Friday, 26 June 2009

Brown pledges to fight on as Bercow climbs the greasy pole.

In an interview given to the News of the World last weekend Gordon Brown said that he was ‘determined’ to lead the Labour Party into the next election, this despite the party having managed to attract only 16% at the recent European Parliament elections and his premiership having been plagued by a string of resignations and threats to dethrone him.

He struck a decidedly bullish tone saying of his embattled government ‘We must win and we will win’, he also urged MP’s to spend the long summer recess in their constituencies rebuilding relations with the public that have been severely damaged by the expenses scandals of recent months.

Regarding his own political motivations Mr Brown said: ‘It has never been the trappings of power I care about but what we can do in power to help hard pressed families.’

Well he would say that, wouldn’t he? Chorus the cynics, and Gordon Brown attracts cynicism like no other politician and yet it is not entirely impossible that he could be speaking truthfully.

Whatever we may think of Gordon Brown’s leadership style or the means by which he came to be Prime Minister there are still some impressive and too little recognised aspects about his character.

Although it has done him few favours in the constant glare of the twenty four hour news media the most important of these is that he is demonstrably ill at ease with himself and has trouble reconciling his ‘moral compass’ with the messy compromises required by personal ambition and the demands of day to day governance.

Although his moment as a significant political figure is coming to an end in the long term history may take a kinder view of Gordon Brown, if not the party he led, than his current fortunes suggest.


John Bercow, the self styled ‘change candidate’ was elected Speaker of the House of Commons this week, collecting 322 votes to the 271 given to his nearest rival Sir George Young.

Bercow, like all the other hopefuls in the race to be speaker stood on a platform of reforming Westminster after the disastrous tenure of Michael Martin and the scandal over MP’s expenses. Although his election formally welcomed by the leaders of both parties Bercow is not at all popular with his fellow Conservatives, many of whom see him as a opportunist and as only paying lip service to the need for change.

You can see their point, Bercow, in the definition of such things provided by Tony Benn is more of a weather vane than a signpost, meaning he changes his political outlook in line with the whims of fashion rather than standing by a clear set of principles. In his case that means moving from being an ultra-Thatcherite to a position of smoothly metropolitan liberalism allowing his to move to whatever part of the middle ground looks most promising at any given moment.

Despite his choice to abandon the Speaker’s traditional robes in favour of an academic gown John Bercow is no kind of change candidate. Proof of this can be seen in just one line from the speech he gave during the hustings debate before MP’s voted on who was to be the next Speaker.

He wanted to take one of the most important offices in the land, he said, because, ‘I don’t want to be somebody: I want to do something.’

Awful; the sort of trite nonsense spouted by managerial buffoons and written by cynical PR types, it spells out the sorry message that for all the window dressing under the new Speaker business within the Westminster bubble is going to carry on as usual; and that is the last thing MP’s or anyone else needs.


The sun is shining, the Pimms is chilling and strawberries and cream are being sold for the price of a bachelor pad in Knightsbridge, it could only be Wimbledon fortnight.

As usual Andy Murray presents Britain’s only real challenge in the tournament having strolled into the second round with a 6-2 7-5 6-3 victory over Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis. Needless to say the press has already deemed this to be the year when Murray becomes the first Briton since Fred Perry back in 1936 to win the tournament.

What of the other British players? Well might you ask they all fell at the first hurdle, proving, yet again, that despite being awash with money, a large slice of it from the public purse, the Lawn Tennis Association is little more than a production line for amiable amateurs unable to cope in the modern sporting world.

The problem, so we’re told in the annual round of hand wringing that follows another failure to win Wimbledon by a British player is that, as a country, we don’t really care about tennis. Quite true in that apart from two weeks a year the sport barely troubles the public interest, but a little success could change that overnight.

There is though only one way that will ever happen and in may just be too much for the blazer wearing chaps of the LTA to cope with. The time has come to uncouple the underachievers from the funding gravy train, put the funds released into a sensible programme for encouraging tennis in schools and reminding those who may be inspired to play the game professionally that the most important qualification they need is the one thing that, now he has learnt to control his aggression, is the one thing Andy Murray seems to have in spades; the hunger to win.

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