06 Jan 2010
January 6, 2010

So, who were The Chickens?

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Thought I’d share a few thoughts about today’s wee excitement.

Pat Hewitt and Geoff Hoon sent out an email laying out their thoughts about the need for a ‘clearing of the air’ by the means of a Parliamentary Labour Party vote of confidence, or otherwise, in Gordon.  No, they wanted him to go.  There was little ringing ’round, as far as I can see (they didn’t ring close colleagues).  But, whatever, perhaps the most interesting thing was that quite a few members of the cabinet stayed quiet to see how it panned out. Ed Balls stepped up right away to attack the attackers, then Sadiq Khan, Jim Murphy and Shaun Woodward, yet that highlighted how the others were hiding.  The most benign analysis, and the one which served both Downing Street and the silent ministers, was that they were getting on with the job of government and were too busy to deal with the ‘fluff’ of Pat and Geoff.  I guess the moment of relief from Downing Street was when Jack Straw came out before the six o clock news to tell us; “nothin’ ‘appenin’ ‘ere now, it’s all over, just move along please’. It was all over.

So, what happened?

Well, Scotland’s political ecology is such that where there’s a threat to Labour seats it’s mainly from the SNP.  There are a lot of what folk across the UK would (complacently) call ‘heartland’ Labour seats.  MPs with Scottish consituencies aren’t best placed to judge the best thing for tight marginals in the South East.  I had emails from members in my constituency supporting Gordon very strongly.  Most regular folk in Scotland see Gordon for what he is – a decent man who wants the world to be a better place, especially for the less well-off.  There are quite a few Labour MPs in Scotland.  Labour is good for Scotland and current poll figures reflect that, for what that’s worth (ask ‘Yougov’ directors).

Meanwhile, back at the south-eastern ranch, a lot of potential Labour voters (yes, still) don’t see it that way.  I don’t have to do the whole pseudo-analysis thing here, but it’s pretty clear that those undecideds won’t be swayed by the same things as doughty, decent, public-service oriented Scots.  So, what to do?

As far as I’m concerned, in this case the Labour politicians best placed to judge are those in marginal seats in England.  Today, two things happened.  MPs like Steve Ladyman voted for Gordon.  Harsh reality this, but Geoff and Pat would say that doughty Scottishness isn’t going to win his seat better than whatever alternative is on parade.  So perhaps Steve et al think supporting Gordon is the right thing – there’s no law against it.

The other thing was that the cabinet ministers who’d held back, and of course the couple who’d pledged to act – Geoff and Pat aren’t daft – bottled.  Their (the two ministers) weakness was ridiculous – as are they.   A lot of people know who they are, including Gordon.  Not the media, for some reason.  If Nick Robinson knows, he’s not sharing. Near history will record it all, though.

Ultimately, Pat and Geoff said they way they think it is.  Some suggest that they might have said it when James Purnell did last year, or in 2007.  But there it is.

The air is cleared now, alright.  Labour faces an election where the Tories offer is far from fleshed out, less so sold.

But today’s most newsworthy detail was that two cabinet ministers created a flap in the pigeon coop, but turned out not to be foxes but chickens.