Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Enemies and opponents

When senior politicians die or retire, it is traditional that their opponents find something nice to say about them.  It often succeeds in conveying the impression that for all the nasty things they say about each other in Westminster, the place is really a jolly little club, where they all have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of us.  Sincerity is an optional extra.  So when David Cameron “leads the tributes” to Gordon Brown, no-one is in the least surprised.
The tribute by Peter Mandelson was rather more nuanced – but what else would we expect from that direction?  My favourite part was that the two big things that Mandelson claimed Brown got right are perhaps the two where history may come to tell quite another tale.  He said that “…he did get the big things right – notably when it came to saving our banks after the financial crisis and saving the union when it looked as though Scotland was going to go independent”.
One of the problems in trying to write history – and particularly the hagiographic variety – too soon after the events is that the longer term consequences of those events have yet to become fully clear.
There is little doubt in my mind that the action taken by the Labour Government under Brown to save the banks was a necessary immediate step at the time.  But the reason that they needed to be saved was down, in part at least, to successive governments’ willingness to turn a blind eye to the risks that were being taken.  I’m not sure that putting out a fire which he was at least partly responsible for starting is much of a commendation.  And taking a purely short term approach to solving the immediate problem has left us with a banking system which is likely to repeat the mistakes of the past.
And if his role in saving the banks is questionable, his role in saving the union is even more so.  Certainly his last minute intervention had a touch of drama about it.  Probably he had a significant hand in brokering the ‘Vow’ which seems to have had an effect on the outcome; although we may have to wait many years before the precise mechanism by which the vow came about becomes clear.  But at this stage, the buoyancy and enthusiasm of the ‘defeated’ side in the referendum is such that it seems likelier that his intervention will come to be seen in the long term as a tipping point which helped to bring about Scottish independence later.  (Which, incidentally, means that those of us who favour independence may yet end up holding a more favourable opinion of him, even if for the ‘wrong’ reasons.)
Given Mandelson’s reputation for spin, it is, of course, entirely possible that he well understands all of this and is deliberately trying to ensure that Brown is remembered for two major events which will turn out to look rather different in the end.  That would serve to remind us all of the dictum that those in the party opposite are merely opponents – it’s those on your own side who are the real enemies.  And it’s opponents who are most bound by the convention of being nice.


Anonymous said...

Your right John (though, I'm not sure he 'saved' the financial situation either). Frankly an appalling self-centred, conceited man.

Mandedelsson's words are truly dripping with spite. For which, this time I love him.

Brown has jumped before being pushed out by the SNP and he's gone to play with his 1% elite - the elite which he as much as anyone helped create and cravenly gave into.

Gordon Brown - a very little man.


Anonymous said...

I've yet to see any evidence of the impact these high profile interventions had on the Scottish independence debate.

Yes, it all made for 'news' because, in truth, there wasn't much other news to report. So, in terms of news reporting the impact of Gordon Brown's intervention was significant. But in terms of voting and voter influence the impact was negligible. But no newspaper or TV station would ever wish to report such.

What we now have in Scotland is a divided nation. Divided by 'independence'. Much like Northern Ireland divided by religion and Wales divided by language.

I'd say an out and out, outright victory for the divide and rule enthusiasts occupying the rest of the UK.

That's true democracy at work!

John Dixon said...

"What we now have in Scotland is a divided nation. Divided by 'independence'. Much like Northern Ireland divided by religion and Wales divided by language.

There are differences of opinion on lots of issues in lots of nations. Calling these 'divisions' is usually the response of those demanding that everyone else falls in behind one particular world view.

Wales is 'divided' by language only in the minds of those who seek to impose their own world view on the rest of us. Most of us are quite happy to accept that Wales is a country in which two languages are spoken and in which that difference should be respected and celebrated.

Anonymous said...


Difference of opinion? Or division. Isn't it all much the same thing? Happy to call such whatever you wish. But the impact of such differences should never be ignored.

As for the specific matter of language I have no objections to hundreds of languages being spoken just as they are throughout the majority of English towns and cities. To set a limit of two seems absurd and elitist.

No, the issue I object to is when language impacts upon matters work and welfare. If you want to speak French in Belgium you are expected to work in a French speaking area. Welfare rights are thus restricted to a matter of plain common sense. Similarly so in Switzerland, Singapore and most other countries.

Only in Wales can you benefits for speaking one language over another in areas where that language is neither used nor likely ever to be used, be it English or Welsh.

John Dixon said...

"Difference of opinion? Or division. Isn't it all much the same thing?"

Well, saying that a country is 'divided' sounds rather worse than saying that there are differences of opinion, don't you think? And you do keep banging on about divisions in a way which suggests that they are rather more than differences of opinion.

As for the rest of your comment, I'm not going to respond. This post wasn't about the Welsh language and this is not the place to debate that. As I've said before, I expect comments to be in some way relevant to the subject, not to go off on tangents, which is one of the reasons that some of your comments don't get published on this blog. Please pursue your language hobby horse somewhere else.