Tom Griffin (London, OK):Perhaps it's something to do with his Freudian slip during the week, but Gordon Brown's bailout plan for the British economy has come in for some sceptical scrutiny in the Sundays today, and not just from his opponents on the right.
In The Herald, Iain MacWhirter agrees with German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck's critique of Brown's approach:
The government seems to think it can turn the clock back to 2007 - but the clock is broken. There must be a return to a savings culture. There must be reform of the housing market to prevent another boom, new rules for the Bank of England to curb asset bubbles. We need regulation of derivatives markets and closure of the tax havens which allowed banks to set up shadow entities. The hedge fund industry, which was based on abuse of tax havens, needs to be dismantled as a matter of urgency. As is becoming clear from scandals like that of Bernie Madoff, who ran a £50 billion scam, the hedge funds were essentially Ponzi pyramid schemes built on leveraged debt.
In the Observer, Andrew Rawnsley also picks up on Steinbrueck's comments, in arguing for a greater focus on investment rather than reflating consumption:
Gareth Young (Lewes, CEP): It’s taken seven months from petition end but finally the Prime Minister has gotten around to replying to my ‘Say England’ petition. Since it’s been a while I will remind you of the details of the petition:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop saying ‘Our country’ or ‘This country’ when he is talking in relation to devolved issues such as health, education and housing. If Mr Brown is talking about English matters then he should say ‘England’, even if it is politically inconvenient for him to do so.”
Tom Griffin (London, OK): Could victory in the Glenrothes by-election set the seal on Gordon Brown's political comeback? Labour pollsters have told the Prime Minister that they will win on the back of his handling of the banking crisis, according to the BBC.
As the Sunday Times noted at the weekend, the credit crunch has prompted a reassessment of the viability of Scottish independence. Brown himself has not been afraid to make the argument, citing the UK bailout of HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland:
"We were able to act decisively with £37bn. That would not have been possible for a Scottish administration.
"We've seen the problems in Iceland, we've seen the problems in Ireland, we were able to put the whole strength of the United Kingdom's resources behind these two banks and I think it's important because I value the Scottish banking tradition, I think that everybody does."
Whether it is Brown's interests to preserve the Scottish banking tradition is open to question. Many now believe that the Downing Street-arranged merger of HBOS with Lloyds-TSB is unnecessary. The deal will inevitably weaken Edinburgh's status as a financial centre, and thereby, incidentally, the case for Scottish independence. One cannot help but wonder whether this was a factor in Brown's pursuit of this option.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Now that I have attracted your attention, I'll lead with an answer. If there is a Churchill in our moment of financial need, to withstand the advancing hordes of neo-liberal meltdown is is Vince Cable. He has just emerged as far away the most admired politician in the recent Politics Home survey.Andrew Rawnsley reports that:
His predictions of the financial crisis, and performance during the mayhem in the markets, have clearly impressed the political experts and insiders.
He gets a predictably high score from Lib Dem panellists who rate him 8.5. He also impresses non-aligned panellists who give him an even better 8.6.
He has plenty of admirers among left-leaning panellists who score him at 8.0, a higher rating than they give to any member of the Cabinet.
Least generous are right-leaning panellists who award him 7.3. Even then, that is equal to the highest rating that right-leaning panellists give to Tory politicians.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): Introducing his book Britain since 1918 last month, David Marquand suggested that Britain may be ripe for an outbreak of democratic republicanism. At the time, his colleague Kenneth Morgan put in a word for what is, in Marquand's scheme, the rival left-wing tradition of democratic centralism.
Where democratic republicans emphasise citizenship and participation, democratic centralists focus on delivery. They have traditionally seen the state as an instrument which can be taken over and turned to their social goals without worrying too much about how it works.
The credit crunch has vindicated Morgan's warning that there are some things only the state can do, and there are some tentative signs that it is the democratic centralist tradition which is being reinvigorated as a result.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Glenrothes by-election is set to go ahead on Thursday, 6th November. The timing is not a surprise, as with a US presidential election on the Tuesday, the outcome won't be the big story of the week.
In any case,with the immediate threat to Gordon Brown's premiership receding, the poll may not be the date with destiny that many had expected.
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): Jon Cruddas - the star of this year's conference according to Jackie Ashley - writes in his Coffehouse diary that Brown's speech "nailed it", in part because he was more "emotionally literate" this time round. Cruddas reckons the space for the coup plotters has been shut down and anticipates a "mass defection of Labour’s Taliban to the Tories next week".
Brown's "this is no time for a novice" line will of course be the one most people remember. Double rewarding, as Iain Dale notes, because it can be interpreted to apply to both Miliband and Cameron. And following Ruth Kelly's resignation, which has somewhat overshadowed the reaction to Brown's speech, might it not apply to her as well?
The line that really stuck out for pro-Brown blogger Paul Linford though was "United we are a great movement". This, he hopes, signals a return to the idealism of the pre-Blair Labour party when the phrase "This Great Movement of Ours" was widely used by its leaders.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): This weekend's events in the Labour Party are looking more and more like an attempt at repeating the Brownite coup against Tony Blair of 2006. Following Siobhan McDonagh's resignation as a junior whip yesterday, Party vice-chair Joan Ryan and former minister George Howarth have called for a leadership election.
Significantly, Howarth is also one of 12 MPs who have demanded a change of direction in Progress Magazine, the organ of what, with apologies to Charles Clarke, is generally seen as the Blairite caucus within the party.
Tom Griffin (London, OK):In the wake of Charles Clarke's attack on Gordon Brown last week, the weekend commentary evinced a widespread view that the Labour party is paralysed, doomed under Gordon Brown, but incapable of getting rid of him.
In the latest edition of Tribune, Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle underlines the difficulties:
The actual constitutional mechanisms covering prime ministerial resignations are unclear. What if Brown is forced out in favour of candidate A; goes to the Palace, but recommends candidate B as his successor? Worse still, what if the ex-Prime Minister believed the only way to pre-empt a messy succession campaign for the party in government was to recommend a dissolution of Parliament to the Queen?
These are pertinent questions because, unlike the Tories, Labour does not have a clear and efficient way of removing its leader. Our current system was designed precisely to deter a challenge to an incumbent. On the other hand, it had assumed an election when there was a vacancy. The unelected succession of Gordon Brown to replace Tony Blair ran counter to that assumption and weakens Brown’s position.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): Charles Clarke may not have won much overt support for his attack on Gordon Brown this week, but his thesis that the future of the Labour Party cannot be understood in terms of Blairite and Brownite cliques seems to have won more general assent.
At Comment is Free, the Fabian Society's Sunder Katwala has pointed out that many of Clarke's own policy prescriptions don't fit the Blair/Brown New Labour template. In another piece on the Fabians' new Next Left blog (also at Liberal Conspiracy), Katwala suggests the same is true of many younger members of the Cabinet:
the generation of 40 and 30-somethings in the Labour Party have no interest at all in carrying the personal allegiances of 1997 around for the next twenty years. Which is lucky – as I doubt Ed Miliband wants to lead a rival army to take on his brother.
If there is one thing a ‘Next Left’ is about, it has to be about coming up with new answers, not thinking the work was done a generation ago.
However it is worth noting some less predictable and more interesting elements, notably a significant departure from New Labour orthodoxy on foreign policy:
Liberal interventionism must be underpinned by military force, but its moral authority was undermined by the glacial progress in preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the ill-considered determination to renew Trident.
Gareth Young (Lewes, CEP): The Scottish Claim of Right of 1988 was signed by all the Scottish Labour MPs, with the exception of Tam Dalyell. In 1997, with the advent of the Labour Government of the UK, one third of that initial cabinet (8 out of 24) had signed that claim and were thus pivotal in influencing the Labour UK Government, which issued the white paper, the Scotland Devolution Bill 1998.
The Scottish Claim of Right acknowledged that the Scottish people have the sovereign right to decide the form of government best suited to their needs. That 'form of government' must include independence as well as devolution, yet those cabinet members do not seem in any great hurry to hold a referendum on independence. When they signed the Claim quite possibly it never occurred to them that the Scottish people might decide to get rid of them altogether. They should be reminded of it at every opportunity. Rather than display a willingness to hold a referendum on independence, apart from Wendy Alexander's short-lived "Bring it on!", the Unionists claim instead that because there is a Unionist majority in the Scottish Parliament, the people of Scotland have "voted for the Union". It is just possible that the SNP may gain a majority of the Scottish Westminister seats at the next General Election, and if so that will mean, according to Unionist logic, that the people of Scotland have voted for independence. I'm sure they will try wriggle out of that.
The Scottish Claim of Right was a principled recognition of the sovereign right of the people. It is hypocritical of Gordon Brown, and others who signed that Claim of Right, to now deny that same sovereign right to the people of England, especially as recognition of the Scottish sovereign right has moved power away from Westminster in a way that has damaged English voters.
A final decision has not yet been taken, but it is understood Labour leaders favour either Thursday, 30 October or Thursday, 6 November for the contest.
The November date is the favourite simply because it comes only a day after the expected result of the American presidential election, and if Labour was to lose, party managers believe the bad news would be partly buried by the US coverage.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): I just heard a clip of Brown being interviewed in Beiijing on the BBC 8 o'clock news. He used an extraordinary formulation about his future. The presenter said that, asked about his prospects of still being PM when the Olympics came to London in 2012, "He said it was up to voters to decide if he was in No 10 in four years years time". But he didn't. In the actual clip that was carried the unnamed interviewer said,
You must be absolutely desperate to still be Prime Minister in 2012 that must keep you awake at night
And Brown laughed with his somewhat forced, I saw that coming and have decided in advance to to laugh it off laugh, and replied,
That's for the public. That's for the public.
He then changed the subject as fast as he could, i.e. immediately:
I think er, everybody is looking forward to 2012. Look, the next four years I think for Britain are going to see more and more young people getting interested in sports.
The formulation, and it seemed to me to be a deliberate one that he repeated rather than corrected, of "the public" deciding is very much not about voters. The "public" is a contrived entity that only decides things through opinion polls, the press and media, and perhaps canvassing returns. To say that "the public" will decide means not putting the matter to the vote. It felt to me like a clear signal that, if he concludes that 'the public' will not re-elect him, Brown will not stand.
“10 Downing Street website, the official website of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair”
Oh dear. That link, by the way, from Dizzy Thinks, whose comprehensive coverage is better than anything I'll manage. As he hasn't deigned to use a convenient tag, here's the litany of fail: