05 October 2008

Just when you thought Brown was digging his way out of a hole...

...He puts Peter Mandelson back in the cabinet.

Lunacy, just plain lunacy.

The best news from the reshuffle was that Digby Jones was bailing out. He should never have been there in the first place, of course, but it's reassuring all the same.

Also, Andrew Adonis, who has done his best to wreck the UK education system over the last ten years, goes to transport - presumably on the basis that the UK transport network is so terminally f***ed that he can't do any more damage there.

Likewise, John Hutton has been moved to a real cabinet turkey - defence. It's a really interesting question which of Mandelson or Hutton is worse. I think Hutton's probably worse, if only because he speaks with the zeal of the true convert to neo-liberal economics. Mandelson has been in the right-wing camp for far longer, and so may have had some time to reflect on the idiocy of his beliefs. We can but hope.

Ed Miliband steps in as the Secretary of State for a new department - Energy and Climate Change. In general I think the more power to Ed the better (no pun intended) as he is one of the best people in the Cabinet and could be good as a future leader. However there are dangers in this position for him. He'll be pushing (whether by choice or not) a deeply unpopular programme of new nuclear power stations and the inevitable public backlash could cause him big problems. On the other hand he will be able to push for renewables and (hopefully) against coal, so it's not all bad news.

One overall comment: this 'all hands on deck' schtick is really beginning to bug me. We've heard it from Mandelson, Brown, Cameron and anyone even vaguely involved with the US Government. And the net result is that the economy is still collapsing - just a little slower than it would have done otherwise. No-one really seems to have grasped the fact that the game plan which has defined the last 30 years - the belief that deregulation, free markets and maniac capitalism woud secure perpetual prosperity for the western world (and converts from the east) is very close to being over. It's like we're still trying to play football, but the playing field has been tilted through 90 degrees, and we haven't realised we'll need a pick-axe and climbing spikes to stay on it.

Given that pretty much all hands failed to anticipate the kind of mess we find ourselves in (the only exceptions I can think of are Guardian chief economist Larry Elliott and UCLA Marxist historian Robert Brenner), add a load of clueless people together and you get the same result as adding a bunch of zeroes (i.e. zero).

The 'big tent' strategy has been a disaster for Brown. It's emasculated his political campaigning and made it impossible to drop the tarnished legacy of Tony Blair. The departure of Ruth Kelly, with no ill-effects whatsoever, should have been a clue to the way forward; dump the dorks, and kick some Tory ass. Instead we have welcomed back the enemy within... Mandelson. Maybe I'm wrong and the guy is a genius who will mastermind another election victory. But remember that's what Blair thought about Alan Milburn in the run-up to 2005, and where is Milburn now? (Don't answer that one... we'll probably find next week that he's back in the cabinet.

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