Saturday, July 26, 2008


So What Now Then Gordon?

When I was a postgraduate student attending interviews for academic jobs, we had member of our coffee room group who used to question us eagerly as to how each interview had gone. When he heard it had not been successful, he used to pause and then ask the one question one did not want to hear in the wake of such a disappointment: 'So....what now then?' No doubt the ramifications of the same question are resounding around Gordon's mind right now, as indeed, they are for all members of the Labour Party. The options, however, are none too welcoming:

1. Carry on as we are and hope things will improve This is the option Brown urges, together with sustained loyalty, belief and patience. But the assurances Brown made yesterday at the Warwick policy forum about being 'fully focused on the job' and doing 'whatever is necessary to over the next few months to help hardworking families through these difficult times', sound so empty as to cut no ice whatsoever with either voters or supporters. This approach seems to offer a meandering progress to electoral wipeout.

2. 'Delegation of Greybeards' tell Brown he has to go. This is an attractive idea but is predicated on i) Gordon being prepared to walk and ii) a believable substitute being available. As I see it neither condition is present at the moment. Gordon is one of those limptet-like political obsessives, convinced he has what it takes, whatever the situation and will not walk unless pretty shoved pretty vigorously. And of the credible younger candidates- Miliband, Balls, Johnson, Purnell- there may not not be one who wants to squander the better chances which the future might hold for a brief interlude before defeat crashes through. The 'Greybeard' solution whereby an older, senior figure might stand in until the election is a possibility and Straw the most likely candidate but he seems to have dismissed this idea for the present at least.

3. A revolt by Labour MPs to get rid of Brown, possibly at the conference in September The Manchester MP Graham Stringer has called for this as well as one or two union leaders but it might prove difficult to organise such a coup during the holiday season and the consequent blood-letting and extended leadership contest might make a bad situation even worse.

So, which option is most liklely to be taken? I think option 2 is the most likely to happen as marginal MPs consider the fact that only 20 Labour MPs would survive a Glasgow swing repeated nationwide. A new leader might limit the damage and save many seats so it will be eagerly explored by the more marginal MPs. A voluntary standing down by Brown, followed by an uncontested lection would miminise the damage and it could be that a united group of seniors might convince Gordon the game is up.

However, both options 2. and 3. would involve installing a new PM unelected by voters as a whole and this would not go down well. At the moment, faux de mieux, option 1. looks the most likely and this is the really depressing aspect of the present situation. Labour is stuck with their 'loser' as getting rid of him will be even more harmful than sticking with him. Perhaps I should have indicated a 'Micawber option': something might(just) turn-up.

In all this mess I feel let own by Labour MPs.They have seen Brown close up and personal for over a decade before they crowned him as PM. I cannot believe they did not see this happening, that in all the time they have worked with Brown they did not realise he was the worst possible combination of indecisive when he needs to act, and utterly inflexible when he's made a mistake.

You have to wonder what on earth happens in the PLP,do they communicate, do they realise what's happening in the outside world? I read with some depression that Milliband is odds on as next leader, that'll have Labour voters queuing up at the polling stations I'm sure.

In short- we're buggered.
I fear you are right but as long as trhe economy ran well I suppose MPs thought he was the right stuff. I too am dubious regardig Miliband's pulling power; his brain power is beyond dispute but that's not the most important quality a PM needs. It's all about ability to communicate and if Blair was 9 out of ten, Brown is 4-5 and Miliband only an average 6-7.
If they are going to do it, I think it needs to be quick. By end of September at latest. Any later and it just insults the intelligence of the electorate(the electorate have no intelligence, but nonetheless it is not advisable to insult them before an election). If I had to bet, I think he will soldier through to 2010 because of the problems mentioned in your post. I am sure Dave hopes he hangs on. He probably wants to lay off Brown for a while just in case. Could we arrange a PR success(might be difficult under present circumstances)? Don't want to kill off the goose that lays the golden egg.
i) Labour has not much time to chnage its leader
ii) voters are pretty ignorant of politics but usually absorb enough to express their displeasure when they wish, as we have just seen.
iii) Dave needs to keep Gordon on as long as possible as he so helps the Tory cause, God help him.
Miliband looks and sounds like a politician.Alan Johnson doesn't. In my view it's a pretty straightforward choice if you believe Labour will lose and a new leader is about saving seats.
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