Infamy! Infamy! They’ve All Got it in For Me!

Et tu, Brute?  Kenneth Williams expresses shocked surprise at Tom Watson’s expression of loyalty appearing in his front.

I was deeply moved by Tom Watson’s demand [quoted in The Guardian, 21 Sep 2015] that critics of the new Labour leader respect his mandate and, in his own words ‘show a little bit of respect and tolerance of him’.  Who could fail to be impressed by such a sincere appeal to loyalty, or the political wisdom involved in curtailing such destructive and self-interested internal power squabbles?

Here’s Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s chief of staff, recalling Watson’s selfless loyalty towards the Labour leadership in 2007 and his respectful and tolerant approach to what Watson might describe as the ‘creative process for having political outcomes that serve voters’.  Which, let us recall, led directly to those triumphant Labour election results in 2010 and 2015.

‘I called Tom Watson, and he eventually called back and we had a rather frosty conversation. I asked him if he was planing to resign since he had signed a letter calling on the Prime Minister to go. He said no and asked if I was telling him to resign.  I asked him how the letter was compatible with his remaining a minister, and he had no answer…. Gordon [Brown] said he could get Tom Watson to recant, but only if Tony met all his conditions.  Tony refused and said he was going to sack Watson.  Gordon contacted Watson immediately after the meeting and persuaded him to resign before we could sack him, at the same time sending the most damaging resignation letter he could concoct.  That launched a rolling programme of suicide bombers as junior members of the government began resigning one after another’. [‘The New Machiavelli.  How to Wield Power in the Modern World’, Jonathan Powell (London: Vintage Books, 2011), 301-02.]

Much as I admire Powell’s use of Machiavelli, surely the historical parallel to use here would be Talleyrand, that fearless French Revolutionary and loyal servant of Napoleonic and Bourbon restoration regimes:

‘Treason is a matter of dates.’


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