Something Rotten in the Heart of Whitehall?

Left-wing journalist Nick Cohen has long had the New Labour project in his sights (see "Pretty Straight Guys", his searing indictment of Blair's government), but the recent series of shenanigans from the Brown camp has sent him into overdrive. In an article in "Standpoint", entitled "Fear and Filth at Brown's Number 10", Cohen reveals from his own experiences some of the tactics used by Gordon Brown and his associates to intimidate and manipulate their opponents. Resurrecting Robert Harris's comparison of Brown and former US president Nixon, he concludes in this rather stark manner:

For all that I understand the difficulties of my colleagues in Westminster, it remains an indictment of them that until this scandal broke, 99 per cent of the public had never heard of McBride. A full-scale government propaganda operation was under way in plain view of reporters. Partly out of self-interest, but also out of fear of the consequences, most decided that it was prudent to say nothing. Put like this, my argument makes Britain sounds as if it is a police state. The servants of an unscrupulous leader concoct vile libels about opposition politicians and their wives. They plot against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, spreading smears about them almost for the hell it. Journalists on the left-wing press who speak out know that they may risk their careers.

But Britain isn't a police state or anything like one. In real dictatorships people suffer for their beliefs. The only true suffering Brown has inflicted is on Britain's idea of itself. We think of ourselves as a free, plain-speaking people - "a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious and piercing spirit," as Milton said. Yet we accept a PM who achieved power not through the ballot box but by bullying his critics and rivals. As with any other bully, all it would take to stop him is for his opponents to call his bluff. That for years hardly any have, says more about us than it does about him.


Comrade Major said…
Labour, Nu Labour, Conservatives, Cameron's policyless Party, the Lib Dems - all governments will use some sort of intimidation and political control. Be that through the Whip's Office, as before, or as now in the PM's office, a certain of aspect of it is necessary for a stable government. Totalitarian governments just use a lot more of it, but otherwise its a feature to all governments, and it is inescapable. I don't see what makes this time so special, apart from the fact that it just became public.

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