Friday, June 27, 2008


Well, happy birthday Gordon Brown. One year in Downing Street, but not very much to celebrate at the moment, it seems. I admit that I had greater hopes for the new PM after the stains of the Blair years. The hammering he is getting at the moment seems excessive, and though I'm not keen on the political project to which he is conjoined, he is a decent man. But I suspect Jonathan Freedland is right. A number of us mistook his tactical acumen for strategic capability. Now, I suggested recently, his challenge is to find ways of moving towards the confidence building 'yes' that Prime Ministers' need to generate (otherwise known as political purpose and energy), in the same way that he was successful by dint of his capacity to say 'no' as Chancellor. Meanwhile, the poll shocks continue.

So who will be next through the door at No 10? Neither of the dodgy characters in this photo, for sure. The one on the right looks especially suspect. The one on the left is my good friend Andrew Bradstock, of CSM. As a likely parliamentary candidate, he stands more chance than me, of course. He's even generously willing to consort with me despite the fact that I left CSM twenty years ago when it affiliated to the Labour Party. The occasion of this particular photo op was a recent reception for faith groups. But since I was Andrew's best man a few years back, we regard it as a happy 'reunion' snap.

One of the questions people asked me (and each other) during the course of the reception was "have you been to 10 Downing Street before?" The answer for me is yes, on two occasions. Though not quite as some might have anticipated. The first was when I joined an anti-nuclear weapons sit-down with a wonderful group of nuns, organised by a former Christian CND coordinator, the equally wonderful Barbara Eggleston. A rather officious police officer marched up and demanded, "who's in charge around here?" Without missing a beat, Barbara looked up and replied sweetly, "The Holy Spirit", dumbfounding him completely! Goodness, I miss her. The second occasion was when I was arrested during another sit down (no 'standing on ceremony' for me), following the bombing of Libya in 1986.

So this, as far as I can recall, is the first time I have actually been to the PM's residence on what might be called diplomatic duty.

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