Miliband grows some gonads

On Saturday I mused that there was no obvious challenger to Brown who was “hard enough” to take him on.

Well crikey oh riley, knock me down with a feather and consider my gast well and truly flabbered.

Five days is a long time in politics. During that time, Miliband has grown the gonads, no doubt from a petri dish culture, which he hitherto lacked. Bambi has bounced onto the scene. Step forward Blair mark two. A man who has the testosterone to challenge Brown and the skill to articulate a vision – indeed, simply someone able to lead – a skill Brown demonstrably lacks in spades….no, make that shovels.

I formally decorate David Miliband with the Liberal Burblings “Gonads of the week” award.

All this might be Silly Season fizz, of course. But I have just gone through the recent political blogs and there are some fairly stunning news snippets floating around (of course, their veracity may be limited, if non-existent):

Miliband has cancelled a major tour of India in September and held a little conflab with close Foreign Office officials which had the tenor of a ‘goodbye talk’. This has led to speculation that is planning to resign to mount a challenge to Brown.

-In today’s Jeremy Vine show, Miliband made some platidunous noises to support Brown. But he was then drowned in laudatory calls and emails from the public saying he should “go for it” and that Brown was a shower. Miliband, rather than repeating his support for Brown, said things like “How very kind”….”You really shouldn’t”….”Did my mother pay you to say that?” He, he, he. Blushes all round.

There has been a deafening silence from anyone supporting Brown in the wake of Miliband’s foray into all-but challenging the not-so-Great Gordo.

All this leads me to a point of almost uncontrollable and hysterical excitement. I must calm down a bit. I would have thought that it is fairly probable that Brown will get challenged by Miliband and I cannot see Brown winning, unless the Labour party have collectively lost the plot.

This, I would have thought, will change the landscape of British politics.

Now, where is that darkened room? I need a lie-down.

Knife crimewave hits Westminster

An unnamed ally of the Prime Minister has described the Foreign Secretary as having a “surprising lack of judgement and maturity”. This has left lobby hacks struggling unsuccessfully to recall precedents for similar public backstabbings at such a senior level.

All this nonsense cannot go on. Something’s got to give sooner or later in Labour land.

To misquote Star Trek’s Scotty: “She canna take anymore Cap’n, she’s gonna blow!”

Shock! Horror! Cameron talks sense!

Cameron blunder on children drinking safely ran the headline for a Melissa Kite-flying exercise in the Telegraph. I would normally pounce, vulture-like, on such a juicy morsel. Much as it grieves me, I have to duly declare that I agree with the Camshaft on this occasion.

Accustomising youngsters to thimblefuls of weak alcohol in a responsible, adult setting can help to foster a mature approach to alcohol in later life. Then again, if it’s decreed in someone’s DNA that they’re going to head for the bottle/gutter, then it could just grease the slippery slope for them (or at least be blamed for their subsequent demise – something’s got to be blamed, hasn’t it?). There are no absolutes in life are there?

What is it about Melissa Kite anyway? Is she on official Telegraph silly season patrol? Employed to make the season even sillier? Yesterday she wrote an article about Brown’s jacket which I thought was a spoof until I realised she was deadly serious. The spirit of Polly Filla lives on.

Nick Clegg’s exciting message

It is great to hear from Nick Clegg that he is upping the ante on Labour target seats by giving the LibDems extra hard cash to fight them. Labour are really vulnerable and this is an historic chance for us:

This is a huge opportunity for us. We’ve got to seize it. So I’m shifting our resources to put more campaigners and moreeffort into those seats where we’re taking on Labour. I’ve instructedour campaigns chief Chris Rennard to step up our campaigns in the 50seats where we’re best placed to beat Labour. We’ll be launching aspecial fundraising drive for those constituencies in the autumn, and I hope you’ll help.

See Nick’s message on YouTube below or here:

Brown’s Walberswick breather

The Guardian’s Michael White says that the Get Gordon campaign has faltered amidst the buckets and spades, mainly due to the lack of a “route map” to depose him unwillingly (see Martin Kettle’s analysis of the Labour constitutional options here):

Brown’s problems are daunting but the post-Glasgow phase of the Get Gordon drive faltered yesterday, leaving only disgruntled backbenchers and ex-spin doctors to capture BBC bulletins. The arrival of August will give No 10 its respite. As with past plots, not even the plotters know what, if anything, will happen next.

(By the way, It’s actually Walberswick (above), or near Walberswick, to which Brown has gone on holiday – just next to Southwold).

Telegraph: It’s the jacket, stupid

I thought Gordon Brown looked quite nice in his casual jacket yesterday on holiday. But – oh no – the Telegraph reckons the jacket was a major strategic blunder, from which Gordon Brown will never recover. Forget the credit crunch, rocketing fuel prices and rising food bills. The Telegraph pinpoints Brown’s jacket as Brown’s big problem:

Truly, the Prime Minister could have pulled back from the brink of electoral disaster if he had gone on holiday in a pair of shorts and a slightly faded polo shirt.

Yes, “Truly”. Of course. Nurse the screens.

Dear me. The Silly Season has arrived.

To help you judge for yourself on the question of political vacational couture, the Mail has published comparative photos of the Browns and the Camerons on holiday, with the price and origin of their clothes helpfully annotated:

Well done Daily Mail! Serious campaigning journalism as usual.

Labour – Clutching at nothing

Stephen Tall writes about the options facing Labour on Liberal Democrat Voice – Is this the beginning of the end for Brown?

I am not entirely sure that a different leader would change things much for Labour – perhaps it would give them a little honeymoon bounce which would reduce the degree of their trouncing at the next General Election.

The whole thing is hugely ironic, given that Brown was pestering Blair to handover power to him for years and that one of the main causes of Labour’s unpopularity is Brown’s abolition of the 10p tax rate, which all but negated his considerable achievements as Chancellor.

Martin Kettle has some interesting reflections in a well-titled article called: Clutching at Straw, including some detailed prognostications on the Labour party constitutional routes for removing a leader.

I was also taken by Andrew Rawnsley’s article in the Observer on Sunday. My oh my, he didn’t half ram home the fact that the Labour loss at Glasgow East was momentously dire for them:

Were the stunning anti-Labour swing to be repeated across the country, Gordon Brown would become the first sitting Prime Minister since Ramsay MacDonald to lose his seat in the Commons. Gone, too, would be all the cabinet ministers who are usually canvassed as possibilities to replace him. Goodbye David Miliband. Adios Alan Johnson. Do svidaniya Jack Straw. It would also be bye-bye Ed Balls, nice knowing you Jacqui Smith and thank you and goodnight to Alistair Darling. Virtually the whole of the government would be handed their P45s by the electorate. One projection suggests that only two members of the cabinet would survive the cull. Lucky old Andy Burnham and Harriet Harman would have to toss a coin to decide which of them got to lead what was left of the Labour party.

Such meltdowns can happen in democracies. It happened in Canada. Overnight, the Progressive Conservatives went from being the government to a party with just two – yes, two – members of parliament. It is hard to find anyone who seriously expects a collapse on quite that apocalyptic scale in Britain. But gone is the comfort for Labour MPs that at least 200 or so of them would survive even a big defeat at the next general election. That is one significant psychological effect of this calamity. No Labour MP, however massive his or her parliamentary majority, can now feel entirely safe from the electoral scythe. We are entering territory where none of the old certainties about politics necessarily applies.

Russell Johnston

I was very sorry to hear of the death of Russell Johnston, latterly Lord Russell-Johnston. The Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats were most fortunate to have such a sensible and dignified Liberal, who was a steadying influence in the transition between the two parties.
Let’s also not forget that Russell Johnston helped the Liberal Party increase its seats in Parliament from 6 to 9 in the 1964 general election. (He took his seat in full Highland dress). So, we owe him a debt of gratitude for helping to keep the Liberal flame burning at several crucial points in our history.
At the time I remember being reassured by Johnston who just seemed instinctly Liberal on all things, as well as being hugely sensible, dignified and good-humoured.
He is a great loss to our party.
Liberal Democrat Voice has a collection of moving tributes to Russell Johnston from senior LibDem figures here.

Clegg highlights scandal of energy price rises

Nick Clegg is quite right to point out the scandal of EDF energy price rises and their impact on the elderly and vulnerable:

When one company raises its prices the others soon follow suit. At a time when energy companies are enjoying a £9bn windfall, it is unacceptable that they can continue to squeeze more profits out of people who are already struggling.

With rises of the order of 22% and 17%, many people will be left between a rock and a hard place.