Friday, June 30, 2006

Hurrah for Blaenau Gwent!!

Fantastic news from Blaenau Gwent. At the last election the Blairites, treating the constituency as a feudal fiefdom, “parachuted-in” Maggie Jones (described as “a friend of Tony and Cherie”) on a “women-only short-list”. Long-standing Labour activist Peter Law stood as an Independent (refusing to be bribed by Peter Hain, who offered a peerage if Law stood down). The voters of Blaenau Gwent showed they wouldn’t be shat on and Law took the seat on a 49% swing. Sadly, Peter Law recently died after a long illness. Labour put everything into winning the seat back (deploying everyone from Gordon Brown to Dennis Skinner), but Dai Davies has held the seat; admittedly on a much-reduced majority, but it is still a cheering victory for David over an arrogant Goliath. Trish Law (Peter’s widow) also won election to the Welsh Assembly (her husband had been both an MWA and MP). Altogether it was a good night for the “little people” against the machine-politicians. In his acceptance speech Dai Davies warned: “Political parties take note, you take people for granted at your peril”. Owen Smith (the Labour candidate) gave a speech which was part contrite (acknowledging “mistakes” had been made) and part swagger (paraphrase: Labour will win the seat back eventually, so fuck you). This morning the robotic Hazel Blears was on Radio 4 mouthing platitudes with all the flair of a Lancashire “speak-your-weight” machine, also taking comfort in Davies reduced majority. It was good news in the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election also: the Conservative vote was slashed, suggesting the “Cameron magic” may not be as spellbinding as had been thought. Labour was pushed into fourth place behind UKIP. Turnout was down by 24% (from 64.8% to 40.5%) and the Conservative share of the vote fell from 51% to 40%. Labour’s share fell from 22% to 6.6%. The Liberal-Democrats were in second place (only 633 votes behind the Conservatives) but the number of Liberal-Democrat votes was not that much greater than in the General Election (10,988 as compared to 10,241). It looks like there was some tactical voting for the Liberal-Democrats and that both Conservative and Labour voters stayed away in large numbers, in each case, I guess, because of disillusionment with the party leadership. Cameron’s opinion poll ratings are good, but this result suggests disquiet at the Conservative grassroots. For Labour to be pushed from second into fourth place is pretty poor.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Clarke fizzles out

Charles Clarke's media offencive seems to have been a bit of a damp squib. It was certainly not a "Howe moment". Dead sheep he may have been but Howe fatally wounded; Clarke has fallen far short of that. Howe resigned; Clarke was sacked. There were political differences at stake in Howe's case (over Europe); I can't see any in the case of Clarke (it is, apparently - God help us - all about his "honour"). Only a few months ago he was an uber-Blairite, who wanted Blair to stay as long as possible, and was spoken of as a possible Blairite candidate for the leadership; now he is plainly trying to work his way back into Cabinet. Nevertheless it is all part of the steady stream of bad news stories and cock-ups which keep chippinbg away at Blair's authority. The latest news (in yesterday's Guardian) is that Blair wants to avoid a bust-up at the autumn conference and is seeking a deal with Brown for a departure next year. The only trouble is that there is no reason why Brown should "believe a word he says". The good news for Blair is that the summer is upon us and Parliament will soon be in recess. In September, however, after a summer of quiet scheming, the game will be on again. I still think the fatal blow will have to be struck from within the tent: but does anyone have the balls?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Bare Essentials

I've just half-heard (while making breakfast) an item on Radio 4 about the Government bolt-hole in case of nuclear war (decommissioned in the 1990's: my guess is they have a new one somewhere, officially or otherwise). Anyway there was a library down there. And what does it contain? An encyclopedia of human sexual behaviour (needs must) and - what else - a copy of Who's Who!! Dear God, the English obsession with social status would have survived nuclear armaggedon. I can just see it. Eyeballs melted, skin peeling off: "My dear chap, weren't we at school together...?" Then again, it is important to know who should be allowed into the shelter and who can be left outside to toast.

The ICM Poll

The ICM poll in yesterday's Guardian has the Conservatives on 37% and Labour on 32%, with the Liberal-Democrats on 21%. This is Labour's lowest ICM rating for 20 years. To find three successive months in which Labour's rating was as low as since April one has to go back to 1987. The Guardian editorial argues that "the danger for Labour is that demoralisation and political alienation will deepen" the longer Blair remains, and his "continuation at the top of his party increasingly appears like an act of vanity". But the editorial also warns that "a change of leader would not purge all the party's problems". Jackie Ashley in Monday's Guardian reported that morale is so low that "once-ambitious ministers are heard openly discussing the upside of spending a few years out of government..." Blair seems determined to stay as long as possible, whatever the consequences (I suspect he would prefer Cameron to Brown as PM).

Blair Brown

Further to Cameron Brown: Skipper tells me that there is an actress called Blair Brown. A quick internet search reveals an extensive back catalogue - from Kojak to ER, including a TV drama called "A Season in Purgatory" (1996). There are also a whole bunch of Cameron Browns': including a triathlete, a Republican Senator from Michigan, and a bassist and composer. I don't know how recently this photo of Blair Brown was taken; but she seems to me a rather fine looking lady. She can't be related to either namesake.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Blair Cameron is apparently a Mills-and-Boon type romantic novelist. His titles include - appropriately - Boss Lady (1985) and Million-Dollar Lover (1985). I understand there is also a Cameron Blair who plays minor league baseball for - I think (?) - the Pittsburg Pirates. He plays second base (whatever that is).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Hoggart has a Bee in his Bonnet

Simon Hoggart - he of Radio 4's News Quiz, the show that fearlessly steered clear of any reference to Hoggard's liason with Kimberley Quinn - has a piece in Saturday's Guardian in which he expresses "pity" for "England-hating Scots" who supported Trinidad and Tobago against England; he finds it odd because the English in return regard Scotland with indifference. Hoggard is so indifferent he devotes a third of his rather tiresome column to the subject. Poor diddums.

Martin Rowson on Guantanamo Deaths

The description of the three suicides as "acts of asymmetical warfare" by the camp commander at Guantanamo Bay, and as a "good PR move" by the US deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, is truly shocking, and inadvertently speaks volumes about the official attitudes towards the prisoners at Guantanamo and the regime to which they are subject. The most that Blair can bring himself to say about this is that Guantanamo is an "anomoly". Martin Rownson's cartoon says here says it all.

Blair the Arse-Licker

I haven't read in its entirety the 22-page handwritten letter from Tony Blair to Michael Foot written on July 28 1982. The letter was unearthed by Robert Taylor among papers donated by Foot to the Peoples History Museum in Manchester, and excerpts are published in the New Statesman (and widely reported in the national press). From what I can see the letter is a simple piece of arse-licking by Blair: then aged 29, having just lost the Beaconsfield by-election, and desperately seeking a safe parliamentary berth. The letter is shamelessly designed to flatter old Footie: Blair appeals to Foot's vanity by praising his book Debts of Honour, and pays homage to Foot's (genuine) enthusiasm for Paine, Swift, and Hazlitt. I very much doubt if Blair at any time really shared Foot's intellectual interests; and his claim to have read Marx "first hand" simply does not ring true: I just don't see Blair reading the Grundrisse in chambers. It is possible Blair - as he claims to - read Deutscher's trilogy on Trotsky (it is very readable). But frankly he does not strike me as the bookish kind. Was Foot taken in? They do say that when it comes to flattery one can never lay it on too thick. But I suspect Foot knew his arse was being licked and was philosophical about it: it probably wasn't the first time. In any case, it seems to have helped Blair. Foot had campaigned for Blair in Beaconsfield, and a commendation from Foot apparently did him no harm when he sought to became Labour candidate in Sedgefield. I can't imagine that Foot is desperately pleased by what Blair has subsequently done to the Labour Party.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Politaholic is Busy

Politaholic has not had time to post recently; this is my busiest time of year. But don't worry, as Arnie says "I'll be back..."