Everyone’s gone a bit August, haven’t they?

I’ve spent various breaks in the working day catching up with the blogs and political news of the last week. it’s enough to turn you into Michael Winner, grabbing hold of discombulated passers-by and telling them to calm down. 

So, as a sort of mid-Summer clarifier, here are my responses to some of the bigger news stories of the last week or so.

1. Peter Mandelson for PM? Not. going. to. happen. Please shut up about it.  Though you know, I can always do with one more profile piece. There’s only been five hundred and twenty seven so far this summer.

2.  Harriet Harman. Ah, the crunching sound of a Labour politician proudly walking straight into the jaws of a Daily Mail hate-a-thon. I haven’t heard that since the eighties, when we were all well meaning and right on and and lost elections and Harriet Harman was the face of the…. Oh. Right.

 3. Tory 20% VAT. Apparently, although someone briefed aout this stroy about tax increases,  the Conservatives haven’t had any serious discussions about their future tax plans. Which is odd, because I thought they were simultaenously a) ready for government, b) opposed to the role of shadowy spin doctors in forming policy and c) committed to a return to Cabinet Government.

Sometimes I think Tory high command is just taking the mickey. I can imagine the meetings. “Right Andy, you brief out that we’re going to do something really unpopular on tax to show how hard we are, George, you handle the fall out from the nodding dogs in shadow caabinet, while William, you kinda-sorta deny it so as to leave me a bit of wriggle room with the lefties. After that, I’ll stand up and make a speech about the importance of honesty and straghtforwardness in Politics. Right, let’s go.”

4. Online Medical records. Putting patients medical records online with Microsoft and Google is a great idea. Afer all, no-one has ever exposed a security flaw in a Microsoft software product, have they? 

5. Gordon Brown’s sprouts.  Shocking. The Prime Minister’s endorsement of the humble Brussels Sprout is a flagrant breach of Rule number 233 in the political lexicon. This  states than all elected politicians must avoid stating any endorsement of or distaste for vegetables. Any breach of the rule results in national mockery. Previous rule breakers include Bush, G H W (Broccoli – dislike of),  Major, J (Peas – love for), Mandelson, P (Peas, mushy – alleged confusion over), Quayle, D (Potatoe, mispelling of).

Frankly, I don’t know what Number Ten was thinking about on this one. So let me set this out – when I am appointed “Head of Strategy, Communication and going to meetings and looking important” by the next leader of the Labour party, I will never let my principal express any views on legumes, tubers or bulbs. To adapt Alistair Campbell, the iron rule will be “We don’t do veg.”

9 Responses to “Everyone’s gone a bit August, haven’t they?”

  1. Chris Brooke

    You’ve garbled the John Major story. Asked about food preferences in an interview on Radio 1 on, I think, 2 April 1992 during the election campaign, he said that while there were some vegetables he was fond of, he was “relatively neutral” about peas. (The Spitting Image plate of grey peas quickly followed.)

    • hopisen

      I stand corrected – though of course, the correct version still endorses the iron rule that no endorsement or criticisms of vegetables is allowed. Being relatively neutral about peas is still a view, even if a mild one.

      Besides, Mandelson never said the guacamole thing – didn’t do him any good, either. Politicians should not be allowed anywhere near their five a day.

  2. Oliver

    Don’t forget US President J Bartlett, who damaged the Democrat’s cause in Oregon by talking about his dislike for green beans.

  3. Rich Green

    I think the Harriet Harman issue deserves a little bit more unpacking. I’m a fully signed up member of the ‘principle without power is idle sterility’ club. But surely in order to criticise her for apparently taking us back to the 80s, you need to lay out an alternative communications strategy that would have sold the polices better. Right?

    • hopisen

      Hmm. fair point. Can I suggest not leading into the agenda by appearing to make the argument that one half of the voting population is untrustworthy?

      (To be fair, that’s not what she said, the quote itself is “I don’t agree with all-male leaderships… Men cannot be left to run things on their own. I think it’s a thoroughly bad thing to have a men-only leadership.” which not as provocative as “men can’t be trusted” which is why subsequent coverage interpolated the trust phrasing into her actual quote. Anyway – )

      It was that interview which launched a mini media frenzy that meant that any subsequent decisions on gender issues, like domestc violence, rape etc, however strong on their own merits would be covered as part of a harriet harman po faced agenda of male emasculation etc etc etc rather than as a positive agenda for the rights of women.

      It’s that i meant by walking straight into the daily mail trap – by putting the process/internal stuff front and centre, you make it easy for your enemies to paint you as self interested and to discredit your wider and more important agenda by attacking your personally.

      Now, The people doing these personal attacks on harriet – the Liddles and the Clarksons and the like, are repellant. But to think the best way to defuse the soft bigotry of the right wing press is to set off a culture war firework in their face is the approach of the doughty campaigner for unpopular causes not a persuader for electoral victory.

      • Rich Green

        The culture war metaphor is interesting, of course, because there are some who think that if we could only divine the Republican alchemy that delivers permanent cultural divides in our favour, we could have a permanent majority for radical change.

        This, coupled with that Times article a few weeks ago about how the next election will be decided by HOLBY CITY WOMAN, makes me wonder whether there wasn’t actually some kind of strategy behind this, rather than simple self-indulgence.

        Now of course I get that the left is almost always the loser on culture war scenarios, because arguments for co-operation and mutual respect are usually predicated on your electorate not permanently spitting blood at one another.

        But I wonder if HH made a different calculation, and thinks that pushing gendered issues up the agenda in this confrontational way will actually result in more women voters breaking for us. Or am I just seeing layers of calculation that aren’t deserved?

  4. CS Clark

    Afer all, no-one has ever exposed a security flaw in a Microsoft software product, have they?

    Oh Hopi. All the cool kids are more worried about Google and privacy these days.

  5. MattWilley

    How long before the papers get a scent of the real story mid-summer story here: Peter Mandelson for Ashes call up and Mark Ramprakash for PM?


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