Monday, September 15, 2008


Rebels Must Hope Conference Provides Answer to Gordon Problem

Jackie Ashley today delivers an apocalyptic warning that Labour could be 'on the eve of destruction'. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I can recall a record from 1965 by a picaresque character called Bary McGuire, sharing those same words as its title. His prediction, fortunately, turned out to be premature, depending on how lengthy one's idea of an 'eve' might be, of course. Jackie's fear is that continuing with Gordon will deliver a death blow to an already bankrupt Labour Party as a political force, at the next election. Yes, it's mine too, so this particular time could be crucial for those of us in the 'progressive' political camp. To quote the above song:

Take a look around ya boy, it's bound to scare ya boy

According to Ashley his Cabinet colleagues still admire the man, his values and courage and hold back from criticism. However these same colleagues:

believe that his No 10 organisation, his people skills and his ability to communicate are too poor to allow him to stay on. Those trivial talents in the back-slapping, sound-biting, cheering-up stakes, which Blair had so richly, do matter. Brown is as good and serious a man as ever. But he is too mired in long-term thinking, too steeped in gloom to recover.

That sounds about right to me too. But the rebels are scattered, have no organisation and lack the big guns which could give them credibility. The Daily Telegraph has some interesting, though inevitably slanted contributions to make today. It concentrates on the meeting of Labour'sNEC tomorrow where the issue of leadership nomination papers, which used to be issued to every Labour MP before conference, will be dicussed. Siobhain McDonagh seems to think this would 'give every MP' the ability to 'decide whether Gordon Brown should continue to lead the party'. According to Rosa Prince, there are 35 Labour MPs who support her and 'the plan is for for between 50 and 100 MPs to refuse to sign and return Mr Brown's renomination papers'. Thereby, it is hoped Brown would be forced to stand down.

Meanwhile, the paper's front page story is that senior Cabinet ministers have given Gordon 'weeks' to save his leadership. The narrative here seems to be the Glenrothes byelection, 'which must be held by November'; if that is lost(which now seems inevitable), then, some Cabinet ministers have hinted, Gordon will have to face a contest. But this is all hypothetical.

The process is byzantine, the risks of a bloodbath high and the mood among potential challengers, subdued. Miliband, perhaps disappoiinted he did not receive much reaction to his covert candidacy, apart from a savaging by the unions, seems to have abandoned his challenge and opted to stick with Gordon. The odds must still be on a continuation of muddle, disarray and Gordon but conferences can be volatile gatherings and I'm fairly sure we'll get some major surprises next week at the conference just up the road from me.

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