Poem to Byers, Hoon, and Hewitt

Byers, Hoon, and Hewitt,

a retraction they did not pursue it,

I say cover them in suet,

cover and bake then chew it (metaphorically speaking, I think).

Hewitt, Byers, Hoon,

dropped by whip as soon

as possible, thank the moon

and stars we don’t don’t pelt at them with spoons.

Hewitt, Hoon, and Byers,

unleash the labour pliers,

dangle them over hot fires,

and apply them to their bottoms.

Take away from them the whip,

for their labours are a jip,

for a new left society and state,

labour must toss away dead weight.

The strangeness of Geoff Hoon

1. Back in time, Hoon claimed expenses on third home, rented and flipped, all coming out about the time of the expenses scandal.

2. On knowledge of this, Brown made the choice not to come down hard on Hoon, but instead scorn Blears, whose expenses were not so dissimilar.

3. Not long after, Hoon resigned as transport secretary citing family reasons, the reason why Ruth Kelly resigned as transport secretary. Before Hoon, as well, John Hutton stepped down as defence secretary citing family reasons.

4. Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt sent this letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party, calling for a secret ballot on the Brown leadership.

5. Discussions abound on who scooped.

6. Why does this all look so strange to me.

A consoling thought for Ian Gibson

A number of well meaning comments made on BBC’s Question Time is a testament to the fact that Dr. Ian Gibson is a well loved man in Norwich. You wouldn’t imagine that only a couple of months ago, about the time of the European elections, voters were beside themselves with anti-political sentiment. The teary-eyed electorate giving up on both parties rimming the trough were not to be found among the audience last Thursday. One member even saying that Gibson was regrettably dropped without the opinion of his constituents. And now there is talk that he should be candidate for Norwich at the time of the General Election.

How many politicians around the country can claim to arouse support even after being involved in a little bit of naughtiness concerning a London flat and an in-family half price sale. Geoff Hoon was surely not spared that night.

Of course, the notion that Gibson was fodder for Brown, at the time appearing to fail where his shadow was standing strong on tackling untoward behaviour and expenses fiddles. And who is to know whether the decision to select Gibson of all people had political motives, given his leftist credentials and opposition to the Brown/Mandelson strategy. John McDonnell is surely correct to call the affair a self inflicted political disaster.

Proof that this was an own goal by Brown – if proof were needed – needn’t look any further at the differences in turnout for this byelection and the election of 2005. With a 61.1% turnout Gibson’s majority was 5,459. The byelection was won by Chloe Smith with a majority of 7,348 only with a 45.9% turnout. What seems to be clear is that Gibson’s voters didn’t turn up, but also the message was aimed at the Labour party in general (it was quite obvious the effect this would have on the structure of the leadership). There were plenty of smaller parties used for protest votes this time around compared with 2005. Its not for us to speculate on what could’ve happened if Norwich North were given the opportunity to reinstate Gibson, but what is clear is that many of those loyal to him abstained or sent a damning message to Westminster.

The mystery of it all found wise words from a less than palatable source recently, also, as Bob Piper noticed, on Question Times‘ sister programme Any Questions on Radio 4, on which Peter Hitchens noted;

“Very rich people, I name no names but you can guess, getting taxpayers to finance their mortgages on large country homes that they didn’t need. That’s OK, that’s fine. But whereas someone like Ian Gibson in Norwich is punished, for reasons I cannot fully understand, in some entirely selective way in which some people are punished and some are not, then people say they want change. And then they vote in Norwich, not in very large numbers, but in distressingly large numbers for me, for a party which plainly offers no change at all. Which constantly tells us that it will govern as New Labour, and will govern as New Labour if it is allowed to become the government.”

Putting our Balls at risk

What surrounds the talk of reshuffle is a feeling that Brown is not only bringing to the fore fresh talent, but that he is shedding dead weight.

There was despair when he criticised Blears but not Purnell and Hoon.

Now Darling is clinging on. Just.

But do the rumours that Brown is tactically losing Darling hold?

On the side of YES it is a tactic, is the looming prospect of Ed Balls becoming introduced to the treasury, which Brown made no secret of condoning over the weekend.

Reuters notes;

“Some aides say they have been urging Brown to put schools minister and close ally Ed Balls into the Treasury for a while, arguing it would bring more discipline to the ministry and give Labour a better chance of winning a national election due by next year.”

Balls would be a fresh face to the party’s top team, and is already a recognisable face to the city, not only being a former FT journalist, but as Brown’s right-hand man when he was finance minister.

While Darling is in the media for his expense claims, Martin Kettle in his article today suggests that the Telegraph‘s reporting of Darling was scandalous itself, and that Darling, and his team, are all pretty straight guys. It is all hype, Darling’s claims were not as bad as the ‘graph made it seem, and its all a plot.

On the side of NO it is not a tactic, Brown doesn’t want to stand down, so reports the Guardian, because he wants to deal with the issues at hand, namely the economy. And as the Balls move would look too much like the Brown/Darling duo haven’t had hold of the economy the whole time (bearing in mind the promise that the economy will stop sliding sometime early next year, as opposed to other predictions that it could be at least 3 years) surely only a massive cock-up like “Darling billed us for two homes at the same time” could spur on such a dubious reshuffling.

There is, of course, a viable third option suggesting that it is a little of YES and a little of NO.

But in any case a leftwards shift in finance – spearheaded by Balls – would be an encouraging prospect, despite the view that Balls will have little opportunity for manoeuvre in the present economic climate.

As the Reuters report finishes;

“Darling, 55, is also less likely to take risks than Balls, 42, part of a younger generation of ministers who will probably fight to replace Brown at some stage”.

Of rumours and reshuffling

Regarding Brown’s comments on Hazel Blears, it was going to be jolly difficult playing down the rumours that there was tactical bitterness between the two; Blears criticising the YouTube performance, Brown responding by highlighting Blears’ unacceptable expenses claims.

Harder still will be playing those rumours down now that Brown has defended two other cabinet ministers James Purnell and Geoff Hoon, whose abuses seem rather identical, according to Toby Helm.

He added: “Were Hoon and Purnell less guilty because they had not slagged Brown off the weekend before the expenses revelations started to emerge (as Blears had done)?”

The argument from Hoon’s people, as the blog entry continues, is that there was no confusion as to which was the first and second home to the authorities, whereas with Blears there had been.

With ongoing uproar surrounding the expenses scandal – which claimed its first Labour Member of Parliament, Wirral South’s Ben Chapman, today – the bar with which we, the public, now judge abuse has been lowered since MP’s left, right and centre have been highlighted (perhaps Polly Toynbee has hit the nail on the head, calling for a system of fewer MP’s, although cutting MP’s in half might have its own set of attached abuses). Consistency – in this case Hoon’s – counts for so much more nowadays.

To Helm’s question What’s the difference between Hazel Blears and James Purnell? the answer seems to be not much by everyday standards, but in our new set of parliamentary rules, Hoon comes up trumps.

Although Hoon, like Blears, is not completely safe from a reshuffling. In fact they are both noted as most vulnerable.

Ed Balls is likely to be shifted, too. And plans for Alan Johnson to take a role as party spokesman will keep leftwingers appeased.

Peter Mandelson has come out in support of David Miliband’s continuation as Foreign Secretary – a long time sought after role for Mandy.

Miliband’s upkeep of US backing has today brokered further loyalty when addressing the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. His tone was apologetic when noting that “the invasion of Iraq, and its aftermath, aroused a sense of bitterness, distrust and resentment. When people hear about Britain, too often they think of these things.”

Gracing his presence in the dialogues with Pakistan, announcements of a new China and the chuminess with the US, Miliband’s job is secured. And the rest of the world is spared our privatisation-fetishist PM (Peter Mandelson, that is).

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