Battle lines are drawing up. The cracks and splits are apparent in the Lib Dem blogosphere. And now the Labour Gang of 4 (as pictured) Kate Hoey, Frank Field, Gisella Stuart and Graham Stringer are openly facing down attempts to discipline them. These cracks are not going to seal over, and skirmishes are set to begin.
On Conservative blogs, the excited talk is all of how to draw Frank Field, Kate Hoey especially to cross the floor and join forces with Conservatives to back the referendum on the Lisbon Constitutional Treaty. Iain Dale writes that ‘Nice Mr Cameron’ could find them a place.
I think that all this is the wishful thinking in Conservative ranks, and in any case is not the likeliest or even the best outcome.
The new Gang of 4 will not be looking to replace the Labour Party as did the original ‘Gang of 4’ that founded the SDP, which merged with the David Steel’s Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats. The originals – Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Shirley Williams and Bill Rogers believed they could reshape British politics by forming a new party, and destroying the old. Thirty years have proved that such aspirations are practically impossible to achieve.
The current Gang of 4 are not walking out and giving Press conferences to do an SDP. Nor are they going on manoevres to assist David Cameron. They are campaigning for something far more dramatic and significant – the end of Gordon Brown. They don’t want to destroy the Labour Party but seize control of it. And they are (so far indirectly) appealing to Labour MPs to join them.
It would far more in Britain’s interests for the Labour MPs to break with Gordon Brown and what’s left of its New Labour party apparatus. If the Labour Party would return to return to its pre-New Labour eurosceptic roots, that must be in Labour MPs’ interests. In particular, if Labour MPs don’t fulfill their manifesto referendum promise, they will be making themselves supremely vulnerable. They would be leaving the field open for the Conservatives to bury Gordon Brown at the next election.
Labour MPs must surely prefer to carry out that task of terminating Gordon Brown themselves, rather than see the political initiative slip away to the Conservatives. Gordon Brown will of course have been offered a nice secure position with the EU for years to come with $1,000,000 p.a. pension and the like, so he won’t be bothered about the electoral consequences of beaking promises.
Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Gisella Stuart and Graham Stringer will first try to save the Labour Party before they consider abandoning ship and joining David Cameron. It is in Britain’s interests that they succeed. We want both main Parties founded upon solid euroscepticism – not a division between them which will yo-yo between euroscepticism and europhilia, depending on which Party has the edge at any given time.