Must You Stay, Tony, Can't You Go Now?

Article excerpt


THERE was a charming touch at Blackpool this week in Chancellor Gordon Brown's assurance to the Labour conference that he did not have his eye on No 10 - really, honestly. It is hard to know who really believed him. Perhaps it carried complete conviction with those delegates who were classified by a zealous official as ranging from daft to harmless.

Declarations of loyalty are common coinage in parties. It is usually when they reach a crescendo that it means the knives are out. The Cabinet Minister who does not think he should be Prime Minister is a fairly rare bird. The Chancellor who doesn't think he should be Prime Minister is a species which virually died out in the last century.

A minister who says he does not want the boss's job is just being polite, like a hostess ritually inquiring of departing guests: 'Must you go, can't you stay?' The great and confused Doctor Spooner was once said to have inquired of a restless guest: 'Must you stay, can't you go?' That is probably what Gordon Brown meant.

* n n n n n n n FOR sheer, incandescent rage - a quality one can sometimes admire if directed at something worthwhile - it would be hard to beat an article in The Spectator.

Matthew Parris, The Times's parliamentary sketch writer, erupts like Krakatoa when he contemplates the sort of people who are leading opponents of the euro. He denounces them as cowardly, bullying, whimpering, mean, devious, repellent, hysterical.

He is deliciously oblivious to

the irony of using the term hysterical.

Only the limitations of space would seem to prevent him also accusing these people of being of grave-robbers, paedophiles and drug dealers.

The totality of their wickedness is explained by Parris, who announces with horror: 'They are populists' with all the 'hallmarks' of their type.

This is fascinating, since it comes from an ex-Tory MP of the so-called soft Left.

There is a simple dictionary definition of populists (the term derives originally from a political party in the U.S. which wanted state control of the railways).

They are people who try to represent the views of the ordinary people against those of the political elite. Which sounds a thoroughly worthwhile cause to me, having spent so many years in close proximity to the political establishment.

PARRIS understands this definition perfectly well, since he writes: 'Their inspiration is the indignation of the small man, the curled lip of the underdog.' There is a mixture here of fatuous snobbery and arrogance. …