Politics is no place for pleasant people

Nice guys, they say, come last. The maxim rings true when two amiable politicians in Mo Mowlam and Lord Falconer find themselves staring nemesis in the face. Ms Mowlam has announced her intention to walk from the Cabinet; Lord Falconer may soon be forced to walk the plank. Meanwhile some of the nastier egos in politics continue to thrive.

Nice guys, they say, come last. The maxim rings true when two amiable politicians in Mo Mowlam and Lord Falconer find themselves staring nemesis in the face. Ms Mowlam has announced her intention to walk from the Cabinet; Lord Falconer may soon be forced to walk the plank. Meanwhile some of the nastier egos in politics continue to thrive.

The myth that niceness is a political asset should have been exploded in 1975, when Margaret Thatcher outmanoeuvred William Whitelaw for the Tory leadership. But the myth survived, resurrected by John Major with his "cabinet of chums". Still the notion of a-regular-guy-who-you-might-like-to-meet succeeding in politics lives on. Tony Blair, William Hague and Charles Kennedy were chosen to lead their parties partly thanks to their perceived amiability.

But if any politician is the darling of the television sofa, it is Ms Mowlam. Her failure to thrive at Mr Blair's cabinet table as well as she does at Richard and Judy's coffee table is a bitter blow for those who prefer humans to vulcans in politics. Whether or not there was a Downing Street whispering campaign against her, there can be no doubt that politics will be the poorer without her.

The same applies to the humiliation of Lord Falconer. He was derided from the start as an unelected crony, who only got the job of Dome supremo courtesy of his washing-up skills as a former flatmate to Mr Blair. But no amount of Fairy Liquid could clean the poisoned chalice in Greenwich.

The Dome was a fiasco from the start, which Lord Falconer's clubbability could not hide. His failure to resign was an error, probably a misguided attempt to protect Mr Blair. But now the Prime Minister will find it almost impossible to find any future job for his old mate, which is a shame.

Lord Falconer, like Ms Mowlam, is a nice person doing the wrong job. The failure of both to succeed does them no credit, but it reflects worse on Mr Blair, who tried to fit these square pegs into round holes.

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