Going up to the Wire….

August 26, 2009 by
Filed under: Politics, Uncategorized 

A few slightly random thoughts as my (second) holiday draws to a close…

Being away I haven´t been able to be as active in Bloggers` Circle as I would like. It´s hard to access other blogs using a Blackberry abroad and impossible when it is nicked (as mine was in Lisbon). But many of the blog summaries sent round every day are intriguing and having access to the web today I checked out Henry Kippin´s post at 2020PublicService Trust.

As a great fan of ´The Wire´I agree with Henry that it was a strange (not to say inept) reference for Chris Grayling to make as part of the Conservative Broken Britain attack.

The messages I got from ´The Wire´include:

The disastrous impact of city hall corruption and nepotism

The incompetent and self serving nature of most senior police officers

The links between organised crime, big business and the trade unions

The morally ambiguous nature of drug dealing and gang conflict as the only viable route for young men to establish status and make money 

So which bits of this is Chris saying are right about Manchester or any other major UK city? Given that the Conservatives are the biggest party in local government does he think city hall corruption and collaboration with organised crime is widespread and if so where; Surrey, Kensington and Chelsea, North Yorkshire? Surely, we should be told.    

Not that any amount of Conservative errors are benefiting Labour, certainly not according to the latest ICM Guardian poll . The other bad news for those who hope for a Labour revival is that is seems increasingly unlikely that an unopposed successor will emerge to take over if GB is ousted or falls on his sword. The British people would surely react with understandable rage if they had to witness a potentially divisive competition in the Labour Party to see who would be their next Prime Minister, especially as contenders would have to appeal not to the general voter but to the increasingly unrepresentative constituency that chooses the Labour leader.

Being on the Iberian peninsular I remembered one possible way of resolving the combination of voters´antipathy to Mr Brown and the unacceptability of an internal Labour contest to choose a replacement for the person who replaced the person the voters chose in 2005. This is the Jose Aznar option. 

In 2003 Aznar chose his successor who then became the People´s Party candidate for the 2004 election (which the PP may have won without the intervention of the Madrid bombing). So Aznar stayed as PM until the election but the election campaign was fought by his successor and current PP leader Mariano Rajoy.

Under this scenario Gordon Brown remains Prime Minister until the election but the Labour Party chooses a new leader to fight that election. In this way the internal contest within the Party for its next leader is not about foisting a new Prime Minister on the country, but about choosing someone about whom the voters can make up their own mind. The other advantage of having this option in mind is that it gives Gordon more time to try to turn things round.

I`m not advocating this nor do I think it is likely (it´s not really any of my business), but difficult circumstances can lead to novel solutions and Labour certainly does face difficult circumstances.



  • Caitriona

    The British people would surely react with understandable rage if they had to witness another outbreak of blogs and stories about the Labour Party leadership…

  • http://livingwithrats.blogspot.com Julian Dobson

    Chris Grayling’s analogy was crude, but it’s one that makes headlines – and that, surely, rather than sophisticated comment and analysis, was its purpose. We can expect the same from Theresa May’s speech on unemployment tomorrow: moral outrage at the number of people who have never worked under Labour, no commitment to the proportion of them who will find work under the Conservatives.

    This isn’t a partisan point – Labour in opposition, as I recall, wasn’t averse to soundbite politics. I think that’s one reason who those who look to politicians for solutions will always be disappointed. Just about every idea that has been innovative, engaging and exciting in recent years has come from outside the political arena. On the other hand a lot of knee-jerk, dog-whistle, ill-considered policies have come out of government as ministers have unsuccessfully sought to portray themselves as dynamic and effective.

    And I think that’s why the second part of your post – the question of how Gordon can pull an electoral rabbit out of the hat – seems to be clutching at straws. If, as the Guardian reported today, we face a choice between ‘compassionate cuts’ under Labour or ‘swingeing cuts’ under the Tories, I can hardly imagine the British public flocking to the assistance of either Gordon or any of his would-be successors.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15422598703061456846 Quietzapple

    Grice’s account of Theresa May’s prattlings


    suggest that she wants the unemployed on the streets – “Tory analysis showing more than £106bn has been paid in housing benefit to people out of work since 1997″ – and “Worklessness has become a generational problem, passed from father to son, mother to daughter.”

    Leaving aside wether these are recent developments, which I doubt, the inference that generations of unemployed under a Tory Government would be roaming homeless like post invasion Iceni or Hereward the Wake is unlikely to appeal to many I suspect.

    The billionaire press would be just as malevolent were Brown to support David Miliband as his successor now. They follow their masters’ interests, as surely as the billionaire owned Tory party does.

  • http://www.yoosk.com TimHood

    I agree Matthew, Grayling’s comments were shameless- a bit of posturing worthy of Carcetti himself. And like Carcetti, when he comes to power, he’ll find himself buffeted and hamstrung by forces and events far beyond his control.

    Which surely is another theme of the Wire-the disconnectedness of leaders from people and events on the ground (and vice-versa), meaning they are constantly being taken by surprise and left facing the limits of their control.

    • matthewtaylor

      Thanks Tim. You will no doubt be amused by the ‘quote from the Mayor of Baltimore’ on Jonathan Carr West’s site which then turns out to be a spoof quote by Alex Hilton (see comments above)

  • http://livingwithrats.blogspot.com Julian Dobson

    Not being a Wire connoisseur, I’ll skip the TV analogies. But Tim’s point about forces beyond our control is right. No government has successfully addressed the issue of entrenched unemployment. I’ve posted some thoughts on that here: http://livingwithrats.blogspot.com/2009/08/rhetoric-isnt-working.html

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15422598703061456846 Quietzapple

    I seem to recall that unemployment under Harold Wilson’s Government in the ’60s went down to 500,000, which just about represented the turnover of people moving from one job to another, perhaps unsuited to their previous post.

    There were still a relatively tiny number of people effectively unemployable.

    Training was coming to be touted as the way ahead, the “White heat of the technological revolution” etc.

    The biggest current problem is obesity, and associated diabetes, rather than repeated generations of the workshy, who, truth to tell are less likely to vote than the obese, and so get less stick from politicians.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15422598703061456846 Quietzapple

    Whoops, the workshy get stick and don’t vote, the obese escape relatively free and are more likely to vote.

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