Daniel Hannan – Telegraph.co.uk June 5, 2009
It has been clear from some time that Labour can't win. Now, it's clear that it can't even lose with dignity. Labour MPs are lashing out at one another, accusing their colleagues of being sleazier than them, manoeuvring for position while publicly protesting their loyalty to Gordon Brown. I never thought I'd have occasion to say this about anything, but things are worse than they were under John Major.
Why has this opéra bouffe
been allowed to go on for so long? Because our political system rewards cowardice and consensus. Even when everyone can see what needs to be done, MPs are conditioned to obedience. We are governed by castrati
The men, at any rate. Labour women have behaved far more decisively. While their male colleagues talked a good fight and briefed anonymously against Gordon Brown, they simply decided that they had had enough. First Siobhan McDonagh, then Joan Ryan, Fiona Mactaggart and Janet Anderson, now Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears. But where are their male colleagues? Look at David Miliband who, last August, was preening himself as the next leader, but who now makes revolting and unbelievable protestations of loyalty. Look at Alan Johnson, swearing obedience even as his supporters canvass for him. As Margaret Thatcher used to say, "If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman".
The system militates against manliness. When promotion depends on the Whips, when there is no career for a backbencher except the quest to become a frontbencher, MPs lose the capacity for boldness. When my friend Douglas Carswell was trying to persuade people to sign his motion of no confidence in the Speaker, the most common reply was "I agree with you one hundred per cent, Douglas, but it's probably best if I don't actually sign because..." Years of never sticking your neck out eventually atrophy your neck muscles, so that even when something is explicitly sanctioned by your Whips, you are unable to take the initiative.
The solution? Open primaries, weaker Whips and the rest of the agenda set out in The Plan: if we had a more powerful legislature, it would attract more independent candidates. The revolting spectacle before us is a product of the current dispensation.
It happens in the Spanish arena, sometimes, that a fighting bull is declared "inválido": too lame, too cowardly or too sluggish to carry on. The president waves a green cloth, and half a dozen steers are brought into the arena. Fighting bulls are meant to lose their aggression when in the herd and, as the castrated animals are called back to the pens, the bull will usually trot behind them to ignominious butchery. Sometimes, though, the bull displays bad grace, refusing to leave the ring, charging at the emasculated bullocks as they surround him. Gordon Brown is that doomed bull, moments away from the slaughterman's blade, the gore pouring from his shoulders, unable to leave the plaza with dignity. The Cabinet are the neutered bullocks around him, milling stupidly, afraid to approach. It's never an edifying sight.
UPDATE: The man is plainly deranged. I don't use that word lightly about the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but there is no other way to describe his press conference a moment ago. He denied flat-out that he had wanted to shift the Chancellor, and breezily tried to tell the assembled journalists that, when people saw the results of his reforms, support would come back. Eh? We have now got to the stage where not a single Labour MP will serve as Europe Minister. John Denham has gone, Caroline Flint has gone, Paul Murphy has gone. Yet the Broon continues to blather about the recovery of the housing sector! He's mad: stark staring mad. It's over
Last updated 07/06/2009