Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hugely relieved about Gordon's speech

Against the odds, Gordon Brown gave one of the best speeches of his career, while at the same time his potential rivals crashed and burned.

I'm not the only Labour party member massively relieved at this. It means the Old Man of Fife gets to fight on and lead us into the next election. After that he will step down, win or lose (if he wins the election, he will go within a few years). Either way it will be an exit with honour (there is no shame in being rejected by the electorate, that's democracy for you, the shame lies only in being stabbed by your own side).

It's no exaggeration to say that the rank and file had dread in their hearts at the plotting going on before the conference. At one point it seemed as though the damage being done to him was irretrievable, and our Gord would be forced to go in the most awful circumstances.

And that was not what we wanted. Labour is the party of love and compassion and second chances. It's not our style to knife leaders at the first sign of trouble. I watched Polly Toynbee on the Politics Show on Sunday, extolling how the Tories knifed Thatcher and then kept knifing each new leader, over and over. She seemed to admire this (why, I've no idea). I felt like screaming at the TV, we're not Tories, don't you get it?

Because if we did emulate the Tories, we'd lose our USP. It would be like Coke abandoning it's tried and tested formula for a new version simply because sales were temporarily dipping and people were telling testers they prefered Pepsi. It turned out that people didn't want a version of Pepsi from Coke, they wanted Coke from Coke, after all.

Thus Labour. This is who we are - a party that choses a leader and then gives them a fair go. Make no bones about it, Gordon Brown was chosen in 2007 because there was no other choice for leader, and there still isn't. It still seems to me that he is the right choice for these dark times, in the same way Blair was right for the sunnier clime of 1997.

We've just witnessed a financial earthquake where it appears the City can't cope without the help of big government after all. So much for deregulation. This is one of those turning points much like the one in the early 1930's when Hoover and the free-markets went out of fashion, and Roosevelt and his regulation was in. We don't know how things might ultimately play out, but some elements of Thatcher's deregulation of banking in 1987, which allowed retail banks to enter investment banking, insurance and other financial lines, might need to be modified and in some instances reversed and the firewalls reinstated. The deregulation that took place here in 1987 was similar in effect to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in the USA in 1999, the repeal of which allowed banks there to securitise credit-risk and sell it on and while our deregulation allowed banks here to buy those risks. The current climate is a serious moment for serious people - a moment for Gordon perhaps. It's not over till it is over.

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