Thursday, March 16, 2006

Double-trouble for Blair

Blair wins the vote on the Education Bill - but had to rely on Tory votes:
"Number 10 claimed that Mr Blair's position was secure since the rebellion had been largely confined to leftwing Campaign Group members and former ministers with a personal grievance, rather than serious educationalists, an interpretation deeply resented by those Labour MPs who believe the reforms threaten the party's hallowed principle of comprehensive education."
If I were a Labour MP, I'd object to that too for these reforms are a Tory re-heat, pure and simple. It'll be interesting to see how Cameron's strategy plays with his party. In supporting the Bill I think he did the right thing strategically as this looks like something that will fester away within the PLP, eroding the PM's authority. He also did the right thing, from his perspective, ideologically because of the Bill's essentially "modernising", which is to say market-based, nature.

Yet some in the party will be unhappy because he passed-up an opportunity to inflict an outright defeat on the government over a key, "legacy" public service reform piece of legislation. Also, while Cameron's strategy may appear "long-sighted" in that it eschewed the benefits of a short-term defeat for a longer destabilisation tactic, maybe it wasn't long-sighted enough: I'm wondering if anyone in the Conservatives considered the possibility that the education bill will produce a dog's dinner in education that they one day will become associated with? We shall see.

In addition, with spectacular bad-timing, a "cash for peerages" scandal is brewing:
"Tony Blair has denied he nominated people for the House of Lords in return for large loans they gave to Labour.

He spoke after the revelation that three people nominated for peerages had earlier loaned his party "millions"."
It highlights a strange paradox at the heart of the Blair regime. In some respects, it has been relatively open, compared to previous governments - yet this has tended to focus attention on aspects of the decision-making process that expose the extent of the Prime Minister's patronage and the short-comings within the system. Corruption surrounding the distribution of honours is nothing new - but we know more about it now. Blair is not so much Ramsay MacDonald, as some Labour backbenchers are saying for obvious reasons; maybe more like Gorbachev and the way in which his "glasnost" tended to expose the fact that his "perestroika" wasn't working?

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