UK Politics

Death Blow?

“Has sacked Home Secretary Charles Clarke delivered the death blow to Tony Blair?” screams the front page of today’s Daily Mail. The link on the Mail’s website reads “Charles Clarke: Blair should go“, and its article says that yesterday Westminster was “awash with rumours that the former Home Secretary plans to play the role of Geoffrey Howe, the former Chancellor whose devastating indictment of Margaret Thatcher in 1990 triggered her downfall”.

If the Mail’s right then as death blows go it doesn’t seem particularly fatal. Clarke gave an interview to the Times in which his devastating indictment was as follows:

My preferred option has been and remains that Tony Blair stays as leader and Prime Minister to complete the execution of the manifesto upon which he was elected in 2005 and then hands over to a new leader who would prepare the manifesto for 2009-10. That is the logic of his statement before the last election. The logic of him carrying through the manifesto would point to 2008, as I have always said. I do think there is a sense of Tony having lost his sense of purpose and direction, so my advice to him is to recover that sense of purpose and direction and that remains the best option. I intend between now and the party conference to say things about the future of the party, which would be about what I think that sense of purpose and direction should be. Now I hope that would motivate Tony to recover that reforming leadership and style, which was his great strength over the first seven or eight years of his premiership.

We here at Harry’s Place are often accused of being miserable Blairite arse-lickers and Nu-Lab mouthpieces – and I freely admit that my corrupt links with the Labour Party extend as far as knowing someone who works for the Labour Group on Northamptonshire County Council – but even so I think the Mail’s overplaying its hand a little in its eagerness to see the back of someone who’s led Labour to 3 general election victories. Mr Tony on the other hand has an article in the Guardian today in which he defends the Government’s record, and attempts to recover that sense of purpose and direction:

Had anyone offered any Labour activist 10 years ago what we have since achieved in government they would have taken it without a second thought: nine years of economic growth, the best employment record in the G7, public services improving, people less likely to be victims of crime than at any time in recent history, huge cuts in child and pensioner poverty, a leading place in the international effort on development and climate change, and the delivery of long-held Labour ambitions, from devolution to the minimum wage…I want to see the public sector become truly enabling, not controlling, breaking up monopoly provision, extending choice and voice, eliminating old barriers that restrict the creativity of the frontline. I would go further on the law-and-order policies of the past nine years, where we have been more on the side of the people than either Tories or Lib Dems. I would keep our alliances with the US and the EU both strong and where necessary interventionist.

This being the Guardian’s Comment Is Free site, readers have been keen to add their own views on Labour’s record so far – one calls the article “Yet another party political broadcast on behalf of New Labour, provided gratis with the compliments of Mr. Rusbridger”, but I wonder how true this is. From reading the comments it looks not so much a party political broadcast as an opportunity for Guardian readers to let rip, and it’s safe to say that they’re not fans of strong and where necessary interventionist alliances with the US. Blair is described as “an authoritarian whose deluded self-righteousness causes him to believe mistakenly that he is god’s elect. He forgets it is the rest of us who really elect him, and who must cast this thoroughly dishonest, peerage-selling crook into the outer darkness as soon as possible”, and a “despicable creature” with “no honour, shame integrity or principles. If he had an ounce of any of these, he would have committted suicide a long time ago”. He’s also told “I hope in five years to see you in the dock in the Hague, being tried for war crimes, shortly after GW Bush and R Cheney”, “The public is now wise to your lies and to your immoral self. Time to tuck your tail between your legs and slither out of No. 10.”, and, bizarrely, “you are, and always will be, the man who betrayed Britain into helping bury more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein”.

As the most recent comment says, “This has to be one achievement of Tone – uniting the Guardian bloggers – surely a world first?”.