Sunday, 2 August 2009
Who is in charge?
When Lord Mandelson became First Secretary of State (a title once held by the late George Brown) we were told that in effect he was deputy prime minister. But as Gordon Brown goes on holiday in the Lake District we are told that Harriet Harman is running the country.
She has taken the opportunity to demand that one of the Labour leaders in future must always be a woman. This did not get a sympathetic hearing in the media with ITV (a woman reporter) using the politically incorrect 'Harriet Harperson' joke. No doubt the aristocrat from Dulwich would see this as further evidence of sexism in British politics.
Meanwhile, rumours persist that Mandy will take advantage of new legislation to resign as a peer so that he can become Labour leader. The Labour Finance and Industry Group, made up of wealthy donors, has threatened to cut off funding to Labour unless Gordon Brown goes.
This is objectionable on a number of fronts. Wealthy individuals should not deciding who leads a political party. For me it reaffirms my view that the business class and the political class should be kept apart. The rapid disappearance of the business 'goats' from Gordon Brown's government confirms this view.
We first heard in the 1960s that the country should be run as a company, Great Britain Ltd., with business persons bringing their gift for efficiency to the table. Most of them quickly learn that the problems in politics are far more complex and intractable. Moreover, your instructions are not carried out to the extent that they would be in a business.
The Labour Finance and Industry Group also called for Mandy to replace Gordon. This again shows their lack of judgment. Mandy is a very smart political operator, probably the smartest we have around at the moment. But that does not qualify him to lead the country. His grandfather, Herbert Morrison, had many of the same qualities, but he was out smarted by Attlee in his attempts to become prime minister.
Gordon Brown is now as unpopular as John Major was when he left office, but in many ways he is a more tragic figure. People thought that Major was a weak prime minister, but they generally regarded him as a likeable person. Today he makes occasional pronouncements as an elder statesmen whilst enjoying his cricket.
So who will succeed Gordon Brown when he leaves the back door of Downing Street and Dave Cameron comes through the front? I doubt whether it will be Mandy. Harriet Harman has a coalition of support and could come through a crowded field. Perhaps it will be man on the make Andy Burnham? Or Labour could go for the equivalent of Pope Benedict and choose the Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
For some observations on Harriet Harman's remarks by John Prescott go here: Prezza