Obama seeks peace, Labour party seeks assisted suicide

June 5, 2009


As President Obama seeks to kick-start the Middle East peace process, Gordon Brown’s labour administration seems intent on committing political suicide

I will reserve comment until later on Barack Obama’s efforts on the world stage. Politicians in the UK have a far more important preoccupation, namely self preservation. The instinct mingles with a mood of self-destruction.

Battle for survival

The battle for political survival is reaching a peak in a week of resignations and political plotting against his leadership. Cabinet members and back-bench MPs had no longer any doubt that their political days are numbered unless something drastic happens. They hope for miraculous rescue through a change of leadership and a revival of voter confidence among voters.

Gordon Brown’s reaction is to plan a much trailled and imminent reshuffle of his administation.

A particularly unfortunate combination of events have contributed to the current outbreak of desperate political actions. Polls have continued to head south for the Government to near unprecedented lows. The public obsession over MP expenses in the UK blots out stories even of celebrity reality shows. This applies to the BBC Newsnight programme. Incidentally, that late night show is not normally noted for innovation, but now it has announced plans [June 4th] to present a new format for modelled on the more popular, but equally confrontational Dragons Den format. Maybe the mood of desperate searching for rescue has infected the decisions of the Newsnight programmers.

The crisis intensifies for the Government

The crisis intensifies as first local election results confirm the Government’s gloomy expectations. There was a certain black humour in an early teletext announcement overnight [June 5th 2009]

The early counts were dominated by Conservative wins, but as the night wore on …

there was no solace for Labour. [I.e. the results continued to be dominated by conservative wins].

The resignations

The resignations of cabinet ministers continued, as commentators assessed the nature of the actions. Hopeless individuals wanting out of an intolerable political situation, or a synchronized plot?

James Purnell’s shock resignation [Work and Pensions] on Thursday night follows news that Jacqui Smith [Home Secretary and Hazel Blears [Communities minister] are quitting. The Lib Dems said it was clear the government was in “total meltdown”.
Mr Purnell’s resignation letter – printed in Friday’s newspapers – calls on Mr Brown to “stand aside” to give Labour “a fighting chance of winning”.

Meanwhile in another part of the world

Meanwhile, President Obama has been as outward looking as the British politicians have been introspective. [So why place it to the end of this blog post? Partly because this a story unfolding over a far longer time period. The political frenzy in UK politics is only worth reporting quickly as events crop up with increasing velocity.]

President Barack Obama has said the “cycle of suspicion and discord” between the United States and the Muslim world must end.
In a keynote speech [at Cairo University] Mr Obama called for a “new beginning” in ties. He admitted there had been “years of distrust” and said both sides needed to make a “sustained effort… to respect one another and seek common ground”.

He received a standing ovation at the end of his speech. White House officials had said the speech was intended to start a process to “re-energise the dialogue with the Muslim world”.

Obama is fast becoming the signature figure of a charismatic leader. But his impact while emotionally engaging is also accompanied by intellectually powerfully developed arguments. The combination will be needed throughout his Presidency and beyond.