WITH the notable exception of Winston Churchill, who moved opportunistically and successfully among the parties for most of his career, politicians who quit one party for another do not prosper.

It is unlikely that Brian Sedgemore, who yesterday left Labour for the Liberal Democrats, will be much heard of in the future. He is not seeking re-election as an MP after twenty-five years in the House of Commons and it is unlikely that he will be on Mr Blair's list for elevation to the House of Lords. Nonetheless, his carefully timed announcement that “enough is enough” of Mr Blair and his shamelessness may have some effect on those former Labour voters who are wondering whether they should hold their noses and do so again or instead choose the Liberal Democrats or abstention.

Before Mr Sedgemore disappears from the headlines it may be worth retrieving some of the things he said in the article in which he gave his reasons for his decision. For instance, about Tony Blair: “For him, principles and ideas have become impediments to the continuance of his lust for power.” And: “The stomach-turning lies on Iraq were followed by the attempt to use the politics of fear to drive through Parliament a deeply authoritarian set of law and order measures that reminded me of the Star Chamber.” And, conclusively, “I'm renouncing Tony Blair, the Devil, New Labour and all their works.” About members of the Labour Cabinet: “I will be rubbished by the New Labour spin machine. Mad Dog John Reid will be set on me. John Prescott will say, Brian? Brian who?” And, about what he calls the “unholy Trinity of flawed Home Secretaries”: “Jack Straw was simply not up to the job. David Blunkett saw himself as some kind of deified demi-god, issuing new commandments on a daily basis for the six o'clock news. And then there's poor Charlie Clark, a bit of a chump preaching the politics of fear.”



THERE have been some crude and unnecessary comments about the German background of Pope Benedict. In particular, the suggestion that his membership of the “Hitler Youth” may have infected the ideas of his lifetime is clearly nonsense.

However, there is room for some humour in comment on his election. A cartoon in the current issue of The Spectator shows an empty Papal throne with a beach towel laid across it and one Cardinal saying to another, “I see the Germans got there first.” There has also been a suggestion that instead of condemning the Pope as the Vatican's former “rottweiler” any canine comparison should instead be to a “German shepherd”. This certainly came to mind when, in his homily last Sunday, the Pope said: “I have sheep that are not of this fold. I must lead them too and they will need my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.” It is interesting to reflect on what the Archibishop of Canterbury, who was in St Peter's Square to hear the homily, thought of what was obviously a carefully considered remark. Dr Williams met the Pope yesterday, one of the first non-Catholic leaders to do so, and he may have had some difficulty deciding whether to open a dialogue immediately on what might have seemed to him a take-over bid for the Anglican community or to leave it for future discussion when it becomes clearer whether Pope Bendict was simply reiterating an article of his faith or setting out a future action plan. There was another phrase in the Pope's homily which may have helped Dr Williams to decide to bide his time. Saying that it would be his job to rescue those of his flock who had strayed into the desert, he added: “And there are many kinds of deserts”, a remark which was later interpretated to be a reflection of his thinking of the alienation of humankind in the 21st century.


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