Monday, August 04, 2008

 

Labour Leadership: State of Play


I've tried to read as much as I can over the weekend but must have missed acres of space given over to this topic. However, how does the battle look so far?

For Gordon
i)Three Cabinet Ministers came out for Brown in the News of World: Darling, Harmon and Denham. Skills Secretary Mr Denham told BBC One Mr Brown had a "profound understanding of what this country needs". John Hutton later came out for Brown too.

ii)Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks also rallied to his boss's cause, indicating support in the lower levels of goverment as well as Cabinet level.

iii) Whispers are being loudly made that Gordon will reshuffle his Cabinet on his return, suggesting his 'troublesome Foreign Secretary' will thereby be taken care of.

iv) Michael Portillo's article yesterday suggested a third PM in three years 'looks desperate', especially as two would not have been elected. He saw Miliband's article as an act of gross disloyalty.

v) This might not mean much, but the profile of the Milband brothers in the ST made it clear brother Ed is still very much for his boss. The profile also, incidentally, said Ed would make a better PM than David as he has better communication skills.

Against
i) David Miliband has come out against Brown- if you have any lingering doubts check Andrew Rawnsley from yesterday.

ii)Ten junior ministers have declared they are ready to resign to force Gordon to stand down.

iii) Jackie Ashley today makes no retreat from her previously enthusiastic 'Brownism':

New Labour faces the most agonising dilemma in its history. But when you are dangerously ill, refusing the doctor and ridiculing surgery isn't always the sensible option.

So which way is the balance tipping? Right now, I'd say from my necessarily limited reading, listening and viewing, that it is just slightly leaning towards the rebels. But the situation is still recoverable if Gordon returns from holiday and makes some confident retaliatory moves.

The PM has so many weapons in his hands in such circumstances- the arcane Labour rules for leadership changes; the need for a legitimising election for any new leader; the damage the party would incur if civil war broke out; and his abgility to remove rebels from key positions. But I just wonder if Gordon is not feeling a bit like Michael Vaughan after sustained failure: a disinclination to carry on the fight. The next week should make things a lot clearer.

Comments:
I think the key problem for Gordon is the resuffle. He has to have one, in order to regain the political initiative, but he runs the risk that ministers will resign/refuse to be moved/refuse to serve altogether. That would be such a major humiliation for Gordon it could cause the whole house of cards to collapse.

If it was just Miliband and Milburn (who has been offered a return to Cabinet which he is likely to refuse), No 10 would be able to isolate them as disloyal Blairites, but if the story about the ten ministers resigning is right, then I think Gordon is finished.
 
Paul
I agree those ten ministers would be a hard blow to absorb- shades of that attempted Brown autumn coup if you recall. But the story could just be exaggerated and never take place.
 
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