Thursday, September 28, 2006

Oh God - not him...

Watching the tortuous shenanigans of the Labour Party as half of them try to evict the Prime Minister and the other half go to increasingly desperate lengths to try to avoid the prospect of Gordon Brown moving in, it's easy to see a continuity in British politics. Historically, in the Conservative Party at least, the leader has been chosen not because of any great personal support or admiration, but because of who he is not. A simpler way of putting this would be that hatred is a better driving force than respect in politics.

David Cameron may escape this analysis - his election was as much an agreement with a perceived change of emphasis and angle as it was a rejection of David Davis - but looking at previous elections to the Tory leadership this stands out clearly. Howard was crowned because he wasn't the hapless Iain Duncan Smith; who in turn was elected only because he wasn't the Europhile Ken Clarke. Hague also benefited from this negative attribute, while John Major gained the top job itself because Michael Heseltine had too many enemies, not because Major had lots of personal support. Even Thatcher was chosen as much as a rejection of Heath as an endorsement of a new style of politics. Further back? Sir Alec Douglas-Home was neither Butler nor Hogg; Baldwin wasn't Curzon; the list goes on.

I'm less au fait with the history of the Labour Party, and certainly Blair was a positive choice in 1994, but the tribulations of Tony Benn and the leaderships of Foot and Callaghan in his place suggests that a similar process has taken place in the past. It is certainly taking place now. In a way it is reassuring to see the Labour Party doing the same. For a Party that likes to trumpet its opposition to tradition and history at every turn, it's nice to see that they are as much slaves to it as anybody else.

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