The article in The Times by Anatole Kaletsky on Thursday 11th October raised a few eyebrows, saying that the rudderless nature of Gordon Brown’s leadership, and his willingness to copy almost any Conservative policy (if it looks like winning votes), was likely to bring the New Labour coalition to an end, and thereby potentially allow the Conservatives to rule the country again for a long time to come.
He is right of course if Labour MPs allow Brown to sink the Labour Party in this way. But will they?
There are growing signs that they will not.
The fact is that all Labour MPs (as do Conservative MPs) know that as long as Britain stays inside the EU, we are unlikely to get any part of the EU Constitution changed. These anti-EU Constitution statements must therefore mean one of two things –
1. either that many New Labour MPs want to go into reverse on the EU, and revert to Labour’s pre-Blair traditional euroscepticism, even going as far as withdrawal.
2. or they see the Constitution issue as a way to bring down Gordon Brown, and replace him with a leader who can cope, and put Cameron back a few steps.
or 3 – both.
The Conservatives have adopted a position of token resistance to the EU Constitution, stating not that Britain must come out of the EU, (which is in truth the only way to stop the Constitution), and they are claiming that the issue of the referendum is one of trust. A referendum was promised by Labour and so a referendum there should be.
Brown by sticking to the no referendum strategy is offering Cameron an open goal, making it inevitable that Brown will be successfully portrayed yet again as a ‘phoney’. The surprising but now obvious fact that Gordon Brown, as leader cannot put one political foot in front of the other, is making this whole issue more urgent – in that it could vitally affect the personal interests of Labour MPs. They don’t want to lose their seats to Conservatives, going down the pan with Gordon Brown whenever he finally calls the election. And so they are making moves now.
They could well vote down the EU Constitution insisting on the referendum, hoping to push out Gordon Brown in the process. That would give the British people their chance to influence events, and it seems likely at the moment that they will vote against the Constitution, given the opportunity.
It wouldn’t take much of a step from there for Labour Mps to go one further and become the only genuinely eurosceptic party. The Conservatives are still hopelessly divided on Europe in spite of them papering over the cracks recently with thoughts of the cancelled GE in mind. This is probably now the only issue that will enable Labour to retain power, and keep the Conservatives at bay.
UPDATE – Attempts by other old New Labour cabinet ministers like Byers, Clarke and Johnson to try to provide unofficial leadership to the Party is bound to fracture the Party further and undermine support.
The only way to rescue the situation is to dump Brown as quickly as possible and make a fresh start, responding to and not spinning at public opinion. The only easy opportunity for Labour to show that they have changed into a Party that is listening and not dictating, is the vote on The EU Constitution.