Tuesday, March 14, 2006
So 'Ramsay McBlair' it appears to be then
The scar of the McDonald betrayal, as Martin Kettle reminded us in his Guardian column 11th March, is such that Blair's remaining time in office will be tough if this comes to pass. As he also points out, 'Failure to carry your own party turns out not to be fatal any more.' It really seems the unthinkable is about to happen and a version of the Great Betrayal is about to be reprised. Of course, the Conservatives might take this likelihood on board and pull out the rug at the last moment on the grounds the bill have been diluted too much to win over the rebels. But, according to David Willets, this is not due to happen.
So what happens next? Blair might decide, I suppose, to cash in on this source of parliamentary support and push through other measures his party cannot stomach though, at present, it's hard to see what they might be. The rebels might decide to challenge their leader. For this to occur a challenger would need the support of 20 per cent of the PLP( it used to be only 5 per cent until Benn challenged Kinnock in the early eighties) and then two thirds of the annaul conference has to approve the contest. [Could the annual conference be brought forward for such a vote? I don't know.] Then the electoral college would stride onto the stage to mount a battle royal and one likely to weaken Labour for the foreseeable future. Labour was out of power as the party forming government for fourteen years after Ramsay's betrayal- if Blair were downed, they could be lookng at a similar period back in the wilderness.
Appreciating this, the rebels might either: a) decide to support Blair on the vote; b) deny him support on the bill but accept the McDonaldite pact on this issue; c) accept Blair could thereafter stay in office with Conservative support as a fact of life. Optrions b) and c) would take our politics into uncharted territory and be quite fascinating for those of us who are fascinated. But the public division caused might well scupper Gordon's big chance and lifelong ambition of serving a full term, after 2009, as his country's Labour prime minister.
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