Friday, September 12, 2008

THE LOYALIST REBEL

It is many years since I took much of an interest in the internal affairs of the British Labour Party (which I'm not sure really exists anymore, anyway), but today it has been a hard issue to avoid - with a junior minister being sacked for saying she thinks a leadership contest should be allowed to focus the debate over Labour's future. (That was her position over Brown's original 'coronation' too, and who can now say she was wrong?)

But the main point for me is as much about process as content. To put it bluntly, does anyone in the government understand quite how shameful and grubby their treatment of Siobhain McDonagh looks - and, indeed, is? Ms McDonagh, who comes across as pleasant, thoughtful and principled, wrote what was in effect a private letter expressing her views to the chair of the Party. First, someone leaked this, and then she was immediately sacked - although she had to learn this fate from a journalist who had cornered her outside parliament, because the PM's office could not be bothered to tell her, or spitefully chose not to, before making it public. Talk about "the nasty party". Then a Labour spin doctor dismissed everyone who would like to see a more open conversation about the future and about Gordon Brown, who opinion polls suggest is heading for oblivion, as "a ragbag of malcontents". So that would be impeccable loyalist McDonagh, would it? Plus leading local government luminary Graham Stringer, and a former Home Secretary?

Disagree with them as the PM's allies may, this level of utter contempt sends out a clear message to the wider public about the degeneration of Labour as a moral force for change. As a token of 'mainstream' party politics in this country, it also dissuades many - me included - for wanting much to do with it. The whole system needs reshaping. Good on Siobhain McDonagh for having the courage (and good grace) of her convictions. She might be a Blairite, but above all she's decent and honest. What a refreshing change.

3 comments:

Jane said...

thanks for posting this simon
I've been away from news other than in Swiss German for a few days and hadn't seen this. Very bad news - Cameron's Britain here we come...
You would enjoy teh conference I am at very much I think - though it is closed to the press. There's alot here too about integrity in politics - though not much evidence of it in the current situation in Palestine and Israel.

Q said...

Brown had no choice but to sack Ms McDonagh, he woud have been seen to be week if he didn't. The Labour Party need to be unified and focused on the real issues if they have any chance of staying in power. This is not the time for pettyness it is about time that Brown was allowed to get on with what only a year ago he was chosent to do - lead the country. I don't think there is anyone more qualified to do this.

Simon Barrow said...

G... well, even if it is an automatically sackable offence to ask the Labour Party to issue voting papers (I mean, it's not like it's democratic, or anything?), my main issue, as I hope I made clear, is the grubby way it has been done... and the fact that the Party doesn't seem to have a clue about how it looks to those not schooled in the casual brutalism that passes for normality in its ranks at the moment. The line is There's Nothing Wrong But A Few Nasty Rebels And A Few Dud Polls. OK, we'll see...