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Politics and religion commentary

I was meeting a friend in a Brussels cafe on Friday afternoon, and we were joined by an diplomat from one of the smaller EU member states, stretching his legs during a break in proceedings in the summit. At that point there was no indication of how things were going, and I asked the diplomat if his government had made provision to stay all weekend if necessary. (My first experience of EU treaty negotiations was the Nice treaty in 2000, where the summit lasted three days longer than planned, and senior officials spent the next week trying to remember what had been agreed in the small hours of Monday morning before they could produce a definitive text.)

The diplomat said that he himself wasn't leaving until Monday, but his government confidently expected to be gone on Saturday; because Tony Blair was certainly not going to be late for his meeting with the Pope.

My friend grinned. "That's probably what it will take to bring the Poles around!" he quipped.

True or not, I just want to point to two interesting pieces on Blair's imminent embrace of Catholicism - stellanova takes the Guardian to task for its knee-jerk anti-Catholicism, and Ken MacLeod does a hilarious piece on why Blair may not find conversion a smooth process.

As for the EU Treaty, I can't get too excited about it. The crucial thing is that, if agreed, it unblocks the possible stalling of the enlargement process for the Balkan countries which could have been a problem if the constitutional impasse had run on. The re-dubbing of the Foreign Minister as High Representative only reflects his current title anyway. Still, it will be interesting to see if this slimmed down and very modest document can pass referendum in those countries where it is put to the popular test. Three of the last four ratification processes have brought largely unexpected surprises, and with 27 countries now in the mix, the chance of that happening again must be if anything greater.

And going back to the British Labour Party, and its new Deputy Leader - fascinating that Jon Cruddas, of whom literally the only thing I know is that he was a candidate in this election, came top on the first count but didn't make it to the end, with Harriet Harman, in second place for most of the process, pulling ahead on the final count to win by precisely the same margin as Denis Healey over Tony Benn in 1981. Benn's son Hilary was a candidate this time round, but did not do as well as his father twenty-six years before.

I'm so detached from British politics that I know little more about Alan Johnson than I do about Jon Cruddas, but I remember Harriet Harman well as winning a tough by-election for Labour in 1982 (defeating, if I remember, Dick Taverne). I had at least heard of Benn and Hain because their ministerial roles are relevant to my work and interests, and I have become aware of Hazel Blears due to the successful campaign of mockery against her mounted from certain parts of the blogosphere...

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
blue_condition
Jun. 24th, 2007 05:18 pm (UTC)
I normally think that even in politics it's cruel to mock the afflicted, but when the afflicted are as unpleasant as Blears I think it's not merely forgiveable but laudable. I don't think we've had quite such a case of out-of-her-teeny-tiny-mind-dribbling-madness in British politics since, oh, Bill Boaks. Or possibly the fantastic Colonel Sibthorp, if you want to go further back.
matgb
Jun. 24th, 2007 05:33 pm (UTC)
Cruddas was the backbench "left" candidate (for "left" read grassroots/union), and came across very well in a lot of places. Johnson always comes across well in the media, and has a reputation for competence even when brining in dodgy policies; to survive as Education Secretary and not be politically dead shows he's got something going for himself.

I'm also a bit meh about the treaty; I'll try to read a decent precis when I'm in a more political mood but ultimately they've got an agreement, which is more than I expected.

As for Blears? Jennie and I watched her on Question Time, it was pretty much impossible to not mock her, she's the type of clueless party-line-toeing apparatchik that I can't stand from any party.
drasecretcampus
Jun. 24th, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
My memory is that he was parachuted in to a safe Labour seat in Hull - West Hull and Hessle - after the rather sudden resignation three weeks before the 1997 election of the incumbent Stuart Randall (subsequently Baron Randall of St Budeaux, of St Budeaux in the County of Devon, go figure).

Apparently Johnson was the only significant union leader (on the NEC) to support the aboliton of Clause IV.

Ho, as you might say, hum.

If I recollect correctly - I've lost the details but I think it was this http://www.nickcohen.net/?p=45 - Harman's sister Sarah Harman is politically interesting, and is a solicitor round these parts. (The practise is Harman and Harman, but I think she's the only Harman the letter head.)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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