Monday, May 10, 2010

Layer 303 . . . Whitehall Revisited, and Still Deadlocked

This should have been posted this morning. Arrived home this evening to find Brown's announced he intends to resign, the Lib Dems say they now want formal talks with Labour, and the Tories have belatedly said they'll offer a referendum on PR if the Lib Dems stick with them. So it's all still going to plan. Excellent.


First item on Start the Week on Radio 4 . . .  Whitehall, and its geography and history. It's been there as a thoroughfare for 1,000 years.

Whitehall has become a byword for government bureaucracy, but beyond the facade of civil service offices are the rooms that shaped our nation’s history. In Whitehall, a “biography of the most important street in Britain”, Colin Brown explores the hidden gems behind closed doors. From Henry VIII’s tennis courts, to Cardinal Wolsey’s wine cellar and the secret passage still in use today, Colin Brown reveals the long history of political drama and despair, spin and scandal in the street of Whitehall.

Whitehall: The Street that Shaped a Nation is published by Simon & Schuster.


Still no conclusion to the talks that have been going on all weekend about the right to govern Britain. This is a good thing. Serious thinking is taking place up and down the country as well as up and down Whitehall and Westminster about the meaning of mandates, political allegiances and the future of politics in this country.

Polly Toynbee wrote a good column yesterday, again insisting that The Lib Dems must not make common cause with the Tories, and will only destroy themselves as a party if they refuse to be part of a grand alliance with the other left of centre parties.

A done deal? No, Tory-Lib is a marriage made in hell

Brown's letter captures a despondent mood. But Labour must not give up on a progressive alliance

Clegg is right to try all he can to get a deal from Cameron, on the economy as on PR. He can only legitimately turn towards Labour if it is self-evident that no way can this radical and progressive party fold in with a sub-Thatcherite programme. Clegg and Cable are against the £6bn cuts this year, and cautious about removing the stimulus too fast. This marriage made in hell is unlikely. And Labour panickers should take a deep breath (get some sleep) and trust in the great bulk of Lib Dem members who are progressives, not Orange Bookers, decent people. There are more thoroughly conservative types in Labour than among the Lib Dem clan. It would be good for both to bring the two together as repairing the rift in the left is the goal. The likes of Shirley Williams, Tom McNally (their leader in the Lords), Matthew Oakeshott, Charles Kennedy and as many other grandees as you care to mention are not about to end their long and honourable careers tricked into a coalition in which all pledges would be jettisoned within weeks. The southwest Lib Dem MPs who fear alliance with Labour are plain wrong: a large chunk of their vote is Labour people lending their votes, voting tactically, who would not support them again if they turned to the Tories.

The prize of an alliance government, far better than Labour on its own, is still there to be seized. But how depressing to hear old tribalists like David Blunkett today rejecting PR. Labour has its own internal fights to resolve, too.

Oxzen commented:

    "But how depressing to hear old tribalists like David Blunkett today rejecting PR."

Depressing, Polly? Why are you even surprised? Right from '97 the man was an appalling education secretary, one that made common cause with the likes of Woodhead, and took his reactionary and ignorant agenda ever further to the right. What on earth has Blunkett ever said or done that would cause anyone to think he's anything but the most right wing politician within the New Labour camp? He may talk the anti-Tory talk but his politics are well to the right of the Lib Dem progressive wing. Sadly he's by no means the only top-down authoritarian bully within New Labour's ranks.

Why would anyone give a damn any more about what David Blunkett thinks or says? Cheer up Polly - whatever happens next the Labour party finally has an opportunity to clear out both the Blairites and the Brownites and begin to rehabilitate itself as a proper social democratic party. Whether or not it takes it is another matter, however.

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