Monday, October 06, 2008

The Monday morning blog: our first ice and the Mandelson thaw

Autumn definitely arrived this morning. We had our first ice on the car and on the way to Newcastle Central Station, we could see the Team Valley filled with low lying cloud. It was quite spectacular, looking down onto the cloud on the way in to town.

Talking of ice, or more realistically an ice age, there now appears to be a thaw between Mandelson and Gordon Brown. There more I think about it, the more I think the recall of Mandelson was quite a clever stroke in terms of the short to medium term for Labour. It effectively lines up the Blairites behind Brown and calls time on David Milliband. Seems as though the Blairites have given up on him. That's hardly surprising given his less than impressive performance recently and his will-he, won't-he indecision about the leadership. It may also be a recognition that the Blairites just don't have the support they need in the Labour party to mount a challenge. The cold autumn air of reality may have woken up the Blairites.

So for headlines, Brown was certainly grabbed them in the form of Mandelson. Interesting that the reshuffle itself was one of the smallest I have seen. As I said last week, blink and you would have missed it. Not all the headlines were positive over the weekend but the Mandelson appointment was the main weekend political story until Vince dislodged it with his call for a temporary suspension of the Bank of England's independence. But the government cannot govern by headlines alone.

I get the impression that Labour have been studying the first few months of the Brown premiership. Then it was a case of govern by crisis. Terror attacks, foot and mouth and floods allowed Brown to rush about in a frenzy and hold lots of meetings which achieved little other than to give the impression that he was in charge and handling the crisis. The reality was that the matters were being dealt with by people on the ground. Now Brown rushes around the world but the reality is that he is more a spectator of events. The unilateral announcement by Germany of a guarantee of German savings, the day after Brown pressed the European summit for co-ordinated action, shows just how much he is listened to. As for Brown's trip to New York last week, that was billed by Brown himself as an attempt to get international agreement and global regulation. The reality was that this trip had been planned for months and was actually a visit to the UN to discuss third world poverty. Brown repackaged it as financial crisis talks. The people with the power however were too busy dealing with the crisis to spend much time with him. And I am not aware of anything Brown can point to that he achieved as a result of his US trip.

So, not only can the government not govern by headlines, it cannot govern by constant crisis either. It eventually comes apart at the seams, as it did for Labour at the end of last year.

But back to Mandelson. I wonder what all those Labour dinosaurs think of the return of the figure they despise more than anyone else. It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall when the news was announced.

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