The Maily Telegraph has scored a scoop – or so it told its readers – in obtaining (don’t ask) a bundle of correspondence involving Pa Broon, “Auguste” Balls, and the rest of their coterie. The editorial line is that this is not only an event of seismic proportions, but also damning proof of plots, bad handwriting, and other goings-on demonstrating generally bad form.
Telegraph pundits and bloggers are buying into the corporate line as one. Some of the readership no doubt buys in as well: all those who thought Tony Blair was not the kind of chap they would vote for this side of hell freezing over suddenly overcome with sympathy and admiration. I suspect, though, that they’ll exclude Big Al and “Shagger” Prescott from that.
So what exactly does the Telegraph scoop reveal? As ever, careful reading of the piece reveals the flaws within, the hedging, and the routine smearing. We are told that “[Blair’s] deal at that summer’s G8 summit ... is thought to have angered Brown”, “Brown had prepared a document ... that appeared to set out his plans”, and “Blair’s speech at the Labour conference ... appeared to infuriate his chancellor” [my emphases].
Brown is said to have sent out “rambling” memos, thus showing that he was one of the bad guys. This is then reinforced by telling that his circle was “becoming increasingly paranoid” over the possibility that Mil The Elder might make a challenge for the Labour leadership. The problem with this assertion is that the elder Miliband was indeed considering a challenge, so there wasn’t any paranoia – but what the heck, it fits the storyline.
Elsewhere, we’re back to filling in the blanks: “a note ... which appears to set out terms for a deal”, “The Brown camp presented what is thought to be their ... deal document”, and “Blair rejected the Brown deal and was said to have been outraged by the behaviour of Balls” [again, my emphases]. That hedge needs a trim.
Yes, politicians behave like, well, politicians. No party the size of Labour or the Tories can ever be free of factions, as “Shagger” Major rediscovered in the mid-90s what Harold Wilson knew all too well 20 years before. Tone and Pa Broon did not always get on, and neither did Big Al and “Auguste” Balls. Politics is, as ever, the rough game.And we knew that Tone would be handing over to Pa Broon sometime after the 2005 General Election, with the rest, as they say, being history. But the Telegraph readership has no doubt lapped it up, and a few more copies have been sold, and that’s all that matters to those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet.