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Monday, December 18, 2006

The crisis facing New Labour

Jackie Ashley in today's Guardian is quite damning in her judgement of the Prime Minister and the cash-for-peerages scandal that is engulfing his Government. Her conclusion that Blair is a lame duck is difficult to disagree with. Her view that the Prime Minister has devalued our democratic institutions also rings true:

For a serving prime minister to be interviewed by the police was a moment of humiliation for British parliamentary democracy. The suggestion that his top aide, Jonathan Powell, might be interviewed under caution is just as bad. If charges follow, it would be worse than anything that happened in the Tory years. It cannot be evaded, explained away or put in perspective. The argument that other parties were finding similar ways round the laws of the land does not hold up. If evidence is found that honours were offered by Lord Levy, with Blair's or Powell's knowledge, in return for loans to the party, that is real corruption. Yes, there are wider issues about the funding of political parties. There always are wider issues. But they should not obscure the central point.

An interesting aspect of this article is Ms. Ashley's analysis of the impact of these troubles on May's elections. She does not mention Wales but I think we get her drift:

MPs dread next May's local elections, yet admit that little effort is being put into winning them. "Blair doesn't really care about them, he's focusing on his legacy, and Brown is only worrying about Scotland," is how one minister put it to me. Well, Brown is right to worry about the Scottish elections - huge efforts are needed to defuse the nationalist threat between now and May - but the local elections in England should not be forgotten either.

The 10-year policy review process is spoken of as "la-la land" in which cabinet members talk "fairy stories" about the long-term future of hospitals or schools. Civil servants at the heart of government say Blair is being told he should go quickly but cannot quite bring himself to listen.

It is no wonder that Rhodri Morgan has been seeking to increase the pressure on Blair to hand over the premiership to his Chancellor in advance of these elections. Like Jackie Ashley he can see that British politics is in suspension and will not be revived until the handover of the Labour leadership:

We are living through a curiously pointless time, a dead season, when the pronouncements of the prime minister are provisional holding statements, and when the opposition parties are not yet sure quite what they will be opposing. The civil service is coasting.

There are some of course that have applied this judgement to Rhodri Morgan's Government as well.
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