Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tony Blair RIP?

After reading Andrew Rawnsley's article in the Observer today, I suspect that now is the time for newspapers to prepare their political obituaries of A.Blair, if they have not already done so.

Thinking strigently, if only he had followed up his promise to properly reform the House of Lords - if only he had made it 100% elected - he would not be in this mess. By the way, if he had agreed to public funding of political parties, which I think will come, he would also not be in this mess either.

One the of the most staggering things about the loans for peerages affair, as Rawnsley points out, is that Jack Dromey, Treasurer of the Labour Party, knew nothing about the loans. The fact that Mr Dromey is the husband of cabinet minister and Attorney General, Harriet Harman, makes this fact even more gobsmacking. It was an act of incredible stupidity and arrogance that Tony Blair took the Labour Party's finances (insofar as arranging those huge loans) into his own hands and those of his appointed envoy, Lord Levy.

From Rawnsley's article, it seems that the police may well be onto something. Of course, the huge crossover between peerages and donors to the Labour party is one thing. Proving a connection is another. But it seems that Terrier Plod is scenting a bone, in canine terms.

The fact that the trail allegedly leads to Number 10 Downing Street makes the whole thing incredibly incendiary . It promises to be possibly far worse than the sleaze of John Major.

I think we are seeing the exposure of Tony Blair's Achilles heel. He is basically a "toff" and he is impressed by money. It could be his undoing. The Bernie Ecclestone affair was the first crack in the Blair facade and now we may be seeing the whole thing crack up.

If he has any sense, A. Blair should have an exit strategy ready, measured in days. I suspect that he doesn't have any sense, so the Labour party ought to have an exit strategy ready for him. If that exit strategy is measured beyond the party conference this autumn then they may well have done their calculations wrongly.


  1. I'm not sure if he is a toff, but he certainly seems to be unduly impressed by money. As someone once said, when he is with the likes of Ecclestone, he behaves like a head boy allowed to stay up late with the teachers...

  2. Blair is at the very least from the wealthy upper middle class.
    Then again, that's where socialism originated, it took a while to sell it to the working classes (even then many were never convinced).
    It is understandable that the worst excesses of social democracy should be practiced under such a person.

  3. The problem with public funding is the danger that all parties just keep increasing their spending.

    Of course a limit can be inposed via legislation but the problem there is that the beneficiaries would be the ones who had to vote for any increases.

    In our submission to the the Party Funding Review currently being conducted by Sir Hayden Phillips we wrote:

    "we should be careful of simply replacing a high level of private donation with 'pound for pound' state funding.

    There is a real danger that overly generous state funding will increase the very real divide between the main political parties and those in the electorate who already opt out of the democratic process."

    I think this is real danger.

    We went on to say:

    "Traditionally parties secured their finances from membership fees. The last few elections have seen party membership levels decline and at the same time parties look to 'less desirable' sources for their funding.

    The decline in membership has come about as all the main parties race for 'the centre ground'. There are only so many centre-leaning voters within the UK and they are now being shared by three parties between which there is much difference. This has had a knock-on impact for party membership levels.

    The shockingly high results for the BNP in the recent local elections shows that many people are looking outside of the main three parties for representation.

    Automatic replacement of large donations and loans with state funding would do nothing to encourage parties to re-engage with the vast numbers who are failing to vote or get involved in politics.

    Political parties should always first seek funding through popular support for their stance on the issues of the day.

    It is therefore clear to me that any state funding must be linked, not only to share of the vote, but to the amount of money each party can raise from private individuals via membership revenue.

    Whatever eventual formula is decided upon state funding should be capped at a percentage of membership revenue - I would suggest an limit of 40% but certainly not more than 50%.

    This may well have the effect of reducing the overall amount available to each party but this will simply restore the parties to the same disciplines of every other organisation in the UK and force them to more keenly assess the necessity of their expenditure.

    Taking a recent example, but there are many others from all parties, Labour's recent 'Dave the Chameleon' adverts had nothing to do with the local elections. It was designed to encourage the electorate to focus on the national Conservative leader at the very same time the Prime Minister and
    other Ministers were asking voters to dismiss their week of bad headlines and focus on "local issues".

    It is doubtful that if the Labour Party had a tighter constraint on their finances they would have still spent a pretty large sum on an advert which had nothing to do with the Prime Minister's own stated views on what the election was about.

    Equally one has to wonder whether, if funding was seen as finite, almost £8,000 would have been made available for Mrs Blair's hairstyling during the General Election?.

    Clearly it is not for for external forces to overly exert control on how parties allocate their resources but a culture of being able to 'tap another millionaire' or - as the tabloids might have it - 'sell another peerage' does seem to have defocused parties from the priorities of fighting any election campaign."

    I urge anyone with a view on this issue to submit their thoughts to

  4. Whatever else he is, Blair isn't a fool. My guess(and I'm just a casual observer of these things rather
    than an anorak, so I'm almost certainly wrong) is that he thinks Brown would be a disaster as as PM and wants to hang around long enough to take Brown down with him and put in place a credible succession. Let's not forget that for all his many faults, TB is, unfortunately, the most effective politcian in the country.

    A credible succession would, IMHAUO (in my humble and uniformed opinion)
    would be Alan Johnson PM, Douglas Alexander in the Treasury and Milliband (or maybe the incumbent) in the FO.

    But you're right about him being impressed by money. It's all part of the big swininging dick thing that
    got us into Iraq and led to No. 10 taking control of Labour finances in the first place. Unfortunately, one
    of the wealthiest of Tony's mates is also the Leader Of The Free World.

    I had to read the beginning of the
    'Yo Blair' thing a couple of times before I realisedthat it wasn't a piss take or a new Spitting Image