Wednesday, September 06, 2006


“You Can’t Resign, In Fact, You’re Sacked! Oh, Bugger!”

Radio 4 has two daily half-hour comedy slots; while their 6.30pm comedies have been variable, The World at One continues to provide belly-laughs. Today this sketch show was given over to a linked series of skits on the ‘Labour Party’, including egregious boot-licker Tom Watson’s sudden, hilarious attempt to pose as a man of principle (“I love you, Tony, but I must push you under a bus for the good of the country and, particularly, my re-selection”), with the punch-line from the Prime Minister that, yah boo, he was going to sack him anyway. Of course you were, Mr Blair. That’s why Mr Watson was summoned to the Chief Whip and told that he’d have to withdraw his name from the round-robin letter calling on Mr Blair to resign or that his position would be untenable as a government minister. If you want to pretend someone’s only gone because you were going to sack them, best not to have got your hatchet-person to plead with them to stay just the night before, eh?

Mr Watson followed the usual resignation protocol of writing a chummy letter professing his undying love while sticking in the knife: “The Labour Party has been my life… My loyalty to you personally, as well as to the Party and the values we stand for, has been absolute and unswerving… My pride in what our government has achieved under your leadership is beyond expression… The party and the nation owes you an incalculable debt… So it is with the greatest sadness… For the sake of the legacy… It is with the greatest regret… Yours ever…” It’s a surprise that we haven’t heard about the tearstains, or that he missed out “I come not to bury but to praise you.” Mr Blair didn’t praise Mr Watson. If ever there was a sign of a Prime Minister in a tailspin and fearful for his political life, it’s when he stoops to slagging someone off directly (yes, astoundingly, he let himself be quoted on the record instead of via spin doctor), coupled with the obvious lie about sacking him. “I had been intending to dismiss him but wanted to extend to him the courtesy of speaking to him first… [He] was disloyal, discourteous and wrong.” And, besides, he smells, Mr Blair might have added in similarly dignified and statesmanlike manner. Not that Mr Watson’s weasel words offered much dignity; he spent so much of his letter saying how right Mr Blair had been on everything that the only remaining reason left for calling on him to go was that Mr Watson hoped to keep the policies by changing the unpopular face.

With a junior minister and a PPS already gone simply over the issue of Mr Blair not going fast enough, I wonder how many more will be gone by the end of the day? Or by Labour Conference? I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it looks like Mr Blair’s latest piece of spin is unravelling fast – it’s blown much of his remaining authority while satisfying nobody. Odds must be shortening on a putsch, perhaps as early as the Labour Conference, but don’t hold your breath – the courage of Labour MPs has never been something I’d bet the farm on.

On the other hand, the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean Popular Front must be feeling enormously grateful to the Labour Party for the grown-ups providing a distraction from their own playpen squabbles. If Labour are in a ludicrous state, the various warring Scottish Socialist tribes are beyond parody, especially when the Leader of the big splitters uses the name ‘Solidarity’. Oh, my sides.

Everyone one in the Westminster Village (a lot less fun than The Village) has know for the last couple of years Blair wanted to go in May 2007 due to his dubious obsession with his place in history and the prospect of retrospectives entitled The Blair Decade (due to 10 years of anything being a great little bit of journalistic short-hand for a real story).
Entertaining too, was the readiness for the Labor Party (US spelling, surely?) to claim a "media frenzy", as though the petty in-house squabbling was the work of the red-tops, and not an overly autocratic hierarchy falling apart with its own decrepitude. They usually trot Campbell out to do this, following breaches of the ministerial code; in turn clearly the work of the Sun and the Mirror and not their own ministers administrating with their peepees and wallets in mind.
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