Daily Archives: 1 February, 2010

Mo Mowlam remembered

I watched the docu-drama Mo on Channel 4 last night. It’s a portrayal of the last years of Mo Mowlam’s life, from just before the General Election of 1997 until her untimely death in 2005.

I know its only TV, and although its as a documentary element its not necessarily 100% accurate, but by all accounts her friends who were involved in making it regarded it as very true to life. Julie Walters was fantastic as Mo, and the screenplay was dramatic, moving and heartfelt. Mo’s story tells us a lot about the past 15 years in Britain. Its maybe too early to look at the New Labour era objectively, but with the Labour Government seemingly sloping towards an election defeat in May it seems natural to look back on those early days.

The way that Tony Blair undermined Mowlam after her standing ovation at the Labour Conference was nothing short of a disgrace. In an almost Stalinist manner, it was not acceptable for a Minister to be too popular. In a Government full of figures intent on following a political career rather than staying true to their beliefs, someone like Mo Mowlam was always going to stand out. But there seems little doubt that amongst ordinary people she remains the most popular and likeable Labour politcian of the past 13 years. Isn’t the Labour party supposed to be about representing ordinary people?

In hindsight it would seem as well that Downing Street attempted to marginalise Mowlam during the Northern Ireland negotiations. This fits in with the controlling, unconstitutional style of Government that is rapidly being exposed by the Iraq Inquiry. Despite attempts to steal the limelight, it has to be said that peace in Northern Ireland – largely brought about by Mo Mowlam – is the greatest achievement of the Labour Government.

But most importantly, Mo was herself. And among a cabal of faceless New Labour functionaries, that was refreshing. The way that she handled her illness was an inspiration. It does seem wrong that while Mo Mowlam suffered like she did, somebody like Peter Mandelson keeps bouncing back like a rubber ball and we have a Prime Minister ill at ease with people and vainly clinging onto power.

Her story tells us about much that is right and wrong about British politics, and budding politicians would to well to watch and learn.

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Minister meets with RFA union over cuts threat

Defence Minister Kevan Jones is to meet with union leaders regarding the looming review of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, reports the Portsmouth Evening News.

In October RFA personnel were informed that the Ministry of Defence would be conducting a ‘value-for-money’ review, just two years after the last review had supposedly made the RFA safe for 20 years.

The union, Nautilus, have argued that the RFA is being unfairly treated. The MOD in turn has admitted that the review has been prompted by pressure from the Treasury, after being lobbied by private shipping firms who have spare capacity during the recession.

Mr Jones assured Nautilus that the review would be carried out, ‘with no preconceived outcomes.’ Personally I’m not sure how this can be, given the pressure from the Treasury and the over-riding need to cut public spending. And as has been seen in the past, the Government will have no scruples about compromising national interest for private profits. It is highly unlikely that the ‘shipping firms’ in question are truly British in any case, so any business that would be generated for the commercial sector would leave the country anyway.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said: ‘We are confident that the RFA can yet again demonstrate its unrivalled efficiency and professionalism, but it is important that the ministers understand our concerns about the dangers of taking a simplistic short-term approach to the way the RFA is operated’.

In times of recession and burgeoning public sector debt, it is inevitable that cuts have to be made. But defence policy should not be driven by private shipping firms with profits in mind. And whilst Defence spending should never be allowed to get out of control, the 1920’s and 1930’s showed the folly of a Treasury driven Defence policy. And the Nott cuts in the early 1980’s, driven by Margaret Thatcher’s desire to slash public spending, very nearly prevented any kind of reaction to the Falklands crisis.

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