A subtle, or not so subtle, re-emergence of our favoured analogy for the political processing – Henry McDonald in the Guardian argues that some parties [and not just the ones you may expect] are looking at a longer game than the more optimistic observers may imagine.. and are Waiting for Gordo.. Brown that is. He also takes the opportunity to warn those parties that, with economic reports, such as this one from PriceWaterhouseCooper, pointing to the risks to the economy of over-reliance on the public sector [as well as other political risks], such an expensive over-reliance may prove to be a tempting target for Prudence’s long term admirer.Interestingly he also indicates that, along with the departure of Blair, a previously-ubiquitous intermediary will also exeunt stage left –
Since Mr Blair announced he would not seek a fourth term and Labour’s electoral hat-trick, the DUP in particular has been quietly wooing the Brownite tendency in New Labour. The Cambridge-educated, double-first law graduate and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds is known to be extremely keen to establish warm relations with Brown and his allies. Mr Dodds, along with his fellow North Belfast member of the Stormont assembly Nelson McCausland, believe (rightly or wrongly) that given Mr Brown’s Scottish Presbyterian upbringing and his innate caution about grandiose Blairite-style projects, the chancellor will be less inclined to intensify the pressure on unionists to enter government with Sinn Féin in Belfast. It certainly suits Paisley’s party to slow down the pace to the deal with Sinn Féin that many of its voters are implacably opposed to.
Up until Mr Blair’s recent troubles Sinn Féin had invested a large amount of political capital in one of the prime minister’s most trusted aides, the Downing Street chief-of-staff, Jonathan Powell. Indeed No 10’s chief-of-staff has established a good working relationship with that other chief-of-staff, the head of the Provisional IRA and his Army Council colleagues. In secret meetings at trusted republican “safe houses” in West Belfast Mr Powell has listened and in many cases advised his boss to accede to a shopping list of republican demands, the latest of which is set to cause Mr Blair further headaches in a rebellious Westminster – amnesties for the IRA’s fugitives.
When the removal vans finally come for Mr Blair and family, Mr Powell will be less than ubiquitous around Downing Street. Republicans will no longer have such a captive ear who, in turn, for so long had the ear of a prime minister. They too must wait for Gordo.
The trouble for both the DUP and Sinn Féin is that no one really knows what Mr Brown thinks about Northern Ireland.
Not so on economic matters –
Mr Brown and the Treasury are all too aware of the economic black hole that is parts of Northern Ireland, particularly those completely dependent on welfare. The chancellor has made no major pronouncements about Northern Ireland policy, appearing aloof and above the problems that have dogged Tony Blair’s Good Friday agreement. Both the DUP and Sinn Féin may therefore end up as disappointed as Beckett’s characters waiting for Godot. The only thing these parties can be guaranteed, is that while direct rule from Westminster pertains and Brown seeks to slash the public spending bill across the UK, is pain in terms of water charges, massive cuts in the numbers of civil servants and a general reduction in the welfare budget.