Hewitt, Hoon and hubris


2:28 pm - January 6th 2010

by Dave Osler    


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(image via @HopiSen)

What Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon have done today strikes me as one of the most obvious putsch bids since the events in Moscow in August 1991. Ms Hewitt’s insistence on the World at One that ‘this is not an attempted coup’ carries about as much weight as a similar denial from Gennady Yanayev.

Frankly, I am only surprised that she did not seize control of the state broadcaster, in order to declare that Gordon Brown is standing down ‘on grounds of health’ and that Britain is henceforth under martial law. That seems to be the way these things usually go.

Obviously I do not count myself among Brown’s strongest political supporters. Even so, as a Labour Party member, I am dismayed at the endless succession of half-arsed efforts to topple the best prime minister Britain has got.

All of them have so far failed, simply because no grouping within Labour has a credible alternative leadership contender with a cohesive political platform in place. And yes, that goes for the soft left and the hard left as much as it does for the Blairites.

The argument that a new PM could somehow mitigate the kicking Labour is likely to get from the electorate at the next general election might have had some superficial traction a year ago. This late in the game, a switch to Johnson or either Miliband brother is likely to appear to the voters as a panic measure rather than carefully considered renewal.

As a zealous young Bennite in the early 1980s, I got used to being told that my brand of politics was disloyal, divisive and factionalist. But after the behaviour of the Blairites over the last period, retrospective rehabilitation is clearly overdue.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Labour party ,Realpolitik ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Why don’t you craven poltroons grow some cullions and Do The Right Thing? The electorate understand the concept of mercy killing.

If he were a Tory PM, he would never have sur

…vived 2007.

Hoon and Hewitt? Will anyone confidently follow those two into the jungle?

Nearly choked on my couscous when Hewitt on Radio 4 tried to sell the ballot as a way of building up Brown to fight the Tories. Definitely one from the Tony Blair school of press management on that one.
Mmmm Geoff Hoon…nice.
Having gone through all the New Labour shit over all these years its still “Stay Gordon Stay” by Sly and Reggie.
http://bit.ly/8SjTUn
http://bit.ly/77MAV1

HOON! HOON!

It’s a staggeringly stupid thing to do, if Hewitt and Hoon genuinely have the best interests of the Labour Party at heart. There is not time now for a full leadership elecion; there is not an obvious heir apparent waiting in the wings. If this plot works, and Brown is forced out, who will take over and how?

Hell, I’m a Tory and you chaps can screw about as much as you like with the internal workings of your party – so much the better for me. But the thing we Tories want most is for Brown to fight the election as leader, but with open questions floating around as to the unity of the party, and the support he has as leader. This sort of thing looks tailor-made to help us out.

Oh, and did Hewitt really say ‘We can’t go on like this’ on WATO today? Is she a sleeper agent or something?

Naturally, it won’t have dawned upon the consciousness of Messers Hewitt and Hoon that they were substantial contributors to the bad legacy reputation now carried by the Labour government from the time when the Blairites were ascendant.

Between the 1997 and 2005 elections, with the leadership of Tony Blair, the Labour government lost 4 million votes and at least half the membership of the Labour Party. Turnout at the 2005 election was the second lowest since 1918 and more of the electorate didn’t vote than voted for Labour candidates.

I agree – it’s probably too late in the game now. I was rooting for a coup around the conference, but I doubt it will happen now.

I wonder though, if it’s because of the reports that Mandelson was somewhat stepping away and Ed Balls was exercising more influence…

Either way: it’s going to fail I reckon.

Like all the other hilariously failed coups, it will wound, but not finish the quarry off, leaving him to collapse battered, bleeding and broken across finish line.

I agree with the post by Dave. And it is a one surreal undynamic duo as Hewitt and Hoon (as said in the comment @ 7) have been part of the New Labour project and the ideology of neoliberalism, never spoke out against it. I mean, Geoff….’you’re nothing but a Hoon dog lying all the time’ over Iraq…. yeah, real alternative. Not.

Just seems based on personal gripe as opposed to real pragmatic alternative policies and a real alternative to the Frankenstein monster known as New Labour which those two are totally wedded to. What is the point of a change in leader if the policies, political dynamics and ideology aint gonna change…

Footnote for Martin Coxall: You may have overlooked John Redwood’s leadership bid against John Major, who was forced to hold a contest for his own job in order to shut up the critics (not that it succeeded in doing so).

10 – but it is all personal isn’t it? As Barry Sheerman said, it’s hard for Brown to call on party loyalty when he himself was so continuously disloyal. It’s the same problem IDS had as leader – how can you cite ‘the party’ when you scuppered it over Maastricht? A lot of personal grudges are being aired…

11 – that more sort of backs Martin’s point up doesn’t it? Despite attempting to clear the air, it just made the Tories look more divided than ever. Not to mention unleashing Tony Marlow’s blazer on an unsuspecting world.

What, precisely, do HOON and Hewitt think they know about Jonah now we didn’t all know a year ago?

Tim J: it depends on whether you’re using Major (who survived and then lost the 1997 election) or IDS (ditched for the – ahem – more electable Michael Howard, who lost in 2005) as your benchmark.

15 – ah, but the thing with IDS was that there was an obvious more competent successor waiting in the wings – and one that other big beasts (Davis, Clarke etc) were prepared not to oppose. The only comparison here might be Jack Straw I suppose.

But even so, look at the timings! Major did his put up or shut up in 1995. IDS was defenestrated in 2004 – one or two years before the election was due. There are now, what, four months before it’s going to be called? Too late by far…

I wonder how long it’ll be before Charles Clarke starts acting as if he’s in any way relevant.

My money’s on 20 minutes.

It’s personal in the sense that evryone else fears Gordon will stitch up his own succession and hand it to Ed Balls on a plate just as Wilson set it up for Callaghan, screwing Roy jenkins and Denis Healey.

In the minds of these people the election is over, it’s all about the next guy.

Meanwhile the poor bloody infantry in the party have to go over the top and get slaughtered.

icanhascheezburger represents the mood most appropriately.

17 – wrong by more than three hours I’m afraid…

“12:51 Charles Clarke backing calls for ballot.”

jonn @ 17

My money’s on 20 minutes</i.

So long?

Has he got his belly stuck in the taxi door, or what?

21. Stephen Low

Ms Hewitt’s external earnings from the Register of Members Interests show that towards the last few months of 2009 clocked in at

£12k a month from BT (£428 per hour)
£4600 a month from Alliance Boots Services (£300 per hour)
her work as a Senior Adviser, Cinven in the latter part of last year clocked in at £2k per hour. (Plus whatever Chickenfeed she gets from the day job as an MP .. which her constituents doubtless thought should be full time)

How about a ballot of Labour Party members as to whether their MPs should be able to take Private Directorships and consultancies (with companies with a financial interest in usurping direct provision of Public Services)before being allowed to go forward for reselection ?

Tim J:

15 – ah, but the thing with IDS was that there was an obvious more competent successor waiting in the wings – and one that other big beasts (Davis, Clarke etc) were prepared not to oppose. The only comparison here might be Jack Straw I suppose.

I can’t see New Labour going for another coronation if this succeeds (not because it would produce another ‘unelected PM’ beloved of constitutional illiterates, but because it would begin to echo the old Tory way of how leaders would ’emerge’ rather than be elected by the party). If the party was prepared to have the kind of leadership contest they should have had in 2007 (where the deputy leadership contest simply acted as displacement activity), that might make a difference. I’m not holding my breath though.

“I am dismayed at the endless succession of half-arsed efforts to topple the best prime minister Britain has got.”

A strange syntax. Gordon Brown is certainly the best PM Britain has.. if only because he’s the only PM Britain has. Unless I missed a memo, we only have one at a time.

24. Matt Munro

“I am dismayed at the endless succession of half-arsed efforts to topple the best prime minister Britain has got”

Why ? It’s far more amusing than his “endless sucession of half-arsed efforts” at being Prime Minister

‘Sright Kentron. It’s called irony.

“Ms Hewitt’s external earnings from the Register of Members Interests show that towards the last few months of 2009 clocked in at . . ”

Surely you aren’t hinting that Ms Hewitt ought to be surcharged for the failing NHS national database of patients’ personal medical records, originally estimated to cost £12.4 billion, that she landed us with when she was health minister?

27. Charlieman

Incredible, innit? The polls suggest, even with Gordon Brown as Labour leader, that there is a reasonable chance that the Conservatives will not win a majority at the election. Most of us would consider that result to be a good thing — possibly, even, the best result that Labour can expect. Personally, I’m hoping for a few good LibDem results too, but a Conservative non-majority is more important.

As a minister, Patricia Hewitt demonstrated her lack of political intelligence, and as a back bencher she appears to have learned nothing. Geoff Hoon? Ask a typical voter who he is. Who?

Much damage has been done for no conceivable benefit. I trust that the private companies who have employed Hewitt and Hoon as advisors have learned the value of their “wisdom”.

“Geoff Hoon? Ask a typical voter who he is. Who?”

C’mon. He was the defence minister at the time of the Iraq invasion in March 2003 when our troops arrived there ready for the invasion without the equipment to protect against use of WMD, which was the very they had been sent there.

By reports, his complaint is that Gordon Brown doesn’t appreciate his talents as a minister.

29. Donut Hinge Party

It’s a tricky one. If Labour change hands now, they’ll be accused of “Two new prime ministers without election!” but if Cameron gets caught buggering Herman Van Rompuy and Labour by some miracle win (which is what the Labour Party have to be hoping for) and THEN the head changes, then it’ll be all: “Oh, we didn’t vote for this man, we voted for Gordon Brown!”


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jay Baker

    RT @libcon: :: Hewitt, Hoon and hubris http://bit.ly/6h5kyj

  2. David Jones

    http://bit.ly/5aI4ax http://bit.ly/5aI4ax http://bit.ly/5aI4ax stop spamming me and I'll consider it

  3. Big loser of ‘SnowStorm’ plot will be Blairism….. « Moments of Clarity

    […] opinion is that most Labour Party members will feel as David Osler does writing on Liberal Conspiracy and despair of the antics of the Parliamentary Labour Party. […]

  4. links for 2010-01-07 | Cosmos

    […] Hewitt, Hoon and hubris What Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon have done today strikes me as one of the most obvious putsch bids since the events in Moscow in August 1991. Ms Hewitt’s insistence on the World at One that ‘this is not an attempted coup’ carries about as much weight as a similar denial from Gennady Yanayev. (tags: uk politics) […]





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