Thursday, May 17, 2007

Six Weeks of Whitehall Paralysis Ahead

coup. n. sudden overthrow of a government, usually done by a small group that just replaces the top power figures

Whatever one's own definition of the word coup, an inescapable fact is that the electorate has not been consulted. The Conservatives and LibDems rightly point out that this transfer of power is different from previous instances because the Prime Minister was elected on a promise of serving a full third term. As in so many other areas he reneged on his promise. But if the opposition parties think they will get a quick election from Gordon Brown they will be sadly disappointed.

The question which now being asked is this: if Gordon Brown has no opponent, why on earth drag this process out for six more weeks? Alastair Darling has broken ranks this morning and called for Gordon Brown to take over immediately, which illustrates just how much Blair's authority is already shot to pieces.

The devil in me quite looks forward to the next six weeks as Labour politicians jockey for position and Gordon conducts hustings with himself (you couldn't make it up), but it cannot be good for the government of the country. Whitehall departments are already in paralysis and unable to function properly. They are not used to 'periods of transition'.

What we are going to experience over the next six weeks is an elongated ego trip on the part of Tony Blair as he jets round the world to say goodbye to his mates. I suppose no one should be surprised that his vanity knows no bounds, but it doesn't mean we have to lie down and accept it.

Graphic hattip Theo Spark


Anonymous said...

Blair hasn't "reneged", He is THE victim of Browns's September 06 Coup.

Old BE said...

WHY doesn't Brown become leader immediately?

Blair is going to be a very loose cannon and needs to be offed ASAP.

Anonymous said...

I do hope it's soon otherwise we are going to be stuffed with the EU permanently.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear Iain! Excellent post.

Anonymous said...

Imagine Broon's surprise if Bliar decided to go to the Queen and ask for a dissolution of Parliament.

Old BE said...

DBD that would be better than the alternative - that he spends the next 6 weeks signing up to the EU Constitution.

We need new checks and balances.

ChrisC said...

"but it doesn't mean we have to lie down and accept it."

Unfortunately it does.

What can we do?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the vanity of Broon in all this. He will just love the lobby-fodder oiling around and kow-towing to the magnifecence that is the Broon. However, re-inforcing a delusion never helps but hey, that's overblown ego for you.

Or maybe he needs Toady to take the rap for something about to surface?

Anonymous said...

Blair has no intention of stepping down early or even running a "dual Premiership" . That would mean that he would be unable to strike a deal with Merkel and Sarkozy regarding the EU Constitution and the creation of an official President of the EU. Any guesses who would be pleased to accept such a position ? It also has the added advantage of a final sticking two fingers up at Gordon

Anonymous said...

"Coup? Coup? Oh, sorry, I thought you were saying C-O-O.... Why else do you think I've been hanging around all those snotty kids in school playgrounds for the past few months...."

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Labour, we now have an old government which is no longer in power and a new government which is not yet in office.
And Britain is left adrift.

antifrank said...

I agree about the paralysis, but I don't agree about the coup. The last election was fought on the explicit understanding that Tony Blair would stand down, and the barely concealed understanding that Gordon Brown would take over - "Vote Blair, Get Brown" was a frequently heard phrase.

Moreover, since the second world war, Prime Ministers have ascended to office without a general election in 1957, 1963, 1976 and 1990. There is nothing unusual about what is going on now, and in many ways the circumstances of Gordon Brown's promotion are the most transparent of any of the occasions since WW2 that a Prime Minister has been replaced between elections.

Old BE said...

The last election was fought on the explicit understanding that Tony Blair would stand down

The IMPLICIT understanding, actually, since Blair PROMISED to serve A FULL TERM

But then again he lied about everything else so why be surprised?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that I agree with antifrank.The 1957 and 1963 resignations were both for genuine ill health.It is said that Wilson stepped down in 1976 because he felt that he no longer was mentally fit enough (and it soon prefigured the sad onset of Alzeimers).Only the 1990 coup is comparable.It may be transparent but the electorate were not asked.

The Huntsman said...

Surely this particular piece of nonsense provides an open-goal of an opportunity for the Tories to disrupt the Scottish Emperor's Coronation? Perhaps Dave could be persuaded to come back from sabbatical to take charge of such an assault?

We now have not so much a 'lame Duck' PM as a 'Dead Duck' PM who has absolutely no authority left at all: Why must the country be governed for the next six weeks for the benefit and vanity of sleazebag Blair?

There are very important international meetings on the horizon: it is surely an outrage that, however unsatisfactory and flawed Brown may be, he is the man who will be PM until the next election but is not him who will making the decisions for which he can then be held to account?

This is particularly so in relation to the EU where it is anticipated important business concerning the constitution through whose heart everyone thought a stake had been driven is on the agenda.

I am sure the British public will feel these parades (one a vanity parade the other a one-man beauty parade) are not in the national interest and will mark their disapproval in the polls. Labour surely cannot win here: if they have their six week interregnum they will attract considerable negative opinion for not getting on with the business of government. If they give in, it will be seen as a sign of weakness.

The fear is that, faced with yet another open goal the Tories will not even trun up for the game.

Anonymous said...

"Whatever one's own definition of the word coup, an inescapable fact is that the electorate has not been consulted"

Did the Conservatives consult the electorate after Thatcher resigned?

Anonymous said...

Surely six weeks of Labour not making even more needless, bad, mad, illiberal legislation is a GOOD thing?

Anonymous said...

An MP should ask a written question asking how much taxpayers money is being spent by Blair in his last 6 weeks in office on his jaunts!

Manfarang said...

There was nothing sudden about this overthrow!

neil craig said...

Certainly since there is to be no contest there is no nedd for Blair to hold the ring for a month. There is now no argument for him staying till then.

The call for an election is normal opposition rubbish (Brown said it when Major took over) but makes no constitutional sense in a parliamentary state.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:56 - when was the last time a Conservative leader appointed without an election (of party members, etc.)?

Chris Paul said...

Cobblers! Plans do change you know Iain. Mrs Thatcher was flly expecting to go on and on and on was she not? Blair made the mistake of saying any such thing ahead of 2005 but in a democracy leaders change from time to time and not always at a time of their own choosing.

The fifth of my five predictions yesterday tea time - three of which came true within an hour and the fourth by lunchtime today - was that Gordon would go to the palace early if that were constitutionally and practically possible.

I'd certainly support that if it were possible though I notice Jack Straw making the case on News 24 just now for a possible longer transition between regimes than sudden death. Unless he's saying one thing and organising another. Never!

Anonymous said...

Surely the reason is that if Brown was made PM immediately he'd want a reshuffle. To do this before the results of the Deputy Leader vote would be impossible - the portfolios he allocated the candidates to would make it clear who he felt best capable of working with.

It's not ideal but better to appoint the two together and then appoint a new cabinet (plus that way he gets to see who's most popular with the grassroots members).

Anonymous said...

BlueKeld said...
"Surely the reason is that if Brown was made PM immediately he'd want a reshuffle. To do this before the results of the Deputy Leader vote would be impossible - the portfolios he allocated the candidates to would make it clear who he felt best capable of working with.

It's not ideal but better to appoint the two together and then appoint a new cabinet (plus that way he gets to see who's most popular with the grassroots members."

Bluekeld is right - if Brown took over now, then he'd either have a Cabinet he didn't appoint or would have to shuffle the cards without knowing the outcome of the DL election. I think there should have been an affirmative ballot - that way Gordon has a mandate from the Party and not just the PLP.

Re calling an election - Iain would you stand by your POV if Blair had stood down for reasons of ill health? Anon at 2.56 has a point - the Tories didn't call an election when Thatcher went...what's the difference??

Anonymous said...

The events of the last 48 hrs mean that the MPs have told their party in the country; "You can have a leader of any colour you want, so long as it's Brown" (apologies to Henry Ford).

But Iain is right - the Queen should ask Brown to form a Govt now. He has shown he has the support of the House of Commons whilst Blair clearly does not. It is not in the national interest to continue with this lame duck PM any longer. In practice what the Queen could do would be to call Blair in and tell him that if he doesn't resign and advise her to send for Brown, she's inclined to dissolve Parliament. If he splutters that that is against all precedent, she can say that it is also against all precedent for the timing of her changing her Prime Minister to be treated as a matter for the convenience of an internal party election of a Deputy Leader, not even a position bringing any Government office.

I can see the point about not knowing who the Deputy will be, but none of them are going to be Chancellor so, if he chooses, Brown could just fill that vacancy, make a few other consequential changes and then make his more major changes in six weeks.

More importantly than anything, there is an important EU Summit coming up. For that reason he might also want to get his new Foreign Secretary in place to help him prepare for the summit. It would be intolerable for Blair to go there with nil negotiating strength, a Foreign Sec in all probability likely also to be out within days, and probably an inclination to give away the farm to his Euro friends as some redeeming grand gesture. Whereas Brown, quite apart from his natural inclinations, could not afford to be seen to be weak.

Unless someone grasps the national interest in this, we are sleep walking towards a potential Euro disaster if Blair is in charge then. The other leaders can always invite him to a farewell dinner coinciding with the summit if he wants to say goodbye, although whether they might suddenly find pressing engagements on the evening set aside for this would remain to be seen.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see the previous leader doing his bit for the forthcoming lecture tour of The States in The Rose Garden to-day. If that doesn't bring it at least $2 Million and a place on the Board of a major US Corporate I don't know what will !

Anonymous said...

"Blair must serve a full term. NO there must be an election, no he must go immediately..."

Make your mind up!

There was a real coup when Thatcher was shot by Heseltine then the rest of her cabinet. No election. Wilson stood down. No election. That's not how we do things round here.

Thatcher had, if you remember, promised to stay not only until the end of the '87 Parliament, but until the end of the Parliament after that. She'd have been around til 1995-97!

No wonder they shot her.

Basically, we have a Parliamentary democracy. Blair's gone, the MPs are still there in their droves, and Brown can command a majority in the House of Commons.

Be careful in case your words which are aimed at Blair rebound one day to hit your own support for the Parliamentary syste of government!

And didn't IDS promise to serve a full term? Party leaders come and go, it's called POLITICS - and it's a blood sport.

Now get a grip, you're sounding like Melissa Kite!

Anonymous said...

Surely this objection is constitutionally unsound? Tony Blair was elected solely as the representative of the people of Sedgefield. He was then appointed as PM by the sovereign, and successfully gained a majority of similarly elected constituency representatives in Parliament. So long as his successor is also able to do this, he has every right to govern without immediate reference to the electorate. The only person in this country with any right to choose a Prime Minister is Her Majesty the Queen

Yak40 said...

I don't see why the change of PM shouldn't take place now, who cares who becomes DPM, why do we even need one anyway, it's not an "official" position. Not that I view the ascension of Brown with any joy, far from it.

Anonymous said...

Every breath you take
And every move you make
Every tax you rake
Every step you take
We'll be watching you

Every single day
And every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
We'll be watching you

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every gasp and gape
We'll be watching you

Auntie Flo'

Anonymous said...

This is similar to the Conservative replacement of Thatcher except she didn't choose to leave. She said she would go 'on and on'. That is very disingenuous of you Iain to not point out that the Conservatives did exactly the same thing, except they had a real contest.

Anonymous said...

the tories didn't have a contest when they dumped IDS either.

Anonymous said...

For all of Labours faults over the last 10 years, the Tories are no where near ready to win the next election.

Dave might be slick and test well with yummie mummies who live in west London, but outside the M25 he is not seen as a potential PM by many. I work in politics, and recently had feedback along the lines that Dave is seen as slimey, too young, and comes across like a slick sales person. Thinking back to how shit many things were in the UK under the last Tory Government, maybe Blair was right about the big hulking fist of Brown smashing little Dave when it comes to the crunch. Here in the provinces, life has been far beter under Labour. Just when I think Conservatives might have smething to offer me, I see John Redwood pop up on the TV or Boris Johnson and I remember exactly what they stand for.

Anonymous said...

Well, Gordon was 'crowned' and seemed delighted about it and who can blame him? The 'interregnum' however - Blair remaining PM until June 27 - smacks again of a slow move to a presidential system. HM the Queen could solve this dilemma by declaring that Tony has in effect resigned by leaving the country without her consent then sending for Gordon right away and asking him to form a government. An interesting idea? The constitutional effects would be extremely tricky but the idea of Tony being left high-and-dry in the middle of his world tour is so appealing! It might tickle HM's well-known sense of black humour.Has anyone got her ear?

neil craig said...

If Blair is jetting around the world does the Deputy PM chair cabinet meeting or might the Chancellor step in?

Anonymous said...

I cannot agree that Gordon Brown should become Prime Minister under these circumstances. He hasn't been elected by anyone to anything except as an MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath. He hasn't even been elected as leader of the Labour Party - races where no one else turns up don't count, I feel.

It isn't the same as when Mrs. Thatcher was ousted - John Major was at least elected to lead his own party, which is more than you can say for GB.

Gordon Brown has moved heaven and earth to ensure no one stood against him so he didn't have to fight an election with Labour Party members - what kind of backbone is that? If he won't stand up to his own members, why should anyone think he'll stand up for the UK?