Sunday, 27 April 2008

Did I upset Harriet? Or does she know something we don't?

Harriet Harman's blog is quite wonderful. An account of one woman's journey round England, out and about meeting ordinary voters. Ordinary voters? No, not ordinary voters at all. Rather, voters who praise Gordon and his government to the skies. Occasionally they tell her that it's 'still early days', maybe even that there's 'more to be done', one or two recently have even admitted to 'some concerns'. But never once has anyone suggested to her that Dave and his mob might do better (I left a comment once querying that, but she confirmed that no, nobody had ever mentioned David Cameron, not even in passing). Occasionally she breaks her journey, but only to speak no ill of the dead or the recently resigned (the post on Peter Hain was an absolute classic). Never once does she venture any sort of political opinion, unless your idea of a political opinion is 'we must continue our work' or similarly vague and meaningless phrases. It's an unhurried journey too; no risk of getting slowed down by traffic congestion or policemen with speed guns, by the need to meet campaign donors or by the necessity of settling any fixed penalty tickets at all; well, not that she mentions.

To say that the blog is bland would be unfair and unkind. Bland is the chariot race in Ben-Hur, Richard Hammond crashing a dragster at 10,000 mph, that sort of thing. It's hard to find a word to describe Harriet's blog at all, until you realise that it is simply surreal. Utterly, wonderfully surreal. Now, I must admit that I'm a big fan, I just love it, in fact I'm quite addicted. And not just because Harriet used to be quite a looker, not too bad for her age even now (she doesn't resort to sexing up her entries with photos; shame, that). No, it's that it's rather like watching Emmerdale or Crossroads, compulsive in it's unapologetic mediocrity, it's outrageous implausibility, it's lack of any hint of self-parody whatever. So, if I ever need a smile brought to my face, or I'm just having difficulty sleeping and need a quick cure, it's her link I click first. From time to time I like to leave comments seeing as hardly anyone else does; she deserves encouragement, the sense that she does actually have a readership out there, and that brief thrill when the 'someone has left a comment' email arrives in her inbox. In fact, if you regarded a comment count as a fair arbiter, you'd probably describe me as her #1 fan.

I like to check my stats regularly, like most bloggers I suspect, and a couple of days ago I saw that someone had arrived from the last comment I left there, and that it came from the House of Commons! Could this possibly mean that Harriet had actually visited me, possibly intending to leave a courtesy comment thanking me for all my interest? Perhaps she's bookmarked me? Sadly no comment to be found, so I thought I'd check out her post again; maybe she'd replied there. I clicked her link in hope and what did I find? A blank screen, all bar a small 'The blog is temporarily closed' in the corner.

I found it difficult to believe that my final comment had upset her that much. She had been in her speak-no-ill-of-the-dead mode, marking the departure of Gwyneth Dunwoody. "An outstanding politician and a champion in the fight for social justice", "A committed campaigner", that sort of thing, rounding out with the wonderfully predictable cliché, "We shall not see her like again." I had simply responded along the lines of "Of course we shall sooner or later. It could even be you"; nothing to take offence at there at all. Then I wondered if she'd spotted that my link to her was in the 'blogs of no interest' section. Oh dear. But eventually it struck me; she was clearing the decks in anticipation of stepping up from deputy leader to acting leader very shortly, and in prime position for the top job. She's probably feeling pretty smug already, knowing that she's got the experience (of how to run a successful election campaign), and let's be honest she absolutely sparkled when she stood in at PMQ recently, so she's anticipating transferring her blog to the Number 10 website in the very near future. Perhaps that kevlar vest was in case her colleagues were thinking of stabbing her in the back, I don't know. Well, good luck to her say I, she's just what Labour need right now, let's hope I'm right!

Since writing the above I find that Harriet's blog was more a victim of hackers than of my efforts to encourage her. So sadly it's looking unlikely she'll have the keys to Number 10 for a while yet. Shame that; the last time there were widespread strikes in the public sector it took a woman PM to sort it all out.

The hacker concerned posted a 'resignation letter' Harriet had purportedly written, announcing her defection to the Tories. A 'Back Boris' graphic was added for good measure.

It's curious, that visit from the House of Commons. Could it have been the hacker? Was it an inside job? Could the IP reveal the identity of the disloyal colleague who pulled such a malicious stunt?

It would be easy to be cynical about Harriet's claim that the post was the work of a hacker, after all it took her about 5 seconds flat to deny her campaign remarks about Iraq when she became deputy leader, and it is a woman's prerogative to change her mind, isn't it? but the spoof blog the post links to is too funny by far. In case you haven't seen the post yet, here it is (check out the link):

Harriet Harman Resigns From Labour, Defects to Tories (PRESS STATEMENT)
Posted by Harriet in Campaigning | April 25th, 2008

To friends, foes and fans,

Below is a copy of the resignation letter that landed on Gordon’s desk this morning.
I couldn’t be bothered to type a completely new one, seeing as Quentin Davies (LO-SER!) had written a perfectly good one here,
I thought I’d just change the relevant sections… a swap for a swap if you like.
All opinions are welcome. For an explanation of what led to this landmark decision, please read my much more interesting blog here

Harriet Harman Resignation from the Labour Party: Letter to David Cameron and statement to Press
Letter to David Cameron

Rt. Hon.Gordon Brown M.P.
Leader of the Labour Party/Prime Miniser
House of Commons

25 April 2008

I have been a member of the Labour Party for over 30 years, and have served for 26 years in the Parliamentary Party, in a variety of backbench and front bench roles. This has usually been a great pleasure, and always a great privilege. It is therefore with much sadness that I write you this letter. But you are entitled to know the truth.

Under your leadership the Labour Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything. It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.

For the first 25 years of my time in the House, in common I imagine with the great majority of my colleagues, it never occurred to me to leave the Party, whatever its current vicissitudes. Ties of familiarity, of friendship, and above all of commitment to constituency supporters are for all of us very strong and incredibly difficult to break. But they cannot be the basis for living a lie – for continuing in an organisation when one no longer has respect for its leadership or understanding of its aims. I have come to that appreciation slowly and painfully and as a result of many things, some of which are set out below.

The first horrible realisation that I might not be able to continue came last year. My initial reaction was to suppress it.

You had come to office as Leader of the Party committed to break a solemn agreement we had with the country to give them a referendum on the European Consitution, now known cunningly as the Lisbon Treaty. For seven months you vacillated, and during that time we had several conversations. It was quite clear to me that you had no qualms in principle about tearing up this agreement, and that it was only the balance of prevailing political pressures which led you ultimately to stop short of doing so i.e You are a wimp, Gordo!
You also broke your promise to let me be Deputy Prime Minister and run the Deputy Leadership elections unopposed, just like you.

Of course I knew that you had put yourself in a position such that if you gave the referendum you would be breaking other promises you had given to colleagues, and on which many of them had counted in voting for you at the leadership election where of course you were the only contestant. But that I fear only made the position worse. The trouble with trying to face both ways is that you are likely to lose everybody’s confidence.

Aside from the rather significant issues of principle involved, you have of course paid a practical price for your easy promises. You are the first Prime Minister of this country to be completely upstaged on his recent visit to America, by his holiness the pope, who by all accounts is a doddery old man. Up to, and very much including,Tony Blair, your superior predecessor.

I have never done business with people who deliberately break contracts, and I knew last year that if you did not give the European Referendum, or make me Deputy Prime Minister I could no longer remain in a party under your leadership.

In fact you held back and I tried to put this ugly incident out of my mind and carry on. But the last year has been a series of shocks and disappointments. You have displayed to the full both the vacuity and the cynicism of your favourite slogan “When I wake up every morning, something or other”.

One day in January, I think a Wednesday or Thursday, you and Alistair Darling discovered that David Cameron was to make a speech on your disgraceful 10p tax cut. You wished toavoid the hassle. So without any consultation with anyone – experts, think tanks, the industry, even the Shadow Cabinet – you announced a visit to the US, which was so cack-handed you managed to be upstaged by His Holiness. The PR pressures had overridden any considerations of economic rationality or national interest, or even what would have been to others normal businesslike prudence.

Equally it seems that your hasty rejection of Fidel Castro as a Hero of the Left nuclear energy as a “last resort” was also driven by your PR imperatives rather than by other considerations. Many colleagues hope that that will be the subject of your next u-turn.

You regularly (I think on a pre-arranged PR grid or timetable) make apparent policy statements which are then revealed to have no intended content at all. They appear to be made merely to strike a pose, to contribute to an image.

You thus sometimes treat important subjects with the utmost frivolity. Examples are “Britishness”, “Anti-Terrorism”, most recently, mass promotion of people who are not even Labour Party Members like Digby Jones to the government (In view of your complete failure to consult with anyone, within the Party or outside it, on many of the matters I have touched on, or on many others, the latter was perhaps intended as a joke).

Of course I could go on – but I’m tired.

Believe it or not I have no personal animus against you. You have always been perfectly courteous in our dealings. You are intelligent and charming. As you know, however, I never supported you for the leadership of the Party – even when, after my preferred candidate (Myself) chickened out as she didn’t think she had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. It was blindingly obvious that you were going to win. Although you have many positive qualities you have three, dithering, dourness and a terrible habit of picking your nose in public which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you currently hold and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve.

Believing that as I do, I clearly cannot honestly remain in the Party. I do not intend to leave public life. On the contrary I am looking forward to joining another party with which I have found increasingly I am naturally in agreement and which has just acquired a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, goodlooking and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share.

Because my constituents, to whose interests of course I remain devoted, are entitled to know the full background, I am releasing this letter to the press.

Statement to press
“The more I thought about it the more I realised that the only logical and honest thing to do was both to leave the Labour Party and join the Conservative Party, with which I have found myself in practice regularly in agreement.”


Happy Harriet Harman said...

I can assure you that I never once read any of your comments. Seriously

Mainly because as I said to Adam Boulton this morning, I've only just got my head round this whole bloggy thing.

I will now be popping in from time to time, and might even link to me.
Nice to know someone out there appreciates me!

Happy Harriet Harman said...


Link to YOU of course.
Everyone knows who I am!

Stephen said...

Thanks for popping by, HHH. I'm afraid that your claim that 'Harriet's Blog' was not self-authored has disappointed me. I liked it! Let's face it, your political impact has been somewhat minimal in the Brown government. Looks aren't everything you know.