Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Danny, I Fink You're Wrong

I'm a little mystified by THIS post on Danny Finkelstein's Comment Central blog. He takes me to task for my POST criticisng Gordon Brown for appointing Colin Challen MP to the Stern Committee, thereby freeing up Challen's seat for Brown's crony Ed Balls. Danny argues...
I must say I am baffled by this response. The moment Challen announced
he was standing down it was obvious he'd been offered something, and membership
of a climate change panel is hardly a huge inducement. This is just
politics and there's nothing wrong with it at all. It's ridiculous for Tories to
pretend that they wouldn't do such things in office.

So that's alright then. This line of argument debases politics. I am quite shocked to see Danny take this line. I wrote in his comments: "Your response illustrates why people have such a low regard for politicians. If this is considered the "norm" then it is going to take a new generation to clean up the system. The fact that all parties have been known to do such things does not make it right."

So who do you Fink is right?

UPDATE: Danny has responded with a post titled THE BLOG SPAT IS ON. He says:
Iain suggests that Gordon Brown's behaviour and my cynical acceptance of it
is the sort of thing that puts people off politics. Let me put an alternative
point - blowing up trivial and perfectly sensible political moves into
pseudo-scandals and going on about them is what puts people off politics.

With that sort of logic the Opposition parties should just let the government get away with any example of sleaze and say "oh, don't worry old boy, we don't mind because we'll be just as unethical as you." Surely we need to get away from this sort of thinking?

UPDATE: This whole saga will be covered by David Grossman on Newsnight tonight, according to Ellee Seymour. She knows these things.


Anonymous said...

These people are so divorced from everyday life that I imagine that he considers it to be perfectly normal behaviour.To the rest of us it is simply using the public purse to solve private difficulties,a good trough for these vile people to get their snouts into.

Anonymous said...

After a very deep funk I fink your right and that old chair back picker Fink is wrong.

Newmania said...

No I can`t get terribly excited about this and I do not think that this sort of thing is what has lead to Politicians being regarded as cupidinous and weak.

That has happenened because of the emerging proffession " A carreer in the masses", where all statements and political positions are tethered to a career path to the point that nothing is believable. Obviously the fact that , for the most part, Parliament is a pantomime and we are governed elsewhere is another factor .

In a sense this dis-respect for Politicians is misleading . Satirists laugh at them the way the Greeks laughed at their gods . They are so removed from life and we are so removed from power that all sense of our shared community with MPs is lost.They are revered far to much .

Classist exclusion from both Parties is a problem as well and esepcially difficult when Women are bring promoted on the foxier-moron ticket. Is it my imagination but are women bloggers also over represented for not disimiliar reasons on the mighty Doughty Street ...?

MPs are used as soap operas and subjects for trivia pursuit but there is no engagement with what they are supposed to be doing .

Anonymous said...

Ignore him - this has nothing to do with reason. Danny is under [implied] orders from Murdoch to love Gordon.

Danny along with the rest of The Times staff have compromised their intergrity in the past week.

Anonymous said...

Danny must be very out of touch and complacent ; the ruling classes are fiecely detested in Britain. Politicans and the press don't seem to realise the strength and depth of disenchantment.

unothordox behaviour said...
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Anonymous said...

So for purely party political reasons Brown offers someone a tax payer funded job, presumably without advertising it or having any of the normal processes, and this is just the normal way of doing business?

CityUnslicker said...

Principles aside (though Iain is right), it must be bad news for the country to continue to have someone of such limited ability as Ed Balls in Parliament at all.

Anonymous said...

Iain, following on from my question yesterday, do you know why a video of the 2005 election would not be produced?

Are the BBC/ITV too left-wing to release a video which shows Labour actually LOSING seats?!

Seriously though, many other friends of mine in the party have expressed a similar interest.

Surely it cannot be too hard for Politicos to edit some Sky/BBC news footage and release it with a 18 Doughty Street commentary or something?

Go on - you know you want to!!

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, yes I'd love to, but the BBC copyright lawyers wouldn't be too pleased I suspect. The 1997 video was a great seller because it was a landmark election. the ITV one we did for 2001 barely sold a copy. There is no chance of anyone doing it for 2005. 2009 might be a different matter!

Will B said...

I quite agree with you Iain. It isn't ok just because others before have done it.

However it begs the question, will you ever get involved in such dealings if you reach parliament?

Anonymous said...

Its the way the world works. Fink is right and you are (self?) righteous and impractical.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Danny Finkelstein on this one, and I think the fact that politics has perpetually to be conducted in the language of scandal and sleaze is very damaging. It also simply leads to cross-accusation, for instance when you take up the Smith Institute's charity status, people are inevitably going to point to Policy Xchange also having charity status and ask how you are in a position to comment.

Caroline Hunt said...

Does this means we're going to get a catfight between you and Danny? :)

Newmania said...

Surely it cannot be too hard for Politicos to edit some Sky/BBC news footage and release it with a 18 Doughty Street commentary or something?

---Ian on a vaguely related and , you will think , sillier, subject ever since you found the Maggie footage allied with Land of Hope and Glory I have been thinking how well it worked.Ideas , visual material and music combined can make such a strong emotional appeal... as R Wagner may have written ....

I `m told it could be done with a thing called Movie Maker but where could you get the raw footage from

Anonymous said...

Ted said...

Your'e right , is it a taxpayer funded job or is it a free consulting job using the person's experience , I know what I think !

Normal Mouth said...

Agree with Danny F. Challen has a long standing interest in climate change. He'll probably bring a useful perspective to the panel.

It's hardly as if he's been offered the British High Commission in Bermuda..

Anonymous said...

I'm with Danny too, I'm afraid. Do we know whether this "post" even comes with a salary? If not you're accusations Iain will look a little over the top.

What will be really interesting is if this one term, mediocre (but very environmentally interested) MP suddenly becomes Lord Challen after Gordon takes over. If that happens then your supposition that he's been bought off will have legs.

Sceptical Steve said...

As a humble constituent in Outwood, I've watched with amusement how first Yvette Cooper (i.e. Mrs Balls) was parachuted into the neighbouring Pontefract Constituency, after the sitting tenant, Jeff Lofthouse, was offered a seat in the Upper House. Then, when Ed Balls gave up his Civil Service status, Bill O'Brien, nobly (sic!) stood aside for him in Normanton. Only then did the Boundary Commission decide to abolish the seat.

Balls could have been parachuted into another safe seat (Sedgefield came to mind) but would have faced with a drastic worsening of his domestic arrangements, so something had to give.

It took the Labour Party two Peerages and a Quango to arrange adjoining constituencies for them, and Danny still doesn't think of this as sleeze?

The only positive side to all this is that we rarely see either of the golden couple in the constituency - I've no doubt that they're spending their time measuring up the furniture for their forthcoming move into No 11.

Anonymous said...

No Fink is not right. If this nonentity of an MP was paid by the Labour party in his new job it would be OK but he's just become yet another parasite leeching off the taxpayer.
I really really hope Danny has not been got at by the Editor of the tIMES TO SUPPORT gORDON bROWN AT ALL COSTS.

Anonymous said...

Not so sure about this Iain - mountain out of a mole-hill time...?

Colin Challen is undoubtedly very well suited to the position he's been offered, and has a long standing understanding of, and passion for, the issues surrounding climate change.

It's a happy coincidence that his seat is geographically convenient for Ed Balls.

It may be realpolitik, but it's not sleaze...

Vlad the Impala said...

He has clearly gone over to the Dark Side; too much hanging around the Daily Gordon newsroom. Of course you are right, oh font of virtue. People are sick to death of the cr*pola that passes for political discourse in this country, the absence of positive vision and widespread and endemic loss of elementary standards.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Iain


Anonymous said...

You are right and Fink is wrong. But Fink is wrong in principle. He was a useless **** of an SDP student (self-important fools who mostly could not work out whether they were communists or conservatives) and how a national newspaper allows him to wallow in his own ingracious juices is totally beyond me. A kind of poor man's David Aaronovich, if that is not a total tautology.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain, if this job is really important, why he hasn't resigned right now to provide us with a by-election which would really give brown and Blair a fight?

Newmania said...

This is a somewhat well mannered cat fight .........Still sheep of sheep action has got some novelty value. My moneys on the fluffy one !

( Spose my D Street Invite may be delayed...indefinitely..oh well)

Anonymous said...

I 'fink' what he is saying is, if Challen had 'volunteered' to give up his seat, and then in 3 years time we found out that he had been bought a BMW / Month the Ritz / Trip to the Maldives out of Ed Balls' Election expenses, then this secret and non transparent act would be very bad.

This has been done in the public eye. As one of the commenters over there points out, the 'new job' is publicly funded, not Labour funded.

But sometimes, I think, you have to be a little circumspect, as one can be the 'boy who cries wolf' when real bad stuff starts going down..

It is rather like those books 'Crap Towns'.. By including places like Bath, it rather takes the stigma off places like Luton, Hull and Swindon.

Anonymous said...

I notice 'fink' is not missing any time in having a 'blogscrap' to get a little bit of 'streetcred' to rub off onto his 'MSM' journalism..

What about greco-roman chocolate-bath wrestling live on Doughty St TV ?

Anonymous said...

Though it pains me to say it, I think Finkelstein is probably right here - strategic promotions/appointments are just part of not only politics but life in general. Having said that, I've no time for Finkelstein, with his fake estuary accent and diehard support for the Iraq war, and he is just the type of person who puts me off voting Tory.

Letterman said...

*Yawns and falls back to sleep*

Chris Paul said...

I agree completely with Danny on this. Not sleaze. Just a sensible way forward that apart from suiting the retiring MP involved is clearly better for constituents in both seats than having two current MPs running round trying to secure re-selection or new selection. Just look at the way the Ian Stewart re-selection dash is playing out. And I've nothing against Ian, he's a good guy and a good MP, but 3 into 2 just won't go.

Mr Challen didn't want to run this gauntlet so he's found himself a modest foothold back in the world of work. And a potential role for which he seems to be very well qualified. He has been head hunted I'd say. If he was unsuitable or unemployable or wasn't going to really do the work that would be very very different.

And never mind considering one's career after parliament, what is the correct approach to career development while IN parliament.

My MP Tony Lloyd declares an occasional ticket to see the Red Devils at Old Trafford. Many on the Tory benches have multiple directorships in some cases with heavy responsibilities. Obviously Blunkeet has his £3,000 a week from the Sun.

You need to relax a bit Iain. MPs take jobs while in parliament, afterwards, and in some cases Lordships to boot. And the same goes for professional people who happen to be Labour supporters.

Are you really implying that during a Labour reign which hopefully will go on for 20 years and more that no supporter should get a new job or get promoted or have a life or anything sordid like that? That they should be barred from working?

What are you on about? get a grip!

Anonymous said...

Re: Iain - 2.10pm

Ok, fair enough. Bit disappointing, but I understand.

Promise I'll shut up about this in a minute, but do you know how I could get hold of archive footage from the BBC/Sky at all? Or is that a total no-no??

Wish I'd set my VCR now :-(

"the ITV one we did for 2001 barely sold a copy. "

I bought it, Maybe you can now work out who I am?


Anonymous said...

My suspicions would be allayed if there was an FOI request made by the Tories for the short-list for the post that the lamentable Chattell has been given, plus a job description.

But (as Alan Bennett always remarked to Dame Thora on Dead Ringers) "...they won't, will they?"

Anonymous said...

Finklestein is an amoral prat, if he seriously believes the complete tosh that he's been spouting over this.

He just seems unable to reconcile widespread public disquiet with his own 'pragmatism'. Maybe his views are not untypical amongst certain echelons of society. But that in itself is similar to the situation prior to the erection of the Guillotine.

And they wonder why their kind of politics 'is dead'?

Anonymous said...

Ian - this story is nonsense of the first order. This sort of thing happens in the private sector all the time, especially in larger corporations.

Challen has been offered a decent sideways move in order to make way for a more talented individual. Seems simple - and fair - enough to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised: Finklestein regards politics as a contact sport where, apparently, if the ref sees a foul, he should play the Finklestein 'advantage' rule, "alls fair in politics, loser!".

Actually, I have never read a word he wrote since he published a column defending his brother, who obviously, as self-important as himself, pushed himself forward in his capacity as lecturer in 'Computer Science' before the year 2000, telling the media that the 'millenium bug' did not exist, and we should therefore take no action to correct it. Needless to say he was told to belt up.

Finkelstein's defence was published some time after the year 2000, being that as the there had not been significant problems, this 'proved' that his brother had been right all along, and the victim of a public smearing.

I myself spend several months working on the nonexistent 'millenium bug' in repect of a pensions administration system. During the process of testing, I unearthed several hundred errors which were corrected, as did everyone else doing similar work on other systems. The result being that most computer systems worked smoothly through 1999 and 2000.
The consequences of not taking action would have been the total breakdown of the majority of computer systems for hours, weeks, or months with severe disruption to all commercial and administrative functions. Finkelstein also suggested that if the systems had been infected with the 'millenium bug' then that indicated that programmers were rubbish and not doing there job properly. That also is nonsense because the cost of sorting out the millenium bug in one project was far less than doing it piecemeal because of the difficulty of creating the appropriate test data.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

"Finklestein regards politics as a contact sport"

Finkelstein???? Contact??????

The Fink is a total wimp who ducked out of real politics because he found somewhere where they'd pay him for playing by himself! Makes Iain Dale seem like Nietsche in comparison!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

As Finkelstein says, it's normal but I agree with you it is wrong. Thin end of wedges etc.

Anonymous said...


This issue will be on Newsnight tonight:


David Grossman is investigating the intriguing tale of Colin Challen MP. His seat and that of neighbouring MP Ed Balls are due to be merged at the next election. Until a few days ago, he was adamant that he would be standing against Mr Balls to be the Labour candidate for the new constituency of Morley and Outwood.

So what's changed? And why was his attempt to ask a question at Prime Minister's questions today drowned out by the sound of Conservatives shouting the surname of his Labour rival?

Anonymous said...

Of course Fink isn't right. Challen stands in Balls' way to get a "safe" seat in a convenient place so as not to hash up Balls' domestic arrangements.

Challen is adamant he's going to fight for the seat again after his single term in Parliament.

Suddenly, Challen gets a job on some publicly-funded "Task Force" - hey presto, seat free after all!

Naive as I may be, I thought public sector jobs had to be - now what's that word - ADVERTISED, and the successful applicant appointed after interview.

Surely the Guardian readers amongst us know all about public sector advertising, the paper would be bankrupt without it.

Where was Challen's new job advertised? How many applicants? Who was interviewed? How long had this one-term MP had this amazing interest in and knowledge of climate change? Did his interest and knowledge start from the moment he was offered a huge chunk of taxpayers' money (how much exactly?) to relinquish his seat for Gordon's creature?

Fink must think (a poet and doesn't know it) we're all stupid.

A said...

I like David Grossman. He makes me smile, especially after watching him at the last Labour conference trying to give out wristbands saying 'I'm supporting...' and getting roundly abused by almost everybody!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Just glanced at the update.

Had a slight moment of dyslexia.

Wondered who expectorated on whom.

Must get new glasses.