The realists in Labour – of whom there are many – know what they have to do. Otherwise some of the present Cabinet will be lucky to end up as lollipop ladies in a couple of years’ time. The thought of not just unemployment, but of unemployability, will, I fear, concentrate minds. “Pro bono publico, nil bloody panico”, a wistful Labour MP said to me yesterday, quoting the late Tory MP Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles.
But panic, I fear, is precisely what is now required.
Oborne writes in Saturday’s Daily Mail
Claims that there is no simple mechanism to replace a Labour prime minister are misleading.
Under party rules, 20 per cent of Labour MPs (that means 71) must publicly call for a leadership election. In practice, however, Gordon Brown would step down if enough MPs want him to go.
A delegation of Labour grandees – the most likely members of such a group would be former leader Neil Kinnock, Justice Secretary Jack Straw and the former acting leader Margaret Beckett – would advise Gordon Brown of their fears. It would be impossible for him to resist.
So Crewe and Nantwich has had a seismic effect on the Labour Party.
This weekend it is in a state of panic and moral collapse. Luckily for the Prime Minister, the timing of the by-election coincides with the Whitsun parliamentary recess, meaning that MPs will be away from Westminster for the next ten days and giving him time to consolidate his leadership.
But this is only a mild consolation. June and July are traditionally feverish months at Westminster, dominated by conspiracy and plot at the best of times.
This summer, with well over 100 Labour MPs fearing they will lose their seats at the next General Election, they could prove deadly for Gordon Brown.
And yet Oborne doesn’t quite get it. He thinks that if Gordon calls in the Blairites – Charles Clarke, Reid and Milburn , and offers them top jobs in cabinet, that would save his Prime Ministership.
Brown is congenitally unable to rescue the situation – full stop. Oborne must realise that.
The Blairites might buy him time, but the situation will only get worse, the longer Labour leaves Brown in situ. Blair regrets not sacking Brown in 2001. Now the country lives in regret until someone does something and gets rid of the Prime Minister who never should have been.
The likes of Clarke, Reid and Milburn had their chance when Brown was awarded an uncontested coronation. All of them could have insisted on a proper contest to select the new leader. Had they done so they would have won admiration. Now in the public’s mind they are all tarred with the same brush.
The only MPs around who are unsullied by Brown are the eurosceptics (See Stringer Shows A Bit Of Leg below).
Blair too will tend to be a hated figure until Brown goes, and so too the Blairites. The public will only be satisfied when Brown has gone, and all those associated with him and Blair, along with him. Any of the previous regime who want careers subsequent to Brown should keep their heads down until Gordon has gone, and make way for entirely new faces.
The next few weeks are bound to create an opening for some new blood from Labour’s ranks. If the eurosceptics choose their best candidate, they would have a great chance of rebuilding the public’s confidence. I have never met Gisela Stuart but I’ve heard great things about her, and admire her courage. She was the one Labour MP who told Gordon and the public the truth. Maybe it will be her.
(In the comments, another person proposes Kate Hoey)
UPDATE – Matthew Parris of The Times also says ‘Brown Must Go Now’ – but offers little of substance to explain how he will be got rid of, and what will replace him. See HERE. Brown will no doubt overestimate his strengths as he always has done, and make one more disastrous mistake which will be the end of him. We’ve heard of Lame Duck Presidents. We are now watching a very different proposition – the ‘Dead Duck Prime Minister’ now inevitably approaching his denouement.
As Charles Moore says in The Telegraph – The natural next step is a leadership challenge to Mr Brown., as if he knows that’s logical but he cannot quite believe that it’s true himself. One sentence on the topic is all he can manage.
Politicalbetting.com website also in unable to take it all in, saying that Brown will somehow last two more years.
Events are moving so fast that people cannot absorb them.
The Guardian makes it clear that the Labour cabinet is not yet ready to address the depths to which Brown has sunk, and it rather implies that Gordon Brown is also in denial.
Labour figures said it was significant that the only cabinet ministers to appear on the high-profile broadcasting programmes were key allies. “Where was the rest of the cabinet?” one senior party figure asked.
The unease about Brown surfaced after a meeting of the political cabinet on Tuesday. “People did not come out thinking they had seen a brilliant masterplan that was going to get Labour out of this,” said one senior figure. Another source said: “The political cabinet was awful. The tank is empty.”
The main criticism is that Brown appears unable to go beyond saying he is the best man to deal with challenging economic times, a message that failed to sway voters in the local elections and in Crewe and Nantwich. Labour source stress there is no appetite for a direct challenge against the prime minister. Cabinet ministers are said to be discussing what to do. The most they are planning at the moment is to persuade Brown that he needs to “change his script”.”The cabinet is not revolting against Gordon Brown,” one infuential figure said. “It does wish that he could work it out. The first stage is to move out of denial.”
Maybe things will clarify for everyone next week, once some of the dust has settled. But with no initiative likely to come from the cabinet, that leaves it open for those not in the cabinet to initiate the process of removing Brown from office.
Guido sees a different outcome – see HERE.
The lumpen left of the Labour Party reckons the answer to voter disenchantment is to abandon the centre and turn back to the old ways. A fish rots from the head, the weakness of the party leader makes it more likely that this rot will take hold.
Paul Mason, Newsnight’s shop steward, could barely contain his excitement last night reporting the prospect of a battered Brown introducing higher taxes on high earners, windfall corporate taxes and the expected soon to be announced “equality agenda” – in other words leveling down. This will be kamikaze left-wing stuff. Britain is already sliding down the economic competitiveness league, the Irish are welcoming FTSE 100 companies making the taxodus from HMRC’s demands. Gordon will now be weighing up a shift leftwards, to shore up his position within the party, giving some red meat to the activists and pundits like Polly Toynbee. It will be a change of policy direction based entirely on self -preservation.
The Toffs campaign was done just to appeal to the left wing activists. Now the whole country will be run around class bitterness, Guido thinks. Either that, or they just get rid of Brown. The latter will be the line of least resistance for Labour MPs who wish to keep their seats.
Prague Tory writing in the comments on Guido points out a story from Bloomberg –
He who pays the piper calls the tune? Personal donations to Labour have fallen by 90% in a year. 88% of their donations now come from trade unions.