“It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease only for them to find, the moment the first balls are bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain”.
This memorable piece of Parliamentary rhetoric was spoken by Sir Geoffrey Howe in November 1990, and brilliantly reconstructed by John Sessions for the just repeated BBC drama “Margaret”, where we are party to the behind the scenes shenanigans which led to Thatcher’s exit from Downing Street.
Hearing that speech again in the wake of this week’s lobotomised effort by the Government to wrest back the political agenda from the Tories, made me reflect on what a total shambles this last few months have been for the Labour Party.
“In Office, but not in Power”, is another phrase from the past that has come back to haunt the current occupant of Number Ten.
Gordon Brown had the courage and backbone to take control at the G20 in London.
Barack Obama and other Leaders acted swiftly to intervene back home, and where necessary take control of the Banking Sector, dish out the medicine to industry (especially in the US, France and Germany) and punish transgressors with meaningful sanctions.
Obama is to pay the head of Bank America $1 this year. And he is not allowed to resign. He must mend what he has broken under the direct supervision of the US Treasury.
Why then has GB been so supine when it comes to matters in the UK? Where is the decisive action?
Instead he wants to legislate regarding the debt, and take similar action regarding the Banks.
Legislate? Bonkers. What happened to doing, taking action now? What is the FSA for if it’s not to actually do summat? Tell them to get it sorted and then report back. Number Ten doesn’t need to micro manage this. Let them what know, do. Facilitate.
Parliamentary Bills mean jack in this situation.
It’s a bit like the Fire Service turning up at a fire at the Tate Gallery, retiring to barracks to discuss what to do, the Fire Chief asking for a feasibility study, calling more meetings etc ad nauseum.
Everybody looking busy, worthy, caring and involved but meanwhile back in the real world….
And so the Howe analogy.
I spent a productive and focused three hours at a meeting of the brightest and best that the Labour Party has to offer in this region.
Experience from a wide variety of people from different walks of life.
We developed a clear and well-defined strategy for delivering a professional and rigorous campaign for our brilliant young candidate, Danny Marten.
We will work hard, do our allocated jobs and deliver our targets.
After the smoke and mirrors Budget, disappointing (but not just for us) Euro Election results and the Leadership wrangle I honestly believed that GB had finally “got it”, and that he would channel his undoubted talents towards delivering an unprecedented Fourth Term Labour Government.
But once again he is hampered by indecision and most crucially he is stymieing Ministers from setting their own departmental agenda.
The Queen’s Speech was pathetic. Legislating for things that would happen anyway, a brush stroke, uncosted and nebulous promise regarding care for the elderly, and where he could have legislated (MP’s expenses, genuine reform of the Commons, example recall ballots) GB has bottled out to avoid controversy.
Peter Mandleson was rightly restored to the Cabinet (although I expect him to run for the Commons again to secure a mandate) but has been emasculated by the PM and stopped from taking the decisive action needed to restore the economy the growth.
The Business Secretary’s only Brown backed initiative, the scrappage scheme, has been an unexpected success, but still the PM refuses to let his most effective Minister have his head.
Thus we are starting our campaign with very little to go on, and I’m not looking forward to our starting point which is to contact Party members regarding campaign involvement when I’m not exactly brimming with enthusiasm myself. Hence the Howe evocation.
Bashing the Tories is all fine and dandy, and a good laugh, but its distraction from our own present shortcomings.
Once again it’s enjoyable to bang on about the success of the last twelve years, but I need to be enthused about NOW, and stop myself from getting hot and bothered about Smith, Hoon, Blears, Beckett, Morley and their arrogant, thieving little ways.
Our Party Broadcast last night evoked our history but did not feature Tony Blair. Is Brown really THAT paranoid and insecure that he cannot allow any mention of Labour’s greatest PM?
But we cannot lose this Election. Too much rides on it and that’s why I’ll be there fighting to the bitter end.