Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Stalinist Détente?

Every now again you get a great juxtaposition in the newspapers. Not only does it provide an interesting situation but it allows you to say juxtaposition without sounding like a YBA. I'm going to use today's Times as my example source but frankly I could equally use the Indy or probably the other papers had I read them.

Splashed across most of the papers somewhere is the news that Lord Turnbull has given an interview to the Financial Times in which he said of Gordon Brown, and it's worth noting,
"[Gordon Brown] cannot allow [Cabinet members] any serious discussion about priorities. His view is that it is just not worth it and ‘they will get what I decide’. And that is a very insulting process.

Do those ends justify the means? It has enhanced Treasury control, but at the expense of any government cohesion and any assessment of strategy. You can choose whether you are impressed or depressed by that, but you cannot help admire the sheer Stalinist ruthlessness of it all."

The chancellor has a Macavity quality. He is not there when there is dirty work to be done."
Pretty savage stuff you have to admit, nothing to surprising either I'd say. It is a commonly held view that in the control-freak stakes Brown is probably even worse than Blair. I enjoyed seeing the Macavity reference, although I am not for one moment suggesting that Lord Turnbull nicked it from me.

Skip on through the pages of the Times though and we come to the news that Brown backs Blair over public service reform. This is the public service reform agenda that they've now been banging on about for ten years without actually delivering, but let's put aside that detail for a moment. We then have Peter Riddell on the same pages saying that "Brownites and Blairites are starting to work together", we are, says Riddell, experiencing mood music tantamount to rapprochement.

At this point I find myself thinking my favourite word in the whole world.... bollocks. On the one hand we have apparent easing of tensions between the two men at the top, and on the other we have a peer (admittedly crossbench), who was Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service who holds his position through Blair's patronage. A peer who also just happens to be a paid senior advisor to the consultancy firm that has received over £100m of public money for helping to draw up the Blairite "Pension Transformation" reforms.

Whilst some commentators make allusions to rapprochement and a thawing of the Cold War at the top, I'd rather make allusions to that being an illusion. It's interesting that Stalin should be invoked because frankly, it looks like a very Stalinist, ergo Soviet, détente.


Bryan Appleyard said...

Spot on, Dizzy. First time I've visited, I shall be back.

dizzy said...

Cheers Bryan, and welcome!