Pigeons Plot In Secrecy

I don’t know about you, but this whole Tony Blair succession thing has been a right fucking yawn. Whatever the political correspondents may say this is hardly 1990, when Michael Heseltine broke cover to drag Margaret Thatcher down the steps and out of 10 Downing Street while she kicked and bit the whole way. This time around Blair has openly stated that he is going soon and we are pretty sure we know who will replace him as PM; what we don’t know is exactly when this will all take place, but does it really matter?

However, Charles Clarke’s interventions have made the whole situation far more entertaining. Attacking Gordon Brown in the Evening Standard he stated that Brown’s recent behaviour had been “absolutely stupid”; that he could have stopped the recent infighting “with a click of his fingers”, that he must “prove his fitness” to lead and that there are “little incidences like the grin in the car (when leaving after a chat with Blair to discuss the handover) that build up a terrible picture” of Brown.

I think personally that we have reached a pretty sad state of affairs when someone can get criticised for smiling, while I haven’t exactly noticed Blair slapping down his supporters for criticising Brown recently; and if Clarke really is so appalled by political plotting, what does he think it looks like when he runs to the Standard and then the Telegraph to launch attacks on Brown (after he promised, promised, whilst slagging of the knobbish John Reid a few months back, that he would retire from public life after the World Cup)?

It all reminds me less of the Heseltine-Thatcher squabble, which amounted to open warfare, than the guerrilla-like campaign that surrounded Michael Portillo when he ran for the Tory leadership in 2001. At the time the papers were full of accusations that Portillo was a ruthless and malevolent schemer who would spin and dissemble, who would stand aloof while he released his attack dogs to savage any opposition, who would trample on anyone who got in his way. I thought at the time that it was curious that for someone who was supposedly such a master of the dark arts we only saw negative portrayals of him in the press, while his opponents, Ken Clark and Iain Duncan Smith, went about unscathed. Either the press ignored Portillo’s efforts, or they weren’t effective, or in fact he was the subject rather than the originator of a smear campaign.

Similarly, listening to a phone-in yesterday on Five Live, the majority of the listeners subscribed to the view of Brown as a shifty and bitter malcontent disloyally plotting Blair’s downfall. As Brown hasn’t openly acted in any such manner you can only imagine people have come to this opinion from reading the papers; but is this because Brown has actually been plotting, or is it because, as with Portillo, he is in fact the victim of an insidious and effective propaganda campaign; contrariwise?

I’m not seeking to defend Gordon Brown here, I don’t really know what he is up to and I care less; I don’t give a shit about such Westminster Village bollocks. He may well be plotting and spinning day and night for all I know; but I can’t help thinking that surely the best schemer is the one you don’t think is scheming, who appears to be genuinely above it all? And with that in mind, lest we forget that however many faults Tony Blair can lay claim to (and oh, let me count the ways), he has proven time and again that he is the consummate politician, without peer.