Monday, May 26, 2008

 

How Will Labour Find its Saviour?

The columnist most closely associated with Labour's inner circles is often reckoned to be Jackie Ashley and so her column today makes interesting reading. Leading figures have leapt to Gordon's defence, including John Prescott(surprisingly articulate on Andrew Marr), David 'Gordon's the best man' Miliband(and p.s. 'I'm not standing') plus Alan Johnson 'oh no, I wouldn't stand- not yet anyway' Johnson. But Jack Straw has been very silent recently and so have the ladies in the Cabinet. Ashley tells us that:

Behind the scenes, on both sides of the party, there are serious discussions going on about how to remove the prime minister. If the tumbrels are not actually rolling, then the wheels are being greased and the details of political assassination are being knowledgably discussed.

Both wings of New Labour- the Progress and Compass factions- have been negotiating a new 'policy agenda' plus a candidate to take over from Brown 'later this year'. It seems the former has been agreed- always the easy part given New Labour's lightness on ideoloogy- but the latter creates problems. Ashley expects a swift turn back to 'core Labour values' but is less helpful on who is likely to emerge as Labour's putative Saviour. She mentions Cruddas and Clarke as people who might be given more prominence to speak for the party on the Today programme but as part of a reshuffle, not a contest.

The key options still lie with the incumbent Labour leader. He can buy off potential rivals with rewards and scare the party with the horrors of firstly removing him and secondly selecting his successor. Ashley wonders if Gordon can find within and project the relaxed, witty, urbane version of himself his friends know so well. She concludes, drawing on the example of Boris Johnson- she underestimated 'the importance of style and swagger, certainly hunmour'. Finally she reckons front-runner David Miliband should 'set out his stall, along with Straw, Johnson and Balls, Brown's favoured successor'. Of these, I fear that on the style/swagger/humour criteria, Miliband, Balls and Straw score poorly(with Balls scoring zero) leaving Johnson as our best bet. I suspect this frothy talk will eventually fade away and doubt any change of helmsman will happen in the end.

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