Tuesday, September 16, 2008

That David Cairns Letter In Full

This has be one of the most extraordinary resignation letters I've ever seen in politics. Not because it was written at all, though that is extraordinary enough in itself. No, what surprises me is that in a 'genre' which tends to be formulaic, platitudinous and dripping with pathos/bathos, this one manages to be heartfelt, regretful and yet, still bore right to the heart of the Prime Minister's current problem.

Throughout his career, Gordon Brown has been ruthless in briefing, leaking against and generally doing down anyone whom he perceived to be a threat to his political ambitions. The treatment handed out to junior bag carriers who had the cheek to call for a leadership contest has simply been the latest manifestation of what is a deeply unattractive and long-standing character trait.

I'm sure that David Cairns didn't want to be the one to have to call him up on it, but after what must have been a day or so of mounting pressure to 'break cover', he has done so. Cairns has been one of the most diligent, intelligent and loyal Ministers at Brown's disposal, and one of the few ministers who could manage to come across as the voice of sweet reason while defending the seemingly indefensible - a rare skill in politics. If even someone like David Cairns feels that time is up for Brown, then it really is game over.

Dear Gordon

As someone who has never uttered a public word of criticism of our Labour government, far less ever cast a vote against it in the years that I have been an MP, the concept of loyalty to my party and our leader is at the very heart of my political beliefs.

As such, the greatest privilege in my life has been to serve as a Labour minister.

For me it is an article of faith that the worst day of a Labour government is better than the best day of a Tory or SNP one.

This has been borne out by the tremendous progress that we have seen over the past 11 years in communities like my own in Inverclyde where regeneration is replacing years of decay, caused in large measure by destructive Conservative policies.

This is why I got into politics and why loyalty is a price well worth paying.

Yet despite our achievements, if surveys of public opinion and recent byelections are to be believed, we find ourselves in a position where we appear to have fallen well behind a Tory opposition of quite breathtaking shallowness with no answers to the challenges that our country faces, and an SNP administration that has betrayed pensioners, students, homeowners, and is decimating the voluntary sector.

Of course governments in all countries are facing problems and it would be disingenuous to argue otherwise, but this is not the only challenge we face.

It was in this context that some colleagues requested nomination forms for a leadership contest.

When asked my opinion I counselled against this as I argued that it could only lead to further division and internal wrangling.

Nevertheless they went ahead, their names found their way into the public domain, and, to my dismay, the current crisis began.

However it is the response to this action that has caused me most unhappiness.

Rather than seizing the opportunity to open out to the broader party membership a discussion that is being held in private, our response as a government has been to suggest that these were the actions of a tiny number of disaffected people who have taken leave of their senses, are part of some larger plot and are entirely unrepresentative of the PLP.

These were among the more charitable responses.

I do not believe any of these things to be the case, though I understand the frustration of those good comrades who hold a different point of view.

In any event the debate is now on.

The issue of leadership and direction are being discussed and argued over, and to go on denying it is hardly credible. I wish it were otherwise.

To that end I believe that the time has come to take the bull by the horns and allow a leadership debate to run its course.

I know that it is incompatible to hold this view and to remain a serving minister, and although it had not been my intention to resign, I have reluctantly concluded that it is the only honourable course of action left open.

Yours sincerely

David Cairns

Member of Parliament for Inverclyde


Bill said...

Whilst I think what he writes in his 3rd and 4th paragraphs is arrant nonsense, this is obviously the letter of a sincere and honest man; I had only vaguely heard of him before, to be quite honest, but in the television interview he gave today he comes across as a very sensible and reasonable individual who is obviously acting in what he sees as the best interests of his Party. It can't be good for the 'Dear Leader' to read such missives from someone who has been unfailingly loyal, but I doubt somehow that he will agree that it is time to go - his fingernails will have to be prized from the door of 10 Downing Street. I've never liked him of course, it would be idle to pretend otherwise, but it is tragic that his reputation has fallen so far so fast, even if it is a well-deserved and overdue fall. At a human level I have great sympathy for GB, but he has got to go - and soon.

Richard Thomson said...

I think those are views which will be held widely, Bill.

Richard Havers said...

What I find interesting is how opposition parties who, as soon as they spot a member of an opposing party doing what David Cairns has done, come over all gooey eyed about what a good chap he is. It serves the SNP, the Tories and the LibDems well to pick up on such things and milk them for all their worth. Of course if it were happening within their own parties it would all be a little different. Mind you, I'd do just the same :)

Of course we don't agree with Gordon Brown, and would sooner see him go, but the concept of loyalty is still something that should be prized and that's what the majority of the Labour party are doing - being loyal. The fact is that they are bloody doomed whatever happens. There's no one who can replace Gordon and arrest the damage. Or do you think there might be someone, Richard?

I just cannot see one of the young bucks doing the business and if it's one of the old guard open warfare will probably break out. Having said that, and strange is this may sound, I'd probably go for Doctor John. He's far from my cup of cocoa but he's probably tough enough to pull them together, although there's always the question of could he survive without calling an election? The fact is they don't have to call one....but it would take someone with enormous balls to carry it off. I see few people who have the necessary equipment to do that.

Richard Thomson said...

What I find interesting is how opposition parties who, as soon as they spot a member of an opposing party doing what David Cairns has done, come over all gooey eyed about what a good chap he is.

Fair point, Richard :-) In my defence, he's someone who's abilities I've always had a genuinely high regard for, even if I didn't always care for the way they were deployed.

I think that barring something quite extraordinary and unforeseen happening, Labour are on an irreversible, sharply downward trajectory. There's no-one who I think is capable of taking the controls and pulling out of the nosedive in which they now find themselves.

John Reid might be in a berth in the form of the Celtic boardroom from which he may not wish to be prised. Much as I'd enjoy seeing him spar with David Cameron, I just don't see why he'd give up the career he seems to be carving out for himself, for the dubious privilege of trying to make the impending Labour catastrophe somehow less bad than it might otherwise become.

DougtheDug said...

I have a less charitable view of Cairns.

I think this is fairly accurate summary of his letter.

I've been lobby fodder since I became an MP and I've climbed a little way up the greasy pole and I believe in the goodness of a Labour government despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Despite 50 years of Labour rule in Scotland all the problems there are the fault of the conservatives and I see silver linings everywhere. I am a Labour groupie because the perks have been worth it.

But Gordon, you've finally blown it. You're the problem. You've got to go so I can stay on in Westminster.

Some wanted to get rid of you now but I said no as it would send us down the plug-hole even faster but they went and did it anyway.

Their names are now public and you've gone ga-ga with your paranoid fantasies. You're nuts.

You've got to resign and I want out with my hands clean for the coming General Election so I'm leaving.