Thursday, 24 September 2009

Labour: The vastness of the North devours us

The last days, the bunker days... and tonight BBC1's Question Time fielded a quite conspicuously skewed-right-of-centre panel, there to jump up and down on a cut-out of Gordon Brown, cheered to the hilt by a rowdy audience. But, then again, since Harriet Harman was the allotted speaker for Labour, I was indeed minded to vote for Anyone But.
So, has this been as ghastly a day for Brown as his detractors would desire? The Lockerbie blowback continues, and for sure the Government's inability to say what it thought about Scotland's choice (and why) is rather shameful. As for the Baroness Scotland - the debacle serves her right, though I wouldn't have wanted her to go until her high-handed third-rate attempt at an apology - like the expenses thing, can none of these people feel the gorge of their own hypocrisy rising up to flood their throats?
Shriti Vadera? Well, I see Robert Peston rides in manfully to say that her new job is all of a piece with Gordon's wishes. And I hope that is so, because the vultures of the press were squatting over that story all bloody day long, hoping perhaps that Vadera would flounce out in high dudgeon and give Gordon a hard boot in the sporran on her way out.
I admire Charles Clarke MP and can't argue with any of what he said the other day. I admire the serial Brown-basher John Rentoul too, have done ever since reading his outstanding biography of Tony Blair, but while I find it noteworthy that Rentoul "admired [Blair] more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning" (since I did too), I rather feel he's now going a tad overboard on this same sentiment. Still, I remain his fan, and we are likeminded too in wanting Alan Johnson for Labour leader.
But what really preys on me is this headline today from the FT: "Labour’s support in north collapses." Without serving up any hard data from their new research that I can see, the paper nonetheless warrants that "The Tories have built a narrow four-point lead in the north, eradicating the 19-point Labour lead in the region that underpinned Tony Blair’s last general election victory." Dear me how, the shame of it. I suppose it partly depends on how you define The North. In the Spectator David Blackburn looks at things in the round, arguing "the evidence that Middle England is not fully behind Mr Cameron will cause a few headaches in Central Office. But if the Tories win in Newcastle, a marginal victory in Redditch is of no consequence."
Had away, bonny lad. I guess conceivably the Lib Dems could turn their municipal success in Newcastle into a dominance of Tyneside's Westminster seats too. But the Tories? Truly I would gan to the top of our stairs. Not that there aren't Tories in NE1, mind you - but in the main they either travel by chauffeur or hide behind mansion walls; and that has never seemed quite sufficient to win a polling majority.
None of this, I know, is any comfort to Brown, or "The Wolf", as I ought really to call him were I to extend the entirely regrettable WWII analogy of this post's title and opening lines, occasioned probably by there being a new biography of the appalling Alan Clark going round... Divvint get wuh started on that one.

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