Brown Loses Compass, Neal Lawson Calls for Him to Go

Neal Lawson runs Compass which is the liveliest of Labour’s soft-left factional campaigning organisations. He is a prickly character, some will attribute his knifing of Gordon today (Indy) to a mixture of disappointment and perhaps irritation that post-Blair he has neither been listened to, nor given any preferment by Gordon. He might not have taken up a position in Gordon’s big tent, but it would have been nice to have been asked…

Compass was a strategic part of the “coalition of the willing” to unseat Blair, so Lawson should accept some of the responsibility for saddling Labour with Brown. The month after Brown took office Lawson wrote a piece for the Guardian gushing like a school girl:

The skilfully engineered bounce witnessed in the first days of Gordon Brown’s premiership could be turned into something more: a political earthquake. The time is ripe not just for a better Labour government but for a shift in the centre of gravity of politics decisively to the left. Brown could be the first Labour leader since Clement Attlee to recast British society – not by taking small steps but giant leaps. This is why. Once in every generation a political revolution takes place in which thinking and behaviour shifts not just by degrees but qualitatively. It happened in 1945 under Labour, as the experience of the war and the economic depression before it heralded the centralised welfare state.

He concluded his paean with a quote from the left-wing theorist Gramsci: “The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions, without becoming disillusioned.” Well today he has himself failed Gramsci’s challenge, his disillusionment is total. He complains that since Gordon funked calling an election in October he has been an “unmitigated disaster”. Gordon’s “responses have been both wrong and weak” or merely “dog whistle policies”. How hard it must be for Lawson and his Compass followers, who connived with the Brownies so long to make life difficult for Blair, to see left-wing hopes crushed as Labour now campaigns on an authoritarian agenda, promising British jobs for British workers, attacking the Tories for being soft on foreigners and ID cards so soon after publicly taking tea with Mrs Thatcher. Gordon is now reviled both by the vindicated Blairites and the disillusioned left. The worry for the Tories must be that the factions might just unite to dispatch Brown early…

The Profundity of the Punditry : Janet Daley


Still looking for examples of Janet Daley’s stunning insights into Gordon Brown from last year. Send any gems you have found to Guido.Fawkes@Order-Order.com

Incidentally the Telegraph today repeats the mistake that the Tories have not taken a seat from Labour in a by-election for “30 years”, a mistake also made by the Sunday Times yesterday. That error was compounded by the article claiming Margaret Thatcher’s constituency was Grantham. Mistakenly they refer back to the famous Ilford North by-election of 1978 which presaged the fall of Jim Callaghan’s government. In fact the Tories more recently gained Mitcham & Morden from Labour in a 1982 by-election, when Maggie was of course actually MP for Finchley.

Burma : Send in the Bombers

Nick Cohen is surely right that we should send in the bombers to Burma. All the pious hand-wringing is worthless in the face of Burmese intransigence. The West has the military capability to arrange airdrops of medical supplies and food. We did something similar when the Communists tried to starve Western Berlin. Perhaps the Luftwaffe and the airforces of some of the less robust European states could take the lead for once, since they seem less willing to take risks in the Middle East.

Not an ideal solution admittedly, but it is surely better than sitting impotently around the UN security council. Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister once hired a ship to rescue boat people fleeing the Communists in Vietnam. Go on Kouchner, give the Armée de l’Air something to do…

UPDATE : Reading between the lines Dave supports sending inunilateral aid. In the comments a co-conspirator reminds us of Operation Manna, the World War II effort using Lancaster Bombers to bombard the starving Netherlands with 6850 tonnes of food during one week in May 1945.

Coming Next Week : Holding the Punditry to Account

The exasperated collective counter-attack by the establishment Commentariat on bloggers has inspired Guido to start a new regular feature. When the great and the good assembled at the RSA last Wednesday, shepherded by Julia Hobsbawm, John Lloyd (in absentia) and Matthew Taylor*, to bemoan their diminished status, they drew the battle-lines for a battle that should be joined and won for the blogosphere. The Commentariat desperately want to maintain their monopoly role as media gate-keepers, as the sub-edited filters of democracy and the monopoly producers of public commentary. Guido has said this before; in an age of near costless technological disintermediation “the news” is no longer what they say it is, we can make the news ourselves, unfiltered by the metropolitan media elite. Successful boutique news sources are proliferating. The media Goliaths now face an army of blogging DavidsA lot of what was said at the Editorial Intelligence event was plain ignorant, the conflation of blog writing with blog comment interaction in particular. It is true that the comments left here and on the Guardian’s CiF can be pretty vitriolic and profane, but they are genuinely reflective of what readers really think. Polly Toynbee hates the contradictory “barrage” of comments that follow her articles because she has an over-inflated view of the value of her analysis. Many of us only read her articles for the pleasure of seeing them torn to shreds in the comments that interactively follow. Polly is highly paid and successful because she is a provocative columnist, not because she is a better analyst of social affairs than Frank Field. That is a valuable hack talent she shares with Richard Littlejohn…

The fear and ignorance heard last Wednesday did not showcase the “Power of the Commentariat”, it highlighted their decline. They are weakened and rightly so, for they have time and time again failed to hold political power to account successfully. Proximity breeds compromise and the politico-media class has for example tolerated lying about expenses by politicians for decades and that toleration spread to tolerating spin, which is as often as not professional lying. Democracy is worse off because the Commentariat are compromised by being so embedded in the political class – or as Polly Toynbee explains “in sympathy with politicians”.

Laughably the Commentariat simultaneously fear and deride what they perjoratively term the “cult of the amateur”. The irony of this is not lost on Guido. The pundits of the unpopular press really need a re-think here, very few journalists earn as much as top bloggers. Guido can think of a few lone website owners who produce their content and make far more than most journalistsof the Dead Tree Press. They are also profit making publishers, unlike the Independent, Guardian and Telegraph.

This misplaced arrogance of the Commentariat deserves a research-based response. The writings of the Commentariat no longer just end up as fish and chip wrapping, their writing is accessible via the internet forever. So tomorrow, hopefully with the assistance of the wisdom of the blogging crowds, Guido will start putting the profundity of their punditry in context and under the microscope, starting with Janet Daley.

What did she, with all her intellectual authority, tell us about Gordon Brown last summer? Feel free to be profane…

*Matthew Taylor has complained bitterly about bloggers before. Contrast Taylor’s attitude to Rupert Murdoch’s attitude to the democratising of commentary. Overwhelmingly the Commentariat basically has a protectionist attitude, the increasing pluralism of news sources scares them because it devalues them. Shrewdly and counter-intuitively, Murdoch has an enabling attitude, expanding by freeing the market for commentary. He gets it.

Finishing the Project : Making 2008 Dangerous for Brown

In the early days of the Cameron regime change, the Tory party’s recidivist right charged Dave with being policy-lite, all mood music and photo-opportunity. Privately the Cameroons explicitly agreed that they were about “changing the aroma”. Many of the recidivist activists, (hold-outs for Hague, Davis or Fox) charged that Cameron was Blair-lite and without substantial policies. On ConservativeHome the impatience this time last year was still manifestly clear. Guido argued at the time that the policy detail was irrelevant, what mattered was character, because Gordon Brown is a deeply flawed personality. Those flaws inform his tactics and political outlook. To defeat Gordon Brown his opponents should focus on him personally, something that Steve Hilton and CCHQ (prior to the arrival of Andy Coulson) were reluctant to do. Now, with the election put off for two years, 2008 should be about irreversibly breaking Brown’s reputation once and for all.

However much Brown smiles manically in front of the cameras, the public believe he is a grumpy, defensive, brooding control freak – because after ten years we know the truth. You can’t fool all of the people for such a long time. Recognition of his mincing, finger-chewing, snot-eating, greasy haired, foul tempered nature and weird dark ways has broken out of the confines of the Westminster Village and is seeping into a wider popular consciousness. His personal standing is polling at the lowest ever, lower than Blair ever reached.

Brown still clings to his supposed economic competence, although polls post Northern Rock’s collapse show that he has, after 15 years, lost Labour’s advantage over the Tories on this issue. As the economy slows the imbalances in the economy will become clear to see. Vince Cable and George Osborne need to ensure that the man responsible for those imbalances takes the blame. In good times a prudent finance minister pays down the national debt. Ken Clarke left Gordon Brown an economy in fine fettle, so much so that when Treasury mandarins breathlessly briefed the incoming Gordon Brown on the admirable state of the government’s finances in 1997 the charmless Chancellor retorted, “What do we want me to do, write them a f***ing thank you letter?”

Gordon didn’t strengthen the economy, he just taxed it and spent like a sailor in port. Taxed it to pay for an increase of 500,000 bureaucrats on the government payroll and an unreformed welfare system which now has millions more solely dependent on the state. A New Deal that failed to cut youth unemployment, a Sure Start system which has done nothing for social mobility and actually weakened families. Brown recklessly mortgaged our children’s future taxes to front load a capital spending programme (off the PSBR books) using an Enron-style PFI debt model that will be being paid down for decades. A strong growing economy can carry these policy mistakes, once the public finances weaken they become a heavy burden. Every bankruptcy and every home repossessed this year will be laid at his door. Every over-taxed young couple struggling to save for their first home, every retiree who has seen their pension plundered, every small businessman burdened by red tape should have their anger directed to the ultimate author of their woes, Gordon Brown.

The BBC has produced (for internal use only) an analysis of the Cameron Project, unpublished, it has been carefully kept away from the eyes of the License Fee payers. It is a good analysis of the 4 year Team Cameron plan, as originally envisaged and as actually implemented. It covers the anti-Brown strategy, policy development and party modernisation.

You can download a summary of the report here, courtesy of Guido.

UPDATE : The internal BBC analysis in full is here, it was written by Marc Williams in late October 2006.

‘The News’ Is No Longer Defined By Big Media

Some journalists are trying to make sense of what is happening here, as blogging Davids take the story along ahead of media Goliaths. The best book on the subject is An Army of Davids, subtitled “How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths”, by Glenn Reynolds. This is the 21st century, the days of media conglomerates making the news in a top-down Fordist fashion are over. Boutique news sources will proliferate.The “news” is no longer what Paxman says it is, the news is whatever is disseminated to a wide audience, Big Media is going to be disintermediated when it falls down because technology has drastically reduced the cost of dissemination. Failing to hold our political class to account is thefailing of Big Media in Britain.If Prescott was a soap-star on a second-rate TV show he would have had more scrutiny of his sleazy affairs than he has had to date.

Does the media have it’s priorities right?



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Out of the bubble prole Andy Burnham tells Mumsnet

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