Thursday, 3 December 2009

Modest man vs Modern man

I gather Kevin maintains that Labour politicians in a quandary should always ask themselves 'What would Mr Attlee have done?'

Here's a brief comparison of the activities of the two most successful Labour Prime Ministers on their leaving office.

After defeat in the General Election of 1951, Mr Attlee spends four years as Leader of the Opposition, power not being the be-all and end-all. On his retirement as Leader, he leaves the Commons, and is elevated to the Lords as Earl Attlee and Viscount Prestwood. As a peer, among other things, he campaigns for the decriminalization of homosexual acts in private by consenting adults. When he dies in 1967, his estate is sworn for probate purposes at a value of £7,295, a relatively modest sum for the time.

There's no question of our most recently retired Labour Prime Minister continuing in Parliamentary politics - job done, as it were. And there's obviously no question of his taking on a peerage, let alone an hereditary earldom. After all, he's more than representative of modern Britain; having helped shape it, he virtually embodies it. He's the model of the modern Briton.

No, what he does is this:
The former prime minister Tony Blair has received millions of pounds through an unusual mixture of commercial, charitable and religious income streams. Since he stepped down from office in 2007, his financial affairs have been described by observers as "Byzantine" and "opaque"...
Blair has a commercial consultancy, called Tony Blair Associates, plus jobs advising a US bank and a Swiss insurer. He has a multimillion pound book deal. He also has a charity, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, and another called the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Blair has a complex web of structures involving 12 different legal entities handling the unprecedented millions he is receiving since he stepped down from office in 2007.

It's not clear why this complexity and opaqueness exists: possibly to avoid inheritance tax? Anyway, The Guardian is attempting to get to the bottom of it via a wiki-style investigation:
So mystifying are the former prime minister's financial structures – which involve highly specialised limited partnerships and parallel companies – that the Guardian today launches an open invitation to tax specialists and accountants to attempt to explain the motivation behind such structures...

Ah, old Mr Attlee. Taking an earldom seems now such an innocent act, whether you regard it as perquisite or peccadillo. Churchill described Attlee as a modest man with much to be modest about (this was before Labour's 1945 landslide electoral victory). What we wouldn't give for some refreshing, sparkling, old-fashioned modesty now. Stuff being 'modern'.


malty said...

Possibly GB Ltds greatest disaster, the 1945 Labour victory, when the pragmatic solution would have been a coalition government with one objective, the rebuilding of a post war nation in as short a time as possible. With one or two notable exceptions the tenure was not successful.
Atlee was undoubtedly an honest man and in the right set of circumstances would have made a decent fist of the job. However, he was the opening batsman in a test series that led the British people via the Terrible toff Macmillan and the incompetent Wilson, on the long, slow, painfull march to its knees, ending with the fools Callaghan and Healy aided and abetted by their trade union acolytes, misc liberal leeches and mixed with a dose of Heath.
Whilst this pantomime was unfolding the French, Germans, Italians, Dutch, Danes, Luxembourgers, Belgians, Norwegians and Swedes were, despite many setbacks, building successful economies.

The story began with one disastrous Labour administration, hopefully it will end in a few months with the death of another, far more lethal Labour government.

And may Blair and the barking lawyer at his side rot in hell.

dearieme said...

I grew up among people who largely loathed Labour, yet never heard a bad word about Attlee as a man. It is all quite a contrast to the Loathsome Wee Twat.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Kevin's right, Gaw, often is. The British were complacent after the war, I reckon that's the simple explanation, thinking they had nothing to fight for, and a class system that had made people apathetic. But then I'm no historian.