Sunday, October 05, 2008

Mandelson: in the Cabinet and outside Parliament?

At the risk of constitutional fogeyism the quesion arises: Has Mandelson actually started his new job? Is he - as of now - Secretary of State for Business? Because, as things stand, not only is he not an MP but he is not - yet - a member of the Lords (I suppose Lord Mandelson of Spin will emerge in due course). When is the last time a member of the Cabinet was outside Parliament? My guess is 1963. After Douglas-Home removed himself from the Lords but before he returned to the Commons, there was, I think, a - short - interval when the PM was outside Parliament. There were, I believe, letters to The Times questioning the constitutionality of this. The same question arises vis-a-vis Mandelson. The British Constitution is a mysterious thing, but is there not at least a convention that a Cabinet member should be in Parliament and shouldn't Mandelson wait until he is before assuming his duties? For that matter, once he is installed in the Lords, as I assume he will be, he will be a Secretary of State who is outside the Commons. There are precedents for that (leaving aside the Leader of the Lords and the Lord Chancelllor), most recently - I think - Charlie Falconer (for a few weeks Justice Secretary), but before that one has, unless I am mistaken, to go back to the 1980's (Lords Carrington and Young). Mandelson's position will be fairly unusual - he will be able to avoid being questioned in the Commons, not that he will be bothered about that.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Brown "too clever by half" (again)

Politaholic has not had time to mull over the reshuffle but my immediate reaction is that bringing back Mandelson - which certainly took me by surprise - is typical Brown: "too clever by half". The calculation is obvious, I think: (i) it looks bold, decisive, etc; (2) it is intended to defuse the incipient Blairite revolt; (iii) Brown probably intends Mandelson to run the election campaign. The trouble is Brown's calculations are always so transparent, and what is intended to be clever just looks devious. I don't think this will unify the party; it is more the cohabitation of rival factions, and my guess is that warfare will break out between them eventually. Personally if I were Brown I would not trust Mandelson as far as I can spit. He represents everything sleazy and small about the Blair era (dodgy mortgages; the infatuation with the moneyied classes; the contempt - even, I think, the hatred - of Labour's traditional working-class core voters; the dirty politics - remember the Saddleworth by-election?; the infatuation with spin). And of course Mandelson is unelected (I rather think the Tories will on occasion remind us of this). Actually the return of this reptile to the cabinet just makes me want to puke.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Comrade Osborne? Hardly.

So George Osborne doesn't believe in "market fundamentalism" and has no time for the "capitalist casino" economy, and thinks fat cats should bear the blame, etc. This is a bit Alice in Wonderland isn't it? Haven't the Tories been pushing privatisation and deregulation since the mid-1970's and wasn't that the gospel of their suburban heroine? He has a point, it has to be said, when he argues that Gordon has been "running the casino" for the last ten years, but are we meant to believe the Tories would have done it differently? The whole political class is to blame for this; they all bought in to "market fundamentalism".