Monday, April 21, 2008

Charles Clarke Launches Grenade at Balls (Not His Own)

Charles Clarke has an extraordinary letter in today's Times, launching an all out attack on his former buddy Ed Balls. It's worth quoting in full.

Sir, Ed Balls’s extraordinary interview with you (April 18) is most revealing and provokes a response.

His injunctions about the “indulgent nonsense” of “private briefings against the Labour leader” certainly come from one who is well acquainted with this kind of activity. Such things do discredit politics and take us back to the days of faction and party-within-a-party that were so damaging in the 1980s. As he says, we’ve seen it over this parliamentary recess, as I know to my cost from the totally false briefing (to which he refers) that I am considering running as a “stalking horse” against Gordon Brown. I hope that he’ll do what he can to stamp it out.

His references to “disappointment” resonate. It’s certainly true that many Labour MPs, including myself, are disappointed by policy decisions such as the abolition of the 10p tax rate, the over-bureaucratic and insensitive nature of the post office closure programme, and the problems arising from lack of preparation for a Northern Rock-style economic challenge. These all stem from Treasury positions with which he is very familiar. It’s also true that many, including myself, are disappointed with many aspects of his education policies, of which the most serious is the absence of a coherent and focused reform strategy for the 14-19 curriculum, along the lines of Mike Tomlinson’s proposals.

As far as his remarks about “falling for false prophets” are concerned, I would advise him to examine himself and his own role. He should stop attacking others anonymously or in code and look to his own performance and record.

Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP

This kind of attack is interesting for various reasons

  • It is further evidence of the disintegration of the New Labour project
  • Charles Clarke isn't beyond doing some very effective off the record briefings himself
  • It adds further fuel to the debate about what Clarke's 'endgame' is.
Sometimes in politics, you throw a pack of cards up in the air and see how many of them land face up. I suspect this is what Charles Clarke is up to at the moment. He sniffs that Brown is now in deep trouble (cf Jackie Ashley in today's Guardian) and is only too willing to stick the knife in. The question now is: how will Ed Balls react?

I'd love to be sitting between them at Norwich City FC's final home match against QPR... I suspect it wouldn't be the players they'd be hurling abuse at. It would be each other.

Clarke: You're not singing anymore, you're not singing any-more.

Balls: Who ate all the pies?


Anonymous said...

Hopefully we will soon all be able to sing:-

"Goodness gracious! Great! Balls is fired!"

Anonymous said...

With General Melchitt and Captain Darling in charge, her 'Baldrick' (or should we say Ballsdrick?) analogy is perhaps more apt than she realisews.

Anonymous said...

Jackie Ashley: "For after the 10p vote will be plenty more possible crises, not least the vote over the 42-day detention proposal. On both, I am 100% against the official government view and, with every instinct, on the side of the Labour rebels. But disaster is looming and the real parliamentarians have carefully to weigh in the balance what they now do, and ask how much likelier it will make a Tory landslide a year hence."

So typical of the socialist left ... retention of power is more important than sticking to your real beliefs of what is best for the country and its citizens.

They are all utterly shameless selfish morons.

Anonymous said...

isn't it amazing how the people who proclaim to 'think about helping people all the time' are so caught up in their own egos?lusting for power and crapping on each other.
Such altruism astounds me.

Anonymous said...

... I liked the way that Miliband was being openly touted again this weekend as the next leader. All the spin machines are being notched up a gear in advance of Gordo's rapidly approaching crunch time.

Anonymous said...

Brown should have brought Clarke into his cabinet when he became PM, he is too much of a loose cannon for him on the backbenches

Anonymous said...

I see Jackie Ashley is 100% against governmment policy on the 10%tax move and 42 day detention, but urges Labour MPs to vote for these measures for the good of the Party.

So poor people must be made poorer and civil liberies sacrificed for electoral advantage?

I suspect that I am not alone in finding her ruthless and selfish disregard for those whose interests she claims to champion to be truly disgusting.

She should hang her head in shame.

Paddy Briggs said...

This is all very unbecoming and eerily reminiscent of the John Major days – I wonder if GB will suggest that CC should be helped away by the men in the white coats? Clarke’s references to various policy differences don’t ring true – this is about personality differences not about policy. When the unexpurgated version of Alastair Campbell’s diaries eventually appears (sooner rather than later?) the full extent of the rift between the respective Blair and Brown camps will be on public view in all its gruesome detail. It is as tribal and a ritual as any Football club rivalry and, it is clear, that it is as viscerally and malignantly present today as before. For those of us whose natural instincts are to the Left it is truly appalling that clever people like Clarke resort to this sort of thing – is that really what modern politics has to be about and why the hell haven’t they learned the lessons of the Major government that the public is turned off by politicians scrapping like cats in a bag?

Anonymous said...

If there is a Labour leadership election, Iain, what about a poll on what sort of selective school the winner attended? Let's face it, comprehensives are good enough for the little people, but Labour leaders themselves all went to grammars or independents and now want to deny that opportunity to others. I can't think of any significant Labour figure who didn't attend a selective school (I am aware of Prescott, but a/ I did say "significant" and b/ his utter mediocrity rather proves the point of having an 11+).

Newmania said...

Fight fight fight. Quite right of Clarke what is really going on here is that the slime Milliband is meeting real politics for what is probably the first time in his trivial cosseted life . It must really stick in the throat of excluded Blarites to see Millipede Mazola his way into Brown’s good books and then go on to criticise Brown whilst at the same time continue to brown nose his way to leadership of the Party as the Blair wing of the Brown group.

He cannot continue to have it both ways and he will have to pick his team. I despise Milliband who is a deeply unattractive figure. His “Vision” in the New Statesman was one of the most putrid school boy exercises in verbiage | have ever suffered and written atrociously, I therefore support his leadership of the Labour Party fervently.

By the way Iain did you see in the Telegraph there is a rumour that some Blairites might defect to the Conservatives . What do you make of that ?

Anonymous said...

The next line is, of course:

Clarke: Prezza!

Anonymous said...

Labour relies on the selective school sector to provide the party with leaders. For instance:

Broon - Kirkcaldy High School (grammar when he was there)
Bliar - Fettes College (boarders' fees £22k a year)
Smith - Dunoon Grammar School
Kinnocchio - Lewis School, Pengam (grammar when he was there)
Foot - Leighton Park School (boarders' fees £21k a year)
Callaghan - Portsmouth Northern Grammar School
Wislon - Royds Hall Secondary School (grammar when he was there)
Brown - West Square Central School (grammar when he was there)
Gaitskell - Winchester College (boarders' fees £26k a year)
Attlee - Haileybury (boarders' fees £24k a year)

And so on. Labour, evidently, likes its leaders to have a bit of class.

You actually have to go back to George Lansbury - over 70 years ago - to find a Labour leader who wasn't a toff or otherwise educationally privileged. Since 1935, 60% of Labour leaders went to selective grammars, and 40% went to elite fee-paying schools.

I wonder if this could be the makings of a form guide for Labour's imminent leadership election. Charles Clarke (Highgate), Harriet Harperson (St. Paul's), Jack Straw (Brentwood School), Ed Balls and Geoff "Buff" Hoon (both Nottingham High School) all went to elite public schools, so they'd have to be frontrunners. John McDonnell went to a selective grammar school, so he's got the right pedigree too.

Alan Milburn, Jacqui Smith, the Milibands, and Yvette Cooper, OTOH, are comprehensive school riff-raff. A cruel person might comment that it shows (although Harperson, despite her £190,000 private education, always comes over to me as profoundly thick). Either way, their chances don't look good - none of them is really out of the right drawer for Labour.

It's unfortunate that there is no plausible black or Asian candidate, but then Labour tends to let them in on a quota basis rather than through ability, so they're all a bit of a predictably dead loss. The Tories let them in on merit, which is why the only female and gay PMs have been Tories and is also why the first black and Asian PMs will also be Tories.

Who else is in with a shout? I think Harperson is a dark horse here. Not only would she get the token vote, but she'd also appeal to those who want a PM who's posh - and as the privately-educated daughter of an earl, you don't get much posher in politics than Harriet. She is much, much posher than that oik Cameron, for example - and that could prove a decisive advantage at the next north-west Europe regional council election in 2010.

Cicero said...

Didn't Charles Clarke and Ed Balls go to the same school? Interesting that Nottigham High can produce such bile...even on the same side

Anonymous said...

Here's my favourite sentence from Jackie Ashley's piece:

Should Labour MPs strike ruthlessly now and destroy the Brown premiership ... ?

And this from a mainstream commentator in a broadsheet of the Left. I smell fear.

Anonymous said...

Cicero said...
"Didn't Charles Clarke and Ed Balls go to the same school?"

Geoff Hoon went there as well.

Anonymous said...

talking bawgie - the fact that you have put Harperson and Balls in the 'promotion prospects' and Miliband brothers in the 'relegation zone' does, I'm afraid, rather put the kibosh on your argument..

Nice try, however..

Anonymous said...

Charles Clark was the JCR president of King's College, Cambridge, in its lefty hey day as the Peoples' Republic of King's. They went on a "hunger strike" and vowed to eat to take nowt but brown rice and water until their demands for the overthrow of the military capitalist state were met. Wonder how it went?

Dr Blue said...

What a glorious story. Clarke obviously made up for the privation later in life!

Anonymous said...

Balls and "Buff" Hoon both went to fee-paying Nottingham High School. Clarke went to fee-paying Highgate, hence his tone towards Balls - i.e. that of a prefect towards a rather uppity fag.

Miliband went to a comp. My suggestion that Harperson is a more likely successor to Broon than either is based not on her merits (she has none), but on the fact that in its recent history (the last 75 years), Labour has always picked leaders who went to elite schools. Harman, an earl's daughter, went to St. Paul's Girls' School.

On their merits, well, the only Labour MPs who aren't IMHO thoroughly nasty, spiteful, hypocritical little morons are Kate Hoey, Gisela Stuart and Frank Field.

It's actually a bit odd that Labour should "select" their leader at all. They're ideologically opposed to selection for schools and safe Labour seats by merit, preferring a lottery, quota, or Buggins' Turn system. I don't see why the conversion to merit, so late in the game.

I really can't see why the usual principles couldn't be applied to choosing their leader. The results could hardly be worse, while at best, Kate, Gisela, or Frank might win...

Anonymous said...

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...
"Harman, an earl's daughter, went to St. Paul's Girls' School."

She is not an earl's daughter. The 'earl' connection is that her father's sister married Frank Pakenham who later became an earl.

Anonymous said...

Newmania said...

"I therefore support [Milliband's] leadership of the Labour Party fervently."

Me too. It would just be so hilarious. Nothing could be more fitting for a nation that has already committed suicide.