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Do they want to win?

Posted by Helen Tuesday, September 04, 2007 ,

First things first. If Gordon Brown wants to have an election in October, then he will have to start moving this week as he has to recall Parliament in order to dissolve it. This blog still thinks that it will not happen but, of course, a week is a long time in politics, as we so well know. It is not, however, long enough to decide on an election, dissolve Parliament, run a campaign, hold the election and go to the Queen as victorious party leader.

On the other hand, either Prime Minister Brown or his advisers have worked out that endlessly going on about an early election keeps the Conservatives on the hop. His latest wheeze is to get John Bercow, about whom rumours have been flying for some time that he might cross the floor, and the egregious Patrick Mercer about whom my colleague has written before, to “advise the government” on matters of security in the case of the latter and children with learning difficulties in the case of the former.

Let’s get a few details out of the way first. Neither of these gentlemen is an expert in the chosen advisory field. Bercow possibly knows less than Mercer, the latter having served in Her Majesty’s forces and risen to Lieutenant-Colonel but even that is not a recommendation for overall ability to understand security problems.

After all, we do not think that everyone who has risen to Lieutenant-Colonel is suitable for being Secretary or Shadow Secretary for Defence, much less decide on the country’s security.

The image being created and swallowed by a few Conservatives, notably Chairperson Caroline Spelman and the odd commenter on Toryboy Blog, that a new all inclusive government is being formed. La patrie est en danger and we cannot mess around with oppositions. All must come to the aid of the government as is their patriotic duty.

The polite response to that is “tosh”. There are other, less polite words one could use. This is not the Second World War and the country is not in danger; there is no total economic collapse and although things are likely to go even more wrong under Brown the Premier than they did under Brown the Chancellor, the crisis is not big enough to abandon normal democratic, constitutional, adversarial politics.

We have, of course, been here before and not that long ago. Tony Blair also tried to create a “big tent” politics and entice in Conservatives who were either in basic disagreement with their party or were so incensed at the way they had been treated by the party that they agreed to enter that tent. It did not work then and it will not work now though this whole saga does prove yet again that the difference between Blair and Brown is miniscule.

There is a good deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth in Conservative circles as represented by Toryboy blog commenters, in particular about Patrick Mercer, who has been something of a blue-eyed boy for them. (Bercow everyone has written off some time ago.)

While there are a number of suggestions about GCHQ CCHQ and local associations having words with the gentlemen in question (though we know what GCHQ CCHQ thinks as explained by Caroline Spelman) others, who defended Mercer and demanded that he be made leader or, at the very least, defence spokesman immediately, are now scrabbling round.

Patrick Mercer, we are told, is not really a politician but a simple soldier and he is doing his patriotic duty as he sees right. If he is not a politician but a simple soldier, he should get out of politics and carry on writing about the Battle of Inkerman, his favoured subject.

Unless there is a huge emergency such as a possible immediate attack by the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe, the patriotic duty of every MP is to hold the government to account. Furthermore, the patriotic duty of every opposition MP is to OPPOSE the government. That is what they were elected to do.

We have an adversarial system in politics and the law and this is the opposite of the Continental consensual system that our politicians are eager to impose on us. The great advantage of the adversarial system is that it is considerably more transparent and we know what those …. ahem ... people are up to.

The debates are out in the open (mostly) and when you vote for one party you do not expect it to get into bed (so to speak) with another party you have not actually voted for. It is, indeed, the patriotic duty of every politician and all non-politicians as well, to uphold that system unless you actually do think the alternative would be much better for the country. If you do, please provide facts and figures in support of your argument.

Neither Mr Bercow nor Mr Mercer appear to think that a consensual system of politics is better for the country – in fact, I can still recall Mr Bercow as a eurosceptic – but they clearly think that in order to achieve some semblance of power they can, personally, abandon what is a true and tried political system.

All of which reminds me of a comment made to me by a politically savvy journalist friend. The trouble with the Conservatives, he said, is that they are not hungry enough for power. They do not want to win badly enough and the voters know this.

Caroline Spelman’s idiotic response to the less than honest or, for that matter, patriotic behaviour by Messrs Bercow and Mercer proves that point.

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