A Scottish streak of tapioca as prime minister – bring it on!
Are they serious? Are they really going to do it? If I understand the events at Brighton this week, the Labour Party has finally decided that at some stage in the next four years they are going to make Gordon Brown Prime Minister.
Never mind an election; never mind democracy. Sometime soonish Tony Blair and the Labour Party will part company, with many a dry eye on either side. Gordon is simply going to be translated to Number 10, with all the public consultation that attended the transition from Claudius to Nero; and for many of us it will be a transformation devoutly to be wished. For years we have been watching and waiting, consumed with a palpitating expectation, and for years Gordon has disappointed us. What has got into you, Gordon? we have asked ourselves. What have you got under that kilt, then? Are you a man or a mouse?
Blair is the man who made Gordon look foolish in that original deal, 10 years ago, at the Islington restaurant.
Blair is the smoothychops lawyer who learned about politics from Gordon, and then snaffled the leadership from under his nose.
Blair is the one who nicked Gordon’s best soundbite – tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime – and passed it off as his own.
Blair has led the Labour Party into a disastrous war in Iraq, and blatantly misrepresented, to Parliament and public, the extent to which Saddam was a threat to this country’s interests.
Blair is the man who has alienated huge sections of the Labour rank and file with his reckless sucking up to George dubya Bush, the cross-eyed Texan warmonger.
And yet Blair has led the Labour Party for 10 unchallenged years, and Gordon has done nothing to contest his right to the job, except to allow his spin-doctors, from time to time, to issue little off-the-record whimpers of resentment.
It’s pathetic! I have lost count of the number of times I have been rung by Peter Oborne, the brilliant political editor of The Spectator, to be told that the Blair-Brown feud is about to reach its climax, and that Gordon’s impatience can no longer be contained.
I was assured that Brown was going to jugulate Blair before the last election. And what happens? He just sits there, marmoreal, impassive, the incredible sulk, watching Blair jig around in front of him with all the inscrutable savagery of Old Brown, the owl, contemplating Squirrel Nutkin.
Gordon Brown has spent so long wondering when to make his move that he makes the giant panda seem a martyr to rash impetuosity.
For the better part of the decade the “Brownies” have schemed and briefed against Blair, with the illustrious Charlie Whelan falling in hand-to-hand combat against Alastair Campbell.
What kind of leadership has Brown shown these troops, many of whom have laid down their lives in the hope that he would become prime minister? He has let “I dare not” wait upon “I would”; he has been a big girl’s blouse; and if Blair has a streak of granite running through him, as he boasted to this week’s conference, then it would be fair to say that Gordon has a streak of solid tapioca.
Frankly, some of us had despaired of Gordon’s killer instinct; and that is why we are all the more encouraged and amazed by the news this week. It seems that Tony actually means to keep his promise, and that Gordon is genuinely going to get his birthright.
If we are right to think this, my message to the Labour Party is, go right ahead, punks, Make My Day. I say this to Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, and all the other Brownies hoping to do well when Gordon makes it to Number 10.
You may think that the Tories are having a little leadership difficulty at the moment, and you would be right that we seem to have devised an ingenious solution to the Tory habit of assassinating our leaders.
We appear to have decided that for quite a long period after our own party conference we will do without a leader at all, opening the possibility that someone – perhaps even I – will just go down to Central Office, put martial music on the tannoy, and issue a pronunciamento.
But if the Labour Party thinks the Tories’ disarray is long-lasting, they are deluded. Sooner or later there will be a leader, and any one of the main contenders will beat Gordon Brown at the next election.
That is the point. That is why I have prayed, so long, for him to make his move. Not only is he a gloomadon-popping old busybody, who has increased taxes, fleeced the pension funds, and instituted tax credits of such infernal complication that of the 4.25 million pensioners eligible for Pension Credit, only 2.65 million actually claim the cash, which is in most cases a scarcely adequate compensation for the increases he has occasioned in council tax.
Not only does he lack Blair’s charm – or whatever you want to call that gliserting-toothed air of sincerity. The key quality of Gordon Brown is that he is a Scot, and he sits for a Scottish seat at a time of glaring constitutional inequity, which Labour has no proposals to amend.
It is infamous enough that Gordon Brown can pass laws for my constituents, in England, and stick his nose into the admissions systems of ancient English universities, when I have no corresponding say over health or education in Scotland.
What makes the position doubly absurd is that he has no say over those questions insofar as they affect his own constituents in Scotland. The problem is not that the people of England are being ruled by Scots; the problem is the asymmetry and imbalance in the constitutional arrangements, combined with the profusion of electorally tiny Scottish seats.
Until that injustice is righted, I believe the English electorate will find it hard to accept a Scottish MP prime minister; and for all these reasons I say to Labour: pick Brown, and bring it on!