Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The parable of Mark Oaten

While I wouldn’t vote for John McDonnell with a ten-foot barge pole, I’m pretty relaxed about his candidacy. Gordon Brown is bound to win by a mile anyway; a contest would dispel any nonsense about an illegitimate ‘coronation’ as well as making clear that’s Brown’s not an ‘old Labour’ throwback; and frankly, McDonnell does represent a significant strand of party thinking. The political differences between him and Brown are far realer than those between Brown and, say, Alan Milburn.

But here’s a cautionary tale.

Once upon a time, there was a little orange boy called Mark. He and his little orange friends wanted to make Orangeland more modern.

One day, the orange leadership was up for election. Mark stood, and all his friends cheered him on, as the only other candidates were a couple of boring oldies and a new kid whose name nobody could remember.

Then, disaster struck. Mark was disgraced and had to pull out. The orange modernisers were forlorn, and one of the boring oldies won.

Now, let me be very clear: I don’t think Gordon Brown has been seeing rent boys. In fact, I’d bet the public sector borrowing requirement against it.

But there are many types of bus that a political career can suddenly fall under. If (admittedly, a big if) something should emerge during the contest that sinks Brown, there’s no cushion to prevent McDonnell from becoming PM by default.

Just an idle thought.

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