Thursday, April 20, 2006

Stand down Tony, stand down please

I remember exactly how elated I felt when I heard that Thatcher had quit. And that's exactly how I'll feel again when the long overdue resignation of the Right Honourable Anthony Charles Linton Blair is announced.

There was a time when I could never have imagined disliking any Labour politician as much as I hated the Tories. New Labour made that all too easy.

So I only wish this could be a spiteful, gloating, mean-spirited and vindictive post debating the best way for the left to put the boot into our seriously weakened prime minister, pictured left in a singularly bad choice of suit. It won't be, largely because our collective kicking power these days is more akin to fleece-lined Marks & Spencer carpet slippers than two highly polished steel toe-cap DMs.

The Campaign Group speaks for around 40 MPs. In theory, an organised bloc of that magnitude should be influential in a government with a majority of 67. It should be in a position to pull the plug on Blairism, and exercise a veto when it comes to deciding Blair's successor.

But so atrophied is internal democracy in the Labour Party that, as a factor in parliamentary politics, the Campaign Group's impact is negligible. Impotence in the sack these days can be rectified by a small quadrangular blue pill. But sadly there is no political equivalent to viagra.

Nor will the unions get much of a look in. Remember 1992, when a small group of general secretaries effectively called the succession for John Smith within 24 hours of Kinnock's departure?

At the time, their actions were criticised as anti-democratic. Maybe they were. But not half as anti-democratic as stitching up the leadership over dinner in an Islington restaurant, more than a decade in advance.

Many loyal Labour councillors - and they are effectively all that remains of the party's once-thriving activist base in many areas - fear meltdown in the local government elections on May 4. If that happens, it should significantly speed up Tony's departure.

One way or another, by summer the Blair family could find themselves with plenty more time to enjoy sunshine holidays with the Berlusconis.

This is a shortened version of an article that originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Red Pepper

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