Magazine article The Spectator

A Speech Recorded in Handard on an Unspecified Day in the near Future

Magazine article The Spectator

A Speech Recorded in Handard on an Unspecified Day in the near Future

Article excerpt

'You have reminded me, Mr Speaker, that for a minister resigning, permission to make a Personal Statement to the House is granted entirely at your discretion and should be of an explanatory nature. With the speech of the Noble Lord, Lord Howe, in mind, I too will keep mine short: to a thousand words.

Members opposite will forgive me if the burden of what I have to say is addressed to my own party even if the implications are perhaps of interest to a wider audience.

'I can no longer serve as a minister in this Cabinet. I have come to doubt I should have accepted office in the first place. I was unsure my party was doing the right thing last year in effectively replacing one prime minister with another without a contest either within our party or at the polls.

'My reasons for silence then were several. It would have been pointless to call for a contest unless there were colleagues prepared to precipitate it by standing. There were not; and, after hesitating, I decided I should not stand myself. I thought my right honourable friend the Prime Minister might well plan an election shortly after taking office; or that in office he might quickly prove so popular and capable that the case for a mandate fell away.

'Neither has happened. And in drafting this speech I have tried, Mr Speaker, to find words to convey my meaning without brutality; but I cannot. My right honourable friend is not the right person for the position he holds, and many have lost confidence that he will find, or could recover, the capacity to succeed. Those many include me. It would therefore be wrong for me to continue in his Cabinet.

'It would be gratuitous to elaborate on why I lacked confidence in a leader unless I had some private or personal explanation to divulge. I have none. I have not found my right honourable friend unpleasant as a colleague and as to his conduct of the government have no tales to tell out of school. Nor do I plan to do so later. The reasons to doubt his capacity for office are entirely public, well known, and shared today -- I have to say -- by a majority of my right honourable friends and (as the most recent local elections in England and Wales showed) by the public.

'For many months these doubts have been widely advertised in the media, sometimes in unfairly personal terms. But stripping hyperbole and vituperation aside, a solid core of commentary remains: its burden is that at the very top of my party, and in Downing Street, there is a want of direction, of decisiveness, and of that important art in a political leader: the art of persuasion.

'When we welcomed my right honourable friend to the leadership of our party and country, we did not expect showy salesmanship. We were prepared to trade his predecessor's crowd-pleasing qualities for the quieter persuasiveness of a man of depth and determination, and of strong ideas. We let go of a charismatic leader. Unfortunately we did not get, in return, the depth, the resolution or the big national ideas for which we had hoped.

'I shall say no more that is negative. I shall add that both the Labour party and the country owe my right honourable friend great gratitude for the skill with which he steered the British economy through a decade of successful government, some of that success owing much to his navigation. …

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