This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

We Bottled It

It looks like a done deal then. Gordon Brown is staying on as leader. The Party bottled it. What a pity.

At last night's make or break PLP meeting, there simply wasn't enough support to challenge the Prime Minister.

It was blind loyalty that allowed Labour to walk into electoral defeat in 1983 and we are repeating the same mistake now.

Last night, Brown claimed he would change. I don't believe he can. I don't believe a word he says.

Well done to Tom Harris and Charles Clarke for sticking to their guns and saying what they thought. I agree with them 100%.

Well done to Jane Kennedy too. She got into politics to fight the bullies of Militant in Liverpool and she has resigned because of the bullies at Number Ten. Another one of the many good ministers who have resigned over the last few days.

I attended the Progress event last night in Parliament, held just minutes after the PLP showdown and there was little sympathy on show for the Prime Minister.

Although the acting Director of Progress, Jessica Asato and Ben Bradshaw, the new Culture Secretary, valiantly tried to steer the discussion onto policy there was no getting away from the elephant in the room.

The question marks over leadership and loyalty could not be ignored.

Stephen Byers, the former Transport Secretary, launched a withering attack on the PM which was received with considerable applause by the audience.

Ben Bradshaw, convincing and articulate (why wasn’t he in the Cabinet sooner?) responded with a passionate defence of the PM which helped to change a few members’ minds.

Arguments were strong on both sides. The passion intense.

But the overall feeling was that nothing was really resolved. My sense was that the audience was split 50:50 on the leadership – much like the Cabinet, MPs and the Labour Party.The Prime Minister will limp on like a wounded elephant.

But we should have had more courage to remove him, particularly after the poll in the Independent today suggests that Alan Johnson is more popular than Brown and would deny the Tories an outright victory.

After achieving 15% of the vote in the European elections and losing to the Conservatives in Wales, believe me, it doesn't get worse than this!

I believe that the Labour Government needs an ambitious, radical programme of change between now and the next election. This should start with the type of massive constitutional and electoral reform many people have been calling for.

Number Ten should forget about all the small initiatives and concentrate on 4 or 5 big ideas that can get pushed through in the next ten months. This is where our possible salvation lies.

But Gordon Brown isn't the person to do this.

He lacks the legitimacy, credibility and authenticity to do it properly. He is neither liked, respected or trusted.

As Tom Harris points out, the British people already have a settled view of him and this will not change. He is a liability to the Labour Party and the wider movement of progressive politics. By clinging on, he does the country a grave disservice.

And if you think that a change of leader would necessarily force us into an early election, then you should read Polly Toynbee's convincing argument in the Guardian today. There is a way of changing the leader and still delaying an election until next year.

This was our chance to get rid of Brown and the Party blew it. After the next election, we will all have to live with that guilt - some more than others.

I am prepared to admit that my judgement about Brown might be wrong. I also recognise that there is now a settled view of him. He is staying on and we go into the next election with him. After this week, you won't hear me call for a change of leader again. These are my last words on it.

But I suspect that no matter how good Brown's speech to the PLP was last night and no matter how much he tries to change, most Party members know that its over. It will take more than just one good speech to turn around the fortunes of this Government.


DavidBrede said...

I think that we have to make the best of the situation as we find it.

No one was able to mount a challenge before and no one now.

A leadership contest would have been a big distraction for 2 or more months. Then there would be a massive call for a general election when we had a PM newly in the job and with no time to prove him or herself.

The expenses scandal gives everyone a chance to start again so it is up to the party to seize it and hopefully to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?

Alex Finnegan said...

I think the last point you make is the best spin you can put on the situation.

You are right that the scandal does give us an opportunity to start anew. But this suppposes that the prime minister will actually seize the opportunity. I am not convinced yet he will - although I stand to be corrected.

And I certainly wish he would.

Could we snatch victory from the jaws of defeat like the Tories did in 1992? I suppose it is still possible. Nothing is inevitable. But I need to see the evidence first that the Party is hungry to do this and the leadership capable of doing this. I think it means being radical, really radical and quick. So yes I agree it is possible.