Shooting Michael Ancram?

Owen Walker's round-up of the best of the politics blogs finds arguments to the left and arguments t

In a week where Gordon Brown stood legs akimbo across the centre ground and declared his admiration for Margaret Thatcher, stalwarts from both sides of the political spectrum let off time bombs within their own ranks.

George Galloway began by sending out a document to Respect’s National Congress members which argued for "re-evaluating" the party’s relationship with the SWP. It can be read in full here.

This sparked a series of debates on the comments boards of various blogs. David Osler began one debate by asking: "Why has the SWP made all this public at such an early stage, instead of trying to keep word of the document under wraps? Does this indicate that this is more than a minor spat?"

In another, John Gray stated: "I reckon that Galloway is gambling that the SWP will back down and let him run the show. The present leadership of the SWP have invested heavily in Respect. Also, frankly there is nowhere else for them to go."

On to the Right side. Following Patrick Mercer and John Bercow’s decision to accept advisory posts offered by Gordon Brown, former Tory chairman Michael Ancram launched an attack on the modern party which drew outrage from the Young Turks.

Antony Little was livid with the trio (Mercer, Bercow and Ancram – which Mike Ion pointed out sounds like an accountancy firm): "Don't they see that they are been used as a stage-managed tool by the Brown government (in the case of Bercow and Mercer) or just giving ammunition to our opponents (Ancram ... who should know better). Activists up and down the country must have their heads in their hands."

While, Caroline Hunt sees the problem as being endemic within Conservative ranks: "I have learnt in the last year that a vast number of Tory party members would rather live under a Labour government indefinitely and instead stick the knife into their own party rather than attack this woefully dishonest and inept government."

Over at Our Kingdom, Anthony Barnett has written a neat piece about what he sees as a class war within the Tory party. This, he states, is the reason for much of the backlash against Ancram’s open letter.

This was partly based on criticism from Iain Dale, who asked for contributions for the top ten reasons why Michael Ancram should be taken outside and shot (which Dale was keen to stress – for those lacking a sense of humour – was “done in the style of David Letterman's Top Ten Lists, which are funny, sardonic and often ironic”). The pick of the bunch were: “Number 10: So he knows how the grouse feel; Number 9: Because we need to discourage the aristocracy from overbreeding; and Number 1: Because shooting him inside would mean that you'd have to repaint the walls.”

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.