Village People: Slow progress
There is more to the Ed Balls papers leaked to the Daily Telegraph than plotting and bile against Tony Blair. One of the most revealing document is the long memo written by Gordon Brown around October 2005, when he was exasperated by Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party conference, and accused Blair of "self promotion".
Having got that off his chest, the then future Prime Minister showed hard common sense, for instance by warning against mouthing slogans that have no meaning. Don't say "Labour renewal" unless you have a plan to renew Labour, he suggested.
He feared that even one of his favoured slogans, "progressive consensus", was becoming "a term anyone will latch on to but with no definition or clarity".
He was right, of course, and yet more than five years later, the phrase lingers on, as in Ed Miliband's speech to a Fabian conference in January: "I am optimistic because the last ten years have shown we can build a progressive consensus in this country that poverty matters."
Seeing Gordon Brown back in the news evokes memories of that awful day in Rochdale when he climbed into a car and complained to his advisers about a "bigoted woman" he had supposedly encountered. After Brown spotted that he was still miked up, his press adviser Iain Bundred assured him it would not matter, because Sky would not broadcast a private conversation.
That was not the highlight of young Mr Bundred's career. Last week, he took up a new job in public relations where he should do well, because he sure knows how to talk PR. In a statement about his new job, he explained: "As PR moves away from traditional silos and towards offering 360-degree brand reputation strateeezzz..." Sorry, my fingers slipped off the keyboard.
The comments that the Speaker, John Bercow, made in conversation on stage with my colleague Steve Richards about the Daily Mail – a "sexist, racist, bigoted, comic cartoon strip" – have been well publicised. His remarks about Sally Bercow, above, his Labour-supporting, Twitter-using towel-modelling other half, less so. He said: "I don't know in advance what she's going to tweet, which is probably just as well. The duty of impartiality doesn't exist for her. There isn't a Mrs Speaker. It's a spectacularly sexist idea that Sally should have to be silent." Still, you wonder whether Sally Bercow would have notched up nearly 25,000 Twitter followers if she was Mrs Ordinary.
The former Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews remarks in his memoirs, Off Message, published this week, how little media interest there is in the opinions of ex-MPs. And even serving MPs will make the news only when their opinions fit the agenda. Thus he tells how, before the Iraq war, he was desperate to get on air to express his suspicions about the case for war, but all the requests he had from broadcasters were for his comments on the now forgotten trial of Princess Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell. "It was during a morning interview on 5 live that my reserve and patience finally cracked," he wrote. Asked to comment on Burrell's allegations about royal servants, "I found myself observing, 'non-consensual sodomy of royal valets is almost unknown in Baghdad. That is, however, no reason to believe that they possess weapons of mass destruction'."
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