Tuesday, 24 January 2006
To my first meeting of the Standards and Privileges Committee, ably chaired by that most civilised of Tories, George Young. Then for a cup of tea with Hilary Benn, to report on Liberia. On the way out of the Tea Room I ran into Tristan Garel-Jones, who said, with only the slightest twinkle in his eye, ‘We’re grateful to you lot for all you’ve done during the last ten years. You’ve given us a good conservative prime minister, but now the ruling classes are back so you can fuck off.’ (page 72)
Monday, 13 March 2006
Morale very low. Colin Burgon, once a teacher, believes the Education Bill will widen rather than narrow the attainment gap. He also complained about the lifestyle of some of the New Labour elite – Mandelson, Blunkett, Jowell and her husband, and the increasingly shameless correlation between big donations and peerages. ‘We’re all contaminated,’ he said to Ed Miliband, Helen Goodman and myself as we sat in the Members’ Lobby awaiting the outcome of the division.
No one spoke. ‘I can tell by your silence that you all think I’m loopy,’ said Colin gloomily, walking away. But we didn’t actually. ‘The reason for my silence was that I agree,’ said Ed Miliband after Colin had gone. He added, ‘The trouble is that we are all held hostage by what he decides.’ (pages 79-80)
Tuesday, 2 May 2006
Coffee with an old friend who has spent a year working for Lord Levy, fundraiser extraordinaire. ‘I became aware of a Labour Party I didn’t know existed,’ he says. ‘A cluster of mega-rich, unideological, Blair-worshippers who are lunched and dined in grand hotels, granted favoured access and whose opinions are listened to with rapt attention. They have much more influence than the other Labour Party.’
And what about our little ‘loans for peerages’ difficulty? He had overheard one or two conversations and Levy always went out of his way to make clear that there was no promise of an honour, adding slyly, ‘but I will just make two points: (1) a donation does not rule out an honour and (2) contributions to good causes can lead to honours. If you wish, I can send you details of one or two good causes that might qualify.’ (pages 89-90)
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Later, in the Tea Room, a brief exchange with Alistair, in good shape despite only three hours’ sleep last night. ‘Congratulations on delivering the 1983 manifesto,’ I said.
‘Yes,’ he said cheerfully, ‘and with Tory support.’ (page 232)
Monday, 26 January 2009
Jack Jones and Michael Foot, both aged 95, came to this evening’s meeting of the parliamentary party. It was moving to see the two old boys, both big figures in their day. Jack positively glowing, but not entirely with it. Michael a poor old ruin, wild, skeletal, no longer in control of his movements. It seemed almost cruel to expose him. Superlatives flowed. There were several standing ovations. People clicked away with their mobile phone cameras, knowing this is probably the last glimpse we shall see of either of them. To the New Labour generation, of course, they are ancient history, ghostly reminders of a past long ago repudiated, but everyone entered into the spirit of the occasion. Neil Kinnock, as ever too loud and too long, did the introductions. Gordon Brown made a simple, effective little speech. Then, with Gordon clutching his right arm, Michael spoke. Strong and clear. Only a few sentences, but enough to show that his mind is still alive inside that ruined body. Dear old Jack just smiled benignly. (pages 257-258)
Saturday, 13 March 2010
Breakfast with Tariq Ali. Charming, thoughtful, softly spoken, his Trotskyite past long behind him. He fears Obama may turn out to be a one-term president; that, re Afghanistan, defeat is inevitable and that the only way out is to talk to Russia, Iran and Pakistan and then withdraw with as much dignity as we can muster, taking Karzai with us. We discussed whether John Smith would have got us embroiled in Iraq – one of the great ‘what ifs’ of recent history. Tariq thought not. ‘He was a genuine social democrat, with an irreducible core of decency.’
Tariq recalled a heated exchange with Michael Foot, at Oxford in 1965, when everyone was up in arms about Wilson’s refusal to condemn the Americans for what they were up to in Vietnam. ‘Someone shouted, “Bring him down.” I have never forgotten Michael’s reply. “What you don’t realise is that Harold Wilson is the most left-wing prime minister we will ever have.” He was right.’ (pages 366-367)