Evening Standard interview: a clarification

I gave an interview to the Evening Standard last week which is in today’s paper. Generally it’s a fair piece and reflects my views on Iraq (articulated previously on this blog) and other issues.

But one line that I took issue with was where the article says:

“Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have been a huge disappointment and let down the Labour Party,” he believes.

As readers of Left Foot Forward will know, I have been a defender of Gordon Brown and believe that the recent attempted coup against him was a mistake.

I have spoken to the writer of the article, David Cohen, and we shared our notes on the interview. It seems that I did make these comments towards the end of our conversation in the context of a wider discussion about Labour’s organisation (a topic on which I have co-edited a book) and some specific policy areas including the Government’s timidity in relation to the City and the lack of progress in tackling inequality – themes on which I regularly write.

I also mentioned earlier in the interview that, like others, I was disappointed by the lack of progress on constitutional reform under Gordon Brown. But I also noted that Brown had been buffeted by an economic and a political crisis not of his making. I want to reiterate here that, aside from these points, I do not regard Gordon Brown to have been a disappointment or to have let down the Labour party.

In relation to Blair, we discussed a number of issues where I praised his record as Prime Minister including some covered in the piece such as his record on education and health.

It is also worth noting that the article implies I have more strategic vision than is actually the case:

So it is fascinating that he should have picked this moment, as his 63-year-old father prepares to give evidence on Thursday to the Chilcot inquiry, to speak his mind and put clear water between the party that his dad represents and the new generation of young Left-wing progressives who, like him, are disenchanted with its direction.

David Cohen made the initial contact and the date was suggested by him.

I understand why the article has been written in the way that it has and have not sought a correction on the Evening Standard’s pages. But I thought some context would be helpful.

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17 Responses to “Evening Standard interview: a clarification”

  1. Anon E Mouse

    Will Straw – There’s hope for you yet young man. (Disagree on Blair though – he was a winner). If you really believed the article was wrong you’d have got a correction.

    Go on Will you can tell us – it’ll go no further – are you disenchanted by this useless government’s direction or not? If not, why not?

    And for goodness sake man, you’re on the wrong side of the curve where that useless buffoon Brown is concerned.

    To say “I do not regard Gordon Brown to have been a disappointment or to have let down the Labour party” is just bonkers.

    He will destroy the Labour vote at the election and your loyalty is simply misplaced. Six months from now you will not be thanked by any Labour supporters for this opinion. Get as much clear blue water between yourself and this government as soon as you can.

    Then all you have to do is straighten yourself out on this climate change nonsense and in the future you may be electable as an MP…

  2. sarah

    Great interview Will. I never realsed until now that you are Jack Straw’s son. Wow! Let’s all hope this blog continues to grow and to allow you to be recognised by more people for your own talents.

  3. Don Quixote

    Honestly… It’s very easy to call Gordon Brown a “useless buffoon”, but in the spirit of evidence-based blogging, would you care to back up this point with an example of useless buffoonery? Or would you prefer to stick with your empty ad hominem attack?

    I shall grant that Gordon Brown’s premiership hasn’t been ideal, but to suggest someone else wouldn’t have faced the difficulties he’s faced is naïve to say the least.

    Mr Straw, if you felt it necessary to post this clarification on Left Foot Forward, why not seek a correction? You’d be much more likely to reach the people who will have actually read the interview and been misinformed by it in the first place… to be honest, I doubt there’d be many habitual Evening Post Readers active on a left-of-centre blog.

  4. Michael

    Oh, I don’t know, I read the interview in the Standard and was interested enough to come here and have a look around. Don’t underestimate the promotional power of a free newspaper I guess! Look forwards to reading more from you.

  5. Will Straw

    Michael – Welcome to Left Foot Forward. I hope you enjoy the content and keep coming back.

    Don – Thanks for your comment. I felt the quote didn’t require a correction – just a clarification since some remarks in what was a long interview were taken out of context and made to look more powerful than they really were.

    Sarah – Thanks. Glad you liked it!

    Anon – You know my thoughts on Brown and I wouldn’t want to be accused of blowing in the wind! Thanks, as ever, for the comment.

  6. Get Labour Out

    "Fact based" Left Foot Forward's Will Straw "clarifies" his comments on Gordon Brown http://bit.ly/4pTUPN Jack Straws son has an oops moment

  7. Get Labour Out

    Will Straw on disappointment Gordon Brown "It seems that I did make these comments towards the end of our conversation" http://bit.ly/4pTUPN

  8. Anon E Mouse

    Don Quixote – Thanks for the request man – I like you already. OK I’ll break into two parts:

    Buffoon – Synonyms: 1. jester, clown, fool. 2. boor.

    I’m going on the fact he’s a fool in believing he could be anywhere as good, in popularity or ability as Tony Blair. Most would use the obvious things such as selling the gold off at an almost historic low – (our gold Don, not his) but I go on the overall big picture stuff not nit picking.

    On the useless. Where to start…there’s so much. OK.

    1. 10p Tax fiasco he got completely wrong.
    2. Gurkhas.
    3. First of the G8 countries out of recession.
    4. The end to boom and bust.
    5. Claiming only 13000 would come to the UK from the EU expansion.
    6. Claiming ID cards would help fight terrorism.
    7. Employing individuals such as Damian McBride to lie and smear people.
    8. Claiming he was never considering an election when he was.
    9. Stealing £12500 for cleaning (in cash) to his brother for a two bedroomed flat he never lived in.
    10. And on and on…

    There are just so many to show how often he’s wrong – being wrong means he doesn’t “get” the electorate – Blair did get it – he’s therefore useless.

    He cannot even command the respect of all of his cabinet – at least six of them agree with me and want rid of this useless man.

    If Brown is in Labour will be out – the Leaders debates will crucify him. As a lifelong Labour supporter (and all my family) I’ll never vote for the party again until that lying idiot is out of power and since the gutless Labour Party won’t get rid of him the electorate will.

  9. Liz McShane

    Anon – surely the party is more than just one person…?

  10. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – That ceased to be so with the Gordon Brown spin machine which was just as nasty to Labour MP’s as Tories.

    On top of getting Derek Draper and Damian McBride to try to lie and smear David Cameron the week his disabled son died and then send Lyam Byrne to claim on Sky News it was effectively a storm in a teacup, who do you think spent years spinning and lying about Tony Blair? Brown’s bullies again.

    And David Miliband, who as you know I wouldn’t pay in washers – he’s as useless as his brother – had pictures of himself with a banana to make himself look stupid leaked by the same lot again – Brown and Co.

    If people disagree with Brown he kicks desks over and throws mobile phones about – the man doesn’t act in the interests of the Labour Party – if he did he would never have forced Blair out and he would simply resign. he is clearly a selfish man.

    People say who would replace him? Anyone I say but this gutless cabinet, six at least who agree with me, couldn’t organise a s**ging party in a brothel and so we drift towards political oblivion.

    By defending Brown, people are supporting a truly unpleasant character who was never elected by the members of the party and will only serve to hasten it’s loss at the election.

    People on this blog and people I speak to would (fairly) describe me as a critical ranter towards this man and the government and in that description they are correct. But if more people like me stood up and said this is unacceptable behaviour perhaps Brown and Co could have been stopped.

    I know at the party conference they arrested Walter Wolfgang, an 86 year old lifelong party member because he heckled Jack Straw (I don’t blame Straw in any way for that) and the police used the Terrorism Act and that should have been condemned instantly by the party. An immediate meeting should have been sought and someone should have been sacked but they weren’t.

    It’s simply too late for this lot I’m afraid and as I said before if 350 members of the Labour Party won’t get rid of him the electorate will…

  11. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – I meant 350 members of the PLP…

  12. Liz McShane

    Anon – I am thankful that Gordon Brown is one of the few people that understands economics in this country and managed to navigate us through the rather choppy waters of the last 12-18 months and successfully minimised the damage – that’s what matters to people on the street.

  13. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – If he does understand it he shows no sign of it. And he most certainly hasn’t minimised any damage, he’s just delayed the pain.

    As bad as everyone knows he is as Prime Minister (from the lowest poll rating since records began) as a chancellor he was beyond useless. That’s why Black Wednesday never gets mentioned anymore – that was a drop in the ocean.

    We are not “best placed to see out the recession”. He did not “end boom and bust”. We are not “leading the G20 out of recession”.

    We now have the largest debt in this country and will be paying it off for generations and for what?

    To allow him to reward the bankers with our money and they still get their bonus payments – now with (RBS 83%) our money, not money from share holders.

    See Billy Bragg on the net for further info…

    He claimed that removing the 10p Tax rate “would not affect anyone” – the guy is an absolute disaster.

    Hey but don’t ask me Liz – Mervyn King says it today in The Times – funny how Will Straw missed the headline on his politics summary…

  14. Liz

    Anon – an excerpt from an article posted by PPC Ann Pettifor on Compass’s website yesterday….

    “In 1946 Britain’s debt was roughly 5 times what it is today – a staggering 250% of GDP.

    At that point an extraordinary thing happened.

    The heavily indebted Labour government began to spend – as soon as legislation was agreed by Parliament.

    Labour invested in a bold and visionary project: – a publicly funded health service free at the point of use – the NHS. There was a slum clearance and housing programme. They revived the ancient universities, provided pensions and welfare to the poor. They trained ex-soldiers to become teachers.

    To revive the economy, to protect the vulnerable, and to prepare the country for the threat posed by climate change – a Labour government must do the same again: invest in a Green New Deal.

    What happened to the public debt in the 40s and 50s, you might ask, as a result of Clem Attlee and Hugh Dalton’s apparent extravagance and flouting of the economic orthodoxy? Did the deficit balloon, the bond markets blackmail the government, and did capitalism as we know it, go into free fall?

    No. On the contrary. Look at the chart. What Lord John Maynard Keynes advised would happen, did happen. Government investment kick-started private economic activity. Tax revenues rose, expenditure on unemployment benefits fell, and government cut its borrowing, which fell dramatically as a share of GDP.”

  15. Don Quixote

    Anon- May I say that I’m genuinely happy to see some genuine arguments form you, it is incredibly refreshing after the “one-eyed scottish idiot” drivel that seems to be popular among the British right these days…

    I’m afraid I haven’t got time to respond to them individually at the moment (and I agree with some of them, in any case). But I am resolute that Gordon Brown is the best Prime Minister we could currently have.

    Incidentally, as a matter of curiosity, why is the claim to have ended boom and bust so inflammatory? A lot of anti-Brown rhetoric seems to revolve around this, but was there a single person anywhere who actually believed at the time that boom and bust was banished forever? Am I really to believe that it should be interpreted as a personal promise from Brown that there would never be any sort of market fluctuation again?

    It seems manifest to me that no one took Gordon Brown to mean it literally when he said it, he simply meant that the market was doing well and seemed to be stable under Labour… I mean, hyperbole is not exactly uncommon in politics…

    Michael- I stand corrected.

    Liz- I agree wholeheartedly.

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Don – We agree to disagree sir – Brown is the least popular PM ever and there is a reason for that. He cannot make a decision and that is weak leadership.

    Forget his personality for a minute it still comes back to being indecisive. It is simply not good enough to state “We will have another review blah blah” instead of making his opinion clear and acting on it.

    Even if the decision was incorrect, if it was made honestly then people would accept it. Instead we have a hopeless weak individual who seems only able to threaten and bully to get his own way and one who can never admit he’s wrong.

    Instead of simply apologising to Nadine Dorries for example over the McBride affair, he dithered and refused to admit he was wrong and that just annoys people – same with the Gurkha’s.

    There is a lot to be said for the Ronald Reagan “Gee guys I guess I screwed up” method – that worked for him but if you are a person that is cautious and weak by nature you will not do that. (Not that I am personally).

    As for who would be better? Anyone – even that awful Harriet Harman would do a better job I think and I’m not her biggest fan.

    Brown stood at the dispatch box in the commons and stated he had ended boom and bust. We all knew he hadn’t but when confronted he then started spinning about “Tory boom and bust” and that is dishonest.

    Liz – That was immediately after the greatest war the world has ever known and we had to rebuild our country. Irrespective of the nonsense spouted by this government of building “affordable housing” it simply isn’t doing it.

    Back then we had an economy built on manufacturing and producing things – now (and Thatcher needs to take her share of the blame for this) we have an economy where Public Service is the biggest employer and the remainder is a service industry.

    The reason we pulled out from 1946 onwards was employment produces tax receipts for the government – that situation is simply not available any more. The NHS is the UK’s biggest employer for goodness sake – where is the money going to come from?

    Regarding some “New Green Deal” nonsense why did this government let the UK’s only wind turbine manufacturer go to the wall when it gives billions of our money to the bankers?

    I say forget the climate change nutter stuff Liz and reopen the coal mines in South Wales. How can it be economic to import German coal when we have mass unemployment here and 400 years of fuel not five miles from my home?

  17. Liz McShane

    Anon – I presume you are not a fan of economist David Blanchflower then…..?

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