Not Saussure

February 4, 2007

Why is Blair staying on?

Filed under: Blair, Politics — notsaussure @ 9:10 pm

He can’t be much enjoying it at the moment, after all. My take on this, for what it’s worth, is — Blair’s desire to go into the record books as part of that select number who’ve been PM for 10 years apart — that he and the senior people in the Labour Party realise that the worst thing he could do — at least as far as either his successor or the Labour Party are concerned — is to stand down this side of the local/Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly elections.

Consider the timetable. I don’t know how long it takes to organise a leadership election in the Labour Party, assuming it is a contested election, but it’s going to take several weeks — during which time, of course, the government would be even more ‘paralysed’ than are the Conservatives complaining it is at the moment. Incidentally, I think the present government’s being ‘paralysed’ is no bad thing; I’d far rather they were incapable for a while of doing anything they’re likely to do.

Anyway, assuming it doesn’t take a ridiculous amount of time to organise a contest, virtually the first thing with which a new leader, whoever he is, would have to deal would be the pasting that Labour will inevitably receive in the forthcoming elections. A new leader, whoever he is, wouldn’t save them from what’s in store come May.

Better by far, a least from Labour’s point of view, is for Blair to step down after the forthcoming debacle, effectively taking the blame for it and thus giving his successor the chance to try to present himself as offering a fresh start. It’ll also mean the leadership elections and subsequent cabinet reshuffle take place during the comparative peace of the summer recess and that the new leader can start the new parliamentary session after the dust has settled and with a severely chastened Parliamentary Labour Party, who realise that they’re in dire danger of losing the next election if they rock the boat too much, behind him.

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5 Comments »

  1. >Incidentally, I think the present
    > government’s being ‘paralysed’
    > is no bad thing; I’d far rather
    > they were incapable for a while
    > of doing anything they’re likely
    > to do.

    I couldn’t agree more, and have been saying this to anyone within ranty earshot. Part of this government’s desperately dissappointing failure has been their almost pathological need to change for change’s sake. It’s almost enough to drive a man to being conservative, well witha small c ;-)

    Comment by piers — February 5, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

  2. I know I frequently bash on about Michael Oakeshott, but he really does seem to have predicted this government horribly accurately:

    The conduct of affairs, for the Rationalist, is a matter of solving problems, and in this no man can hope to be successful whose reason has become inflexible by surrender to habit or is clouded by the fumes of tradition. In this activity the character which the Rationalist claims for himself is the character of the engineer, whose mind (it is supposed) is controlled throughout by the appropriate technique and whose first step is to dismiss from his attention everything not directly related to his specific intentions. This assimilation of politics to engineering is, indeed, what may be called the myth of rationalist politics. And it is, of course, a recurring theme in the literature of Rationalism. The politics it inspires may be called the politics of the felt need; for the Rationalist, politics are always charged with the feeling of the moment. He waits upon circumstance to provide him with his problems, but rejects its aid in their solution. That anything should be allowed to stand between a society and the satisfaction of the felt needs of each moment in its history must appear to the Rationalist a piece of mysticism and nonsense. And his politics are, in fact, the rational solution of those practical conundrums which the recognition of the sovereignty of the felt need perpetually creates in the life of a society. Thus, political life is resolved into a succession of crises, each to be surmounted by the application of reason’. Each generation, indeed, each administration, should see unrolled before it the blank sheet of infinite possibility. And if by chance this tabula rasa has been defaced by the irrational scribblings of tradition-ridden ancestors, then the first task of the Rationalist must be to scrub it clean; as Voltaire remarked, the only way to have good laws is to burn all existing laws and to start afresh.

    I’ve not read the original, but there’s a very suggestive account of Oakeshott’s retelling of The Tower of Babel (in  On History and Other Essays) here (pdf).    Obviously the Babelians had it rather better than do we — no wars for them — but you get the idea from this extract:

     The ruler of Babel is a charismatic leader. Like other Babelians he is a person of infinite wants. He rouses the people to communal action in the one project which can unite them all: putting an end once and for all to their sense of deprivation. They will build a mighty tower all the way up to heaven, displace God by force and ‘appropriate for the enjoyment of all Babelians the limitless profusion of paradise.’

    The citizens of Babel are thus joined in a great collective enterprise, fuelled by enthusiasm for a better future. The leader is able to compulsorily commandeer resources (including ‘human resources’) for the great task in hand, and all that makes up a free society – institutions, professions, law are absorbed into the great task, their original purpose forgotten.

    Because almost everyone is caught up in the enthusiasm, there is no need for political oppression. Sceptics go unheard except in their homes. The government is not guilty of ‘the more scandalous charges which may be brought against collectivism in action’ : there are no concentration camps, no wars, no torture camps. Babelians are not racist or intolerant. These obvious evils are not Oakeshott’s theme. His theme is that the project itself is enough to create hell and eventually bring ruin upon them all.

     

    Comment by notsaussure — February 5, 2007 @ 8:24 pm

  3. Aah yes, I recall your original post on this, and forwarded it on at the time to just about everyone I knew as it so perfectly summed up what I’d been trying to say, but did it in a manner of which I’m completely incapable; ie well thought out and dispassionate.

    Comment by piers — February 6, 2007 @ 9:17 am

  4. Would you be surprised to learn that after 10 years in the job of PM, the pension benefits increase significantly? A thick skin is easily, if not cheaply, bought…

    Comment by alexrooke — February 9, 2007 @ 4:33 pm

  5. Do they? I’m not disputing it, but I’m just intrigued to learn it, since 10 consecutive years in a ministerial job, let alone as PM, must be so rare an accomplishment that I’m surprised anyone thought to write that into the pension provisions.

    When was it introduced, do you know?

    Comment by notsaussure — February 9, 2007 @ 5:38 pm


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