's about their own jobs, a sorry attempt to cool down public and press indignation at an expenses scandal in which they are all culpable by attacking the man who, for better or worse, they chose to lead them (313 Labour MPs nominated Brown over the fantastic John McDonnell, with only 29 nominations, in 2007). I am disgusted with all of them. And what's worst of all is that they're probably doing the right thing, for the party and for the country - finally.

Sod this. I've already sent in my postal vote. I voted Lib Dem in Haringey, because they're the only party I have any respect for at all right now, since the turncoat bloody anti-science backstabbing technophobitch Greens came out against stem cell research. To hell with all of them and their terrible lying faces. I'm going to get mashed on some cheap cider and read Jean Rhys. Bye.


  1. It's lucky I'm not in the room with you, or I'd probably try to kiss you for this.

    The "comments from friends" were depressingly clear that Blears went this way /because Brown called her out over expenses/. Not over politics or principle, but because she did something hopelessly shitty with the public purse and her boss said it was unacceptable. I mean, he /should/ have just fired her, but getting off lightly is no excuse for being a shamelessly grasping backstabber.

  2. Ehilst Blears has been guilty of some improprietaries, I can't help but think that her and Smith are being scapegoated a bit... Brown did jump more harshly on Blears compared to many other ministers that had done worse, and I think she's feeling a little rightly pissed off at that.

    Westminster and the Labour cabinet need a good shake-up more than anything.

  3. *Waves bottle round head, with a lusty "hraaaarugug" of agreement.*

    I'm glad that they're gone, but, among other things, that BADGE was just vomitous: Hazel Blears assassinated by the coward Gordon Brown.

  4. Yes, Hazel Blears has shown herself for the greedy, vicious, smug, petty, self-serving, nasty-bit-of-work she really is. The only person looking like an idiot is her. I can't wait till she gets voted out.

  5. Laurie: Not everyone in the Greens supports that announcement, and it's rather controversial in-party that such an annoucement was made. I certainly don't support such stupid scaremongering.

  6. As far as I can see, the Green Party are against *embryonic* stem cell research, but not against stem cell research per se... I don't know enough about the science to say whether that negates the whole point of the exercise. If it doesn't, then I would say their policy is a good idea, as it will remove a complicating factor from the problem, and mean that more countries in europe are likely to support the research...?

  7. Thank you so much for reminding us what a principled resignation can look like. Robin Cook's resignation speech to the Commons was one of the most brilliant speeches that House has ever seen, right up there with all the most vaunted of Winston bloody Churchill's supposed greats. With fact after fact, and true, principled passion, he dismantled everything about the case for war, dissected it and demolished it.

    If Brown goes, whoever takes over really really needs to find a way to get back to the grassroots of the Labour Party, and get them to rejoin the Party! Then they might have a chance of persuading people that they mean something different from the Other Lot.

  8. phew, such a relief to read this. thanks.

  9. What on earth do you mean about the Greens? I mean, they don't support stem cell research. You do. So do I. Fair enough, but how does that make them turncoats or liars?

    Also, in the grand scheme of things, given that the Greens are clearly never going to get into power in their current form, but voting Green sends a message that you care about the climate change which is, really, much more important than any of our petty mortal concerns... maybe you could swallow your stem-cell pride? I'm going to.

  10. It's easy to have a shiny motorbike when you've got your snout in the trough.

  11. Greens are not technophobes as such, they currently hold 13/14 UK signatures supporting The Free Software Pact. Their policies on the whole do seem agreeable, assuming you ignore anything they say about animals, food, and environment, where any^W selected scientific evidence goes right out of the window.

    Lib Dems are not a bad choice either, although they really ought to be doing much better than they are, given the complete failure of the two dominant parties.

    A few days ago I learnt that SPGB are standing in London, and the ideological purity of that little party is so cute I will find it very hard to resist voting for them.

    Unfortunately, for my vote to have the largest influence on BNP not gaining a foothold in EU I need to vote for the smallest party that will get more votes than BNP. That is either Lib Dems or the Green party, depending on where you live. In London it is the Green party. A vote for a party smaller than BNP does not influence their chances of getting a seat. At all. So please don't vote for libertas, no2eu, christians, spgb, or any other small cuddly party.

  12. Factionalism and underhand deals are an inevitable consequence of the party political system, in which politicians are beholden to their leadership rather than their principles.
    The people have the power to change this, but given that they elected (with a massive majority) a government which took us into a massively unpopular war on what later proved to be completely unsafe evidence, I don`t have great faith that they will actually do so.
    Are general elections useful for anything but expressing the latest political fashions?
    In my opinion, for all this complaining about the politicians, we must take responsibility as the ones who allowed their election (desite knowing the kind of charectors they are). We most certainly should not re-elect any of the worst offenders. People need to take more interest and responsibiliy - leave party political allegiances in the past.

  13. What's with the anti-ginger sentiment, Penny.


  14. Thank you for the great article. I wish I had some insight to share at this point, but i'm just getting up for work still. Anyway, I can't help but wonder just how much of the recent events are election stunts, and how much of it is making a resignation on principle. I remember the resignation of Robin Cook, and I remember being surprised enough about it that it meant something. The recent resignations aren't really surprising at all... what I do find surprising is that all of a sudden the government is -now- in turmoil? what about when it was making unpopular decisions that have cost many lives and deprived people of their rights? where were all the good people in the back benches then? or the several years that followed? Well, there were a few, but not enough in my opinion.
    I'll stop rambling now...

  15. Under Blair men and women of principle and integrity were gradually erased, e.g., Mo Mowlam and the truly great stateman Robin Cook whose funeral Blair didn't have the decency to attend - he was "too busy" holidaying in Tuscany at the time. Men and women of honour were repeadetly passed over for promotion and advancement; instead of characters like Robin Cook and Mo Mowlem rising through the ranks we saw the ascendancy of politically and morally ambiguous figures like James Purnell and Hazel Blears, who we know now is a cowardly, spiteful bitch of the first order. That "Rockin' the Boat" badge! Any of you remember Blair's famous mugs emblazoned with cryptic messages which he used to carry out with him to greet newsmen in the street? Pathetic!

    But the real questions now have to be:

    Has the Labour Party any viable future?

    Can the Party in its current state survive at all?

    I for one am not sure any more.

  16. To be honest, I'm pretty offended that you would call Robin Cook 'another shamelessly goblinesque gingerite' and then admire his resignation speech. HIs personal life may have been a bit of a disaster but he had more political guile and commitment in his little finger than Hazel Blears did in her whole body.

    I assume, given your praise of his speech, it's not an attack on him as a man but on his physical apppearance. That's pretty disappointing Penny Red.

  17. argh that's not what I meant to do.
    Anon 8.27 is me.

  18. Err, I thought you were a socialist ? Backing Alan Johnson for leader ??

    Have you seen his voting record ?

    Voted strongly for introducing ID cards. votes, speeches
    Voted very strongly for introducing foundation hospitals. votes, speeches
    Voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees. votes, speeches
    Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws. votes, speeches
    Voted very strongly for the Iraq war. votes, speeches
    Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war. votes, speeches
    Voted very strongly for replacing Trident. votes, speeches

  19. Yeah, I had seen his voting record. He's a party-liner all the way. If I could choose a leader for the Labour party, it'd be McDonnell or Cruddas. But frankly I'm so damn depressed about this I'm prepared to accept anyone new, or would be if I were a party member, which yknow. I'm not.

    Liminereid: c'mon. Blears and Cook are both bloody weird-looking in quite similar ways, and it's worth mentioning. It didn't make Cook, rest him, any less of a principled politician, and it doesn't make Blears any more of a hypocrite.

    Also, I'm prejudiced because no matter how hard i try, gingers will never kiss me. :(.

  20. err Penny, what would be new? It would be the same policies . Im not even sure he could turn around the votes. Surely what is needed is a change in *policy* direction ?

    Otherwise what is the point ?

    Oh and the Lib Dems ? Not exactly socialist and if you're going to vote other than labour and in London then Jean Lambert is a very good left candidate .

  21. Oh and if you want someone new then why not go the whole way and vote Cameron !

    Its not about personalities or even ginger hair ffs, its about the policies and the impact that has on people. No good going on about ID cards etc if you say you would like Johnson.

  22. I'm not sure I've ever gone on about ID cards :)

  23. I"m Shocked, SHOCKED that politicians are engaging in such Machiavellian politics!

  24. Ok, my point though is id have expected you to be critical of the policies that I have highlighted that Johnson has backed. If you come out as supporting him as leader as he is *new* then how do you then criticise them? Unless you support those policies?

    My point is any change in the Labour Party has to be about policies, not just a new person with the same old ones.

    How would Johnson be any better if he is pursuing the same ones as Brown and Blair?

    How would you be any less fed up ?

  25. So what if they are weird looking? Or she has a tiny designer hand bag? it's irrelevant.
    Also your comment about Cook made it sound like you were attacking him when I think you intended to praise him. Just thought you were above taking potshots at politicians' appearances.
    Maybe I'm having a massive sense of humour failure but your comments on Blears' and Cook's personal appearance sounds like the kind of rubbish Amanda Platell would write.

  26. Johnson's also pro-choice, pro- gay rights, in favour of votes for 16 years olds, pro-environment and voted in favour of the freedom of information act. But you're right, if pushed I don't think he'll be much better. I just think he'll be a shoe-in for the Tories to make less of a cleanup at the next GE.

  27. Liminereid - sorry, I think you're mistaking me for someone who's above taking potshots at politician's appearances. I'm not. I think it's funny, as long as what I write is checked ever so carefully for racism, misogyny and homophobia, which it is.

    If you don't think it's funny, it doesn't mean you're lacking a sense of humour, I hate that argument - maybe it just means that you're a bit more mature than me!

  28. I'm sorry to hear about your bad experiences with ginger people. They are indeed hard to get, but are awesome once you do. Keep trying, it's worth it in the end!

  29. Penny

    I don't want to see the Tories in, I lived under them and *do* know they are worse. But to not use this crisis in the Labour Party to debate the policies rather than the personalities is a missed opportunity.

    Quite a few New labour MPs voted the right way on the issues you raised, but we do need to fight for more left wing policies . Ones that would engage the electorate.

    New labour is more supportive of big business than working class people, ignores the unions but sucks up to the bankers. Will Johnson change that?

    In terms of inequality , he voted for top up fees. Now I don't know about you, but I was the first person in my family to get a degree. My mum was a hairdresser and my dad a painter and decorator and we lived in a council flat. I didnt know people who went to university. I would not have been able to go if I hadn't got a grant. I would not have gone now as I would have been scared of debt. Where is the opportunity in that? So for that amongst many other reasons I don't see Johnson as new, rather next in line from Thatcher via Blair and Brown.

    If Johnson is leader Labour will still lose .

    Labour won't win back votes unless it changes direction and a new face with the same old policies won't achieve that.

  30. So...
    no racism, sexism, mysogyny, homophobia.

    but it's all right to diss ginger haired people - like we don't get enough shit all through our lives for it.

  31. Appearance isn't irrelevant. It's highly possible that if Cook had been as good looking as Blair he might have run for leader in 1994, he might've won and things would've been very different (or possibly not so different, who knows).

    I quite like Hazel Blears. She's certainly more of a lefty than Nick Clegg - assuming leftiness is still in some way related to the redistribution of wealth and power.

    For example, tax credits are Labour's major redistributive measure and the Lib Dems have pledged to cut (severely reduce) them.

    Blears' knife-twisting resignation is primarily Brown's fault. He should either have backed her or sacked her. As he often has, he did neither one thing or the other and made things worse that they would've been had he taken either decision.

  32. When is Penny Red not Penny Red... when it hates red-heads!

  33. Can you run the bit about the tattoo past me again? What if you'd been born near Sudbury Town?

    I was born in the Queen Mother's Hospital, so I think I can be excused not incorporating that into any tattoo I may plan on having.

  34. PS The item about Greens being anti-technology because of not liking GM stuff? Not at ALL biased ...

  35. And the Green Party's views on not subsidising the arms trade and stopping the privatisation of NHS services counts for nothing?

    I could go on. I'd better stop.

  36. I really liked Deborah Orr's article on this.

    On a gender-specific language note, I've been interested to see the amount of times both Smith and especially Blears have been described as 'flouncing' out of the Cabinet.

  37. The Green's 'science' (and I use the word loosely) policies lost them my vote today. Particularly the stuff around medicine.

  38. Michael Corbett4 June 2009 at 18:25

    I'd like to wear Hazel Blears on my fingers!

    Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!

    Oh, shut up Sweep for fuck's sake!

  39. "unless your prime minister has just declared martial law. Which Brown, for all his shambling clampdowns on Habeas Corpus, hasn't."

    No thanks to John "42 Days" Cruddas.

  40. I've just heard on LBC that James Purnell is intending on stepping down...

    So, just in case he happened to stumble upon this...


  41. Tumescent Terrence4 June 2009 at 22:20

    Purnell has resigned.

    His career, as with Heseltine resigning over Thatcher, is now officially over.


    Birds put the turn in custard, but we put the shit in Number 10! But whatever shit next occupies that august residence it won't be James Purnell!

    (Incidentally I like redheads. They're hot!)

  42. Purnell's resignation would perhaps be good news except that it's clearly part of his plan to rise up the Labour ranks and will probably succeed knowing Labour. You haven't seen the last of him I'm afraid.

  43. The Green Party is not anti-science, but we need to look again at some of the wording of those policies. The intent of the policy was against the use of genetic modification in agriculture, but the text of the policy inadvertently widens the scope. There is discussion about this within the party, and I and others are going to reexamine the wording to hopefully get it changed at conference. How about that - responsive politicians!

    Without seeing the wording that the Green spokesperson gave to the Guardian it is hard to comment on the issue of stem cell research, but science wouldn't grind to a halt in the absence of human embryonic stem cell research or human/animal hybrids. I say this as a scientist! I viewed the statements of scientists claiming that hESC research would cure Parkinson's etc. as hyperbole to help get grant funding, and possibly believing their own propaganda. Every scientist sticks into their grant proposal that they'll cure cancer. Without hESC research, there's a lot of other tools to use.

    On another issue of technology, our MEP candidates come out top for the Open Rights Group on digital rights. We're in strongly in favour of free software, so hardly luddite.

  44. Holy fuck, NO MORE PURNELL. :D

    *eagerly awaits champagne cork popping post from Penny*

  45. Purnell is just making himself available for the next Labour leader, so put the cork back in the champagne bottles.

  46. Some guy predicted the fall of Gordon Brown on the New Statesman website at Christmas time. He kept on saying, "Brown Brown Brown dictator dictator dictator. He kept on saying election election election. Did anyone else read it? It's bloody coming true.

  47. I read it amazing.. I think he said someone called David is going to be the next PM.

  48. Good article!

    You're right, it's a very anti-political rebellion, isn't it? I'm just hoping that from the rubble of council and euro defeat Brown goes, Johnson gets his job and then him and Harriet Harman lead the (newly progressive/left?) party to a not-too-crushing defeat at the general election.

    Maybe Purnell can lose his seat - or join the Tories.

    I voted Greens in the Euros - didn't know about this stem cell thing though, oops.

  49. nwood - You would actually not vote Green just because of one issue? I don't mean this as a criticism of you, I'm just curious. For whom would you have voted instead?

  50. You had me until "they're probably doing the right thing." Selfish is as selfish does, and these people are just in it for themselves. The party will take a drubbing in a year's time and it will be these people who started tearing it down from the inside who are responsible. Loyalty means not just sticking by them when they're right, but when they're wrong as well. Brown has made a number of mistakes, but let's look at what he inherited: a stupid war and a greedy bunch of ingrates from Tony Blair.


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