“My ambition is to remain his loyal and supportive deputy.”

Reflecting on Harriet Harman’s protestations yesterday that she wasn’t about to challenge Gordon Brown, and was certain that he was the right man to lead the Labour Party and the country (I have paraphrased what she said, but the gist is there: see the BBC’s video clip) two thoughts came to mind,

the first is that if she really thinks that, she has anyway ruled herself out of contention, were he to go, on the basis of poor judgement; and

the second is that the information that the Daily Telegraph received (and that allowed it to splash the story on its front page) could only have come from the ‘She must be stopped at all costs’ faction withing the PLP, knowing that the revelation would force her to declare her undying loyalty to Brown.

“Weary, pissed-off and despairing”

So says one senior Labour party official, reported by George Parker in the FT this morning, describing how people are feeling in the party.

I have news for this anonymous Labour loyalist. His words describe exactly how most of us in the country feel about Gordon Brown, and the shambles over which he is presiding. You cannot get more out of touch with reality than Brown’s repeated insistence that he is the best man to lead Britain. On current form he couldn’t lead us out of a paper bag.

Core Labour values

A very good post on Martin Bright’s New Statesman’s blog which looks beyond what he calls the Michael Martin affair, and suggests that

“the real question for younger Labour MPs is how they define themselves against the other parties without reverting to the old politics of class identity. Oddly, this may mean a return to certain core Labour values: an abhorrence of poverty, social injustice and inequality. Some Labour MPs are worried that young people joining the party are more interested in civil liberties and global warming than in the millions of people still living in poverty in Britain today. Yet it is for those who still believe that Labour has a duty to the poorest in society to offer a persuasive argument that the party can and should make a difference, rather than simply manage the status quo better than the Tories.

If Labour backbenchers are looking for a cause more worthy than the Speaker of the House of Commons, they could do worse than commit themselves to honouring pledges to end poverty in Britain. Blair and Brown proved they could do what was once unimaginable: run a successful economy and increase investment in public services while winning over swaths of middle-class voters. What the Conservative Party has yet to prove, despite the rhetoric, is that its frontbenchers, most of whom do not have a single member of their extended families who has known a day of economic hardship, really care about those who have.”

And two further questions?

First, what exactly did Peter Hain spend over a £100,000 on? Stamps? Helicopters? Lunches for friends? Brown envelopes? Hairdressing? Fake tan? The list is endless (and the truth likely to be just as bizarre). And secondly, if he has to go (and is there any alternative, although staying may give a new meaning to brazening it out), will Harriet Harman and Wendy Alexander be forced to follow suit? (Ben Brogan thought so early this afternoon; although his take on the story this evening was that “barring a bombshell, Mr Hain will carry on while the Parliamentary investigation runs its course. Mr Brown may then take the opportunity of his first reshuffle, after the May elections, to drop him from the Cabinet before the verdict comes in.” Read the whole post).

Will sorry be enough?

Many years ago one of my best friends, just called to the Bar, was stopped by the police in Battersea for jumping a red light on his Honda 50. Asked if he had anything to say, his answer, later read out by a humourless policeman to the South London magistrates, was, “It’s all right officer, it’s a fair cop. You’ve got me bang to rights. Will I do time?”. Peter Hain has been slightly less forthcoming but he has said sorry. In the wonderful world of New(ish) Labour, saying sorry is, it seems, all you have to say. Well this is the case if one of the Work and Pensions Secretary’s ex-bag carriers, the MP for somewhere or other in Wales, is to believed (interviewed on Radio 4’s PM earlier this evening). Apparently we are all meant to admire Peter Hain’s openness and the fact that he has owned up to being less than scrupulous about his record keeping. It is not very impressive, but still sufficient to earn him the continuing support of that pillar of rectitude, Gordon Brown. What is perhaps even more suprising is the amount Hain spent. Alex Barker wrote in this morning’s FT that “Labour figures have been at a loss to explain how Mr Hain spent so much in the deputy leadership campaign – he significantly outspent all of his rivals – while losing so badly. He came fifth in a race won by Harriet Harman.” Even if he did outspend the others, together they must have wasted a great deal of money on a contest for a non-job . . . and these are the people who govern us.