“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand ,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on those lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works ye mighty and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
-Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818
We Shirazers are no friends of Gordon Brown, but even so, the slow-motion multiple pile-up that is presently destroying the government and the Labour Party, has a certain tragic quality to it – especially when you remember how only a few months ago, proud Gordon seemed master of all he surveyed, while Cameron and the Tories floundered and quailed before him.
Well, that’s all changed, hasn’t it? Not all of it has been Brown’s fault, either: I don’t see how he, or Alistair Darling can be blamed for Nothern Rock, for instance (though once it happened it should, of course, have been nationalised); nor how Brown or any other government minister can fairly be blamed for the loss of the Child Benefit CDs – scandalous and embarrassing though it was; the election-that-never-was business was a bad political miscalculation brought about (so we are told) by Brown’s over-enthusiastic young advisors – but it needn’t have been fatal: what is simply unbelievable, and unforgivable is that as skilled and experienced an operator as Brown should have allowed yet another ‘Labour Sleaze’ scandal to erupt.
Again, Brown himself does not seem to be directly implicated, but that won’t help him. It happened on his watch and if he was unaware of what was going on, then the charge is one of gross negligence – which is very nearly as bad as active participation in what were, by his own admission, unlawful financial arrangements.
Harriet Harman’s position is even more dire: after initial prevarication, she has now been forced to admit that her team took the initative in approaching Janet Kidd (David Abrahams’ secretary and conduit for his donations to the Labour Party) for a £5,000 donation. The fact that her husband, Jack Dromey, is Party Treasurer, makes Ms Harman’s position all the more extraordinary. Brown has not exactly gone out of his way to defend Harman, and she is now claiming that it was Chris Leslie, co-ordinator of Gordon Brown’s leadership campaign, who recommended she contact Janet Kidd for a donation…it now seems highly unlikely that Brown and Harman can continue to work together as Leader and Deputy Leader, respectively, of the Labour Party.
The great irony of all this is that despite Brown’s bungling and Harman’s dissembling, this would appear to be a much less disreputable matter than “cash for honours”: there is (so far at least) no suggestion that the eccentric and secretive Mr Abrahams was attempting to buy any form of influence or personal advantage. “Cash for honours” was a blatant story of out-and-out corruption by Blair and his entourage, in which the investigation of the honerst cop John Yates that should have resulted in prosecutions, was thwarted by political pressure brought to bear (by Blair’s friend David Parry QC) on the Crown Prosecution Service. The entire business was a far more shameful and corrupt episode than this present business with Mr Abrahams. But whereas Teflon Tony got away with it, Gormless Gordon looks like he’ll be taking the rap.
Genuine labour movement people need to make sure that the correct lessons are drawn from this latest fiasco: that this is yet another example of the trouble Labour gets itself into by sucking up to rich businessmen, instead of looking to the voluntary donations of millions of trade unionists. The great danger is that this will give a renewed boost to those who advocate state funding of political parties – long the favoured option of those who want to take class out of mainsteam British politics.