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Wednesday, September 24, 2008 

Kelly's gang.

Few tears will have been shed at the departure of Ruth Kelly, one of those government ministers that never came across as anything other than grimly approaching competent in all of the jobs she did. The only really remarkable thing about her time in the government was that she was thought to be an appropriate choice by Tony Blair to be equalities and women minister, despite having never voted in favour of gay rights, almost certainly down to her staunch Catholic beliefs. Her disingenuousness, both regarding her membership of Opus Dei, which she never actually confirmed, and her views on homosexuality, where she also refused to answer whether she regarded homosexuality as a sin, were hardly likely to have been tolerated had she been of any faith other than Christianity. One of the other alleged reasons why she has left government is that she would have been required to vote for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill, something that the ideological dogma of her faith would not have allowed her to do, leaving no room for rationality or the genuine scientific considerations involved.

Kelly's stated reason for departing, to spend more time with her family, is also always seen as instantly suspect. Alan Milburn claimed he was leaving the government to spend more time with his family back in 2003, but this desire to be with his family more didn't stop from him taking up directorships with companies or fatefully becoming Labour's 2005 election supremo, before the party was forced to turn to Gordon Brown for help after it initially floundered. While Kelly has 4 children, all of them are of school age; far be it from me to suggest to someone else how to bring up their family, but one would have thought that more time and effort would have been required when they were youngest, rather than now, although she may well be making up for lost time.

None of this though really matters; what's more important now is the apparent leaking by someone, possibly disgruntled over Kelly's lack of support for Gordon Brown, of her immient decision to go. Accusations have been flying between the two camps of Blairites and Brownites, like cats squabbling in a sack. They're all going to drown, it's just a matter of when. The most likely explanation is that a junior official appears to have been indiscreet, possibly while tired and emotional, and in the vicinity of a Newsnight reporter, who swiftly speculated that Kelly was leaving and that Geoff Hoon was off to Europe in place of Peter Mandelson.

The Blairites claim this all of a piece with the Downing Street stategy of late, with flushing out Siobhan McDonagh and David Cairns because of their disloyalty, while leaking to the News of the Screws Ivan Lewis's mid-life crisis, which involved him leaving his wife and sending indiscreet text messages to a civil servant, who complained. This is denied categorically by Brown's supporters, and at least this time round their explanation is rather more convincing. After all, why would Downing Street carry out a purge on the night after Brown's big speech, denting the overwhelmingly good coverage it received? The Tories also seem to have been acting mischeviously at best, and downright underhand at worst.

That such a breakdown of relationship between the different factions has now undoubtedly taken place is hardly good news for the party as a whole, especially considering a YouGuv poll for the Sun which shows that the bounce given by the Labour conference has narrowed the gap to the Conservatives to 10 points. Whilst hardly a ringing endorsement of the party, so grim have the polls and news been that it's probably the best news for Labour in ages, and suggests that it could still be possible for the difference to be made up. There will surely be no chance of that however if Brown is still to be forced out, which the Kelly debacle seems to have again raised to the fore. Labour has to decide whether it wants to lose the next election to a landslide and leave the Conservatives to make the running for the next ten years, or whether it actually wants to at least go down fighting. The attitude of some gives the impression that they don't seem to care what the new Blairite Conservative party will force through - and that ought to make every single one of us concerned.

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