Friday, 5 September 2008

Clarke's intervention backfires

Charles Clarke's criticisms of Gordon Brown leadership seem to have backfired, simply confirming his reputation as a maverick who has little broader support in the party. Even those in the party who are critical of Gordon Brown feel that the time is not yet ripe for a challenge, not least when a political re-launch is being attempetd.

The political re-launch seems to have faltered already. Hopes of some sort of payout to help with energy bills have been dropped, either because the energy companies won't provide the funds or because increasing the cost of their carbon permits would be incompatible with European Union rules.

Margaret Beckett appeared on Radio 5 this morning to steady the troops (she said at her own behest) and, typically, did an effective job. She should be brought back into the Cabinet in some kind of non-portfolio role.

Gordon Brown will have to get through the Labour conference and deliver an effective conference speech, although communication to a large audience is his greatest deficiency. Then there is the Glenrothes by-election, although Alex Salmond may have made his first error with his advocacy of a local income tax. He admitted that those in a household with a joint income of £64,000 would have to pay more under his scheme, but he seemed to think that someone on 32k a year was super rich, whereas two teachers living together could easily be earning that amount. People like that not be pleased about paying an extra 3p in the pound in income tax.

Talking of hapless, Harriet Harman has caused a storm by demanding that prostitution be criminalised. Given that there are already a number of measures dealing with the subject on the statute book, I think that what she had in mind was prosecuting men who purchase sexual services. Sex trafficking in women is clearly a serious problem, but in general the subject of prostitution attracts more hyprocrisy than almost any other in politics: indeed, it is an issue which only the Women's Institute has sought to tackle in a sensible and balanced way.

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