Gisela Stuart, Labour MP for Edgbaston and occupant of a niche in The Huntsman’s Pantheon, has returned to the issue of the refusal of Gordon Brown to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution. There is a sharpness, more trenchant than one remembers from John Major’s “Bastards”, to her contribution that intrigues.
I tread delicately here in the knowledge that EU Referendum has already looked at her offering, so I have tried to bring another part of the refracted light to bear. In her piece in the Evening Standard she also weighs in on Brown for his conduct concerning the election that wasn’t. It is the fact of linkage between his conduct in relation to the Referendum and his conduct in relation to the non-election that seems a new departure:

“Recent events have shown some rather old-style politics, with the Prime Minister looking indecisive and lacking veracity”

“To pretend that Labour was not gearing up for an election or that opinion polls played no part in the decision to postpone it was silly and gave David Cameron some of his most damaging ammunition.”

“Sticking to your guns in defence of a patently dishonest position is not leadership but the soft option and a cop-out from a specific promise made to voters.”

“The path adopted by the Government is neither honest not coherent. We have reached the absurd position where the Government says there will be a referendum only if its red lines are not met, so presumably it will ask people to vote ‘no’ on a treaty it has not signed.”

“The red lines are red herrings. It’s a matter of trust and integrity. A referendum was promised. It should be delivered. If Labour can’t trust the people, why should the people trust Labour?”

Now this is mild by the standards of the condemnation which has been routinely dished out to this most dishonourable of Prime Ministers by bloggers who have been on his case for months now. In truth Brown, I am sure, will have no problem sticking two fingers up at us on the right who excoriate him for the shyster he is.
It is another matter altogether for him to divide the Labour Party precisely at the moment when he has utterly dismayed his troops who must now be wondering if they have made a spectacular blunder in picking the man of whose character defects they have been amply warned in advance as their new standard bearer.

Mrs. Stuart is not alone in wielding the bludgeon. The Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, Michael Connarty, has been not sparing of his time either. He has set off in pursuit of Brown’s Red Lines, which, as he and Miliband jet off to do their Quisling turn upon the stage, are being brandished ever more violently as if that alone will ward off Le Grand Projet’s hyenas.

Connarty is talking up the near-certainty that, even if the Red Lines have any real substance now, they will be gone within five years anyway, swept away on the tide of the new powers which The Empire will deploy to crush any such nonsense in future. There is a sense, but no more than that, Labour backbenchers believe that this is a running sore which is going to bleed away yet more support if left untended.

Is this a sign of a willingness on the part of backbench Labour to force him to do something which his character prevents him from doing? One way in which he might patch up (I cannot say restore for I believe that is no longer possible) his tattered reputation is to yield on this and present it as listening to the people and honouring his manifesto pledge. He thus would shoot a Tory fox which will otherwise run for months yet until the end of the Parliamentary process of ratification.

Instead he may still choose to tough it out and allow the Conservatives to erect a permanent acid drip over him which corrodes each day a further layer of his character. Only if that corrosion threatens to break him might he then finally yield. But by then it may have gone too far.

Meanwhile Mrs. Stuart’s niche in the Pantheon will be given an extra dust this week and her statue an extra burnish.

Memo to the Chemist: “Send one large barrel of sulphuric acid soonest”.

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