Next Thursday morning (11th June) I am supposed to be attending a breakfast seminar in 10 Downing St. “hosted” by the Prime Minister on the future of public services – and I’m left wondering after the last 24 hours – which PM will it be?
This is supposed to be a blog-site about Whitehall (public administration) rather than Westminster (politics) but in the circumstances it’s simply impossible to ignore the febrile political situation. I cannot remember such an air of political crisis since the 1970s – for a government to lose 3 Cabinet Ministers in 24 hours is almost unprecedented.
One has to feel that we are faced with what the Americans say: “what goes around comes around”. Gordon Brown spent a decade undermining Tony Blair as PM and licensing his coterie to spin against him. Is it really a surprise that regicide breeds regicide – have none of these people read Macbeth?
Brown’s hubris has been of epic proportions. His claims to have abolished “boom and bust” suggests that although he apparently has a gargantuan understanding of economics, actually his grasp of the basics is pretty weak – capitalism has always had, and always will have, booms and busts. These may be ameliorated by policy decisions, but the idea that boom and bust can be abolished is cloud-cuckoo land.
His lavish, almost slavish, praise of the City of London during the “irrational exuberance” of the financial boom and championing of weak regulation in favour of financial innovation has proved to be disastrous. That he has been reasonably adept at preventing a total financial meltdown is a bit like an arsonist who is also a fire-fighter claiming to have ‘saved’ something they set on fire in the first place.
Whether Brown goes or stays, the danger in the present situation is we are going to end up having a completely dishonest general election in which the real issues are sidelined whilst a set of essentially peripheral issues are put centre stage. Reform of the political system; reform of our economic system; reform of public services and tax and spend; international policy (EU; Iraq; Afghanistan; Iran; etc) – these are the central issues but there is a real danger these will be sidelined by political Labour in-fighting and the moats and Tudor beams of MPs expenses.