Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gordon will continue to limp around Aintree

Has the leadership challenge to Brown begun? All the commentators seem to think so now that David Miliband has written an article for the Guardian saying that there is still hope for Labour at the next General Election, failing to even mention Brown, admitting lots of mistakes, whilst attacking David Cameron and appearing to set out his vision of where Labour goes next.

Of course, the notion that this is a push by the Foreign Secretary has been denied by him, sorry, I mean by his friends. Miliband will not, says his friends, wield the knife, but if someone else does he will stand. You can almost understand the rationale for this. If he does the killing then he probably won't make it through to win due to the adverse exposure of his ambitious side.

However, on the flip side, by making it clear that he would run if only someone would do the dirty work to give him his chance, he effectively admits that he is indecisive, weak and lacking the quality that a leader must have if he hopes to successfully lead. Interestingly this seems to be the position for almost every possible challenger that the commentariat see as viable.

Yesterday Harriet Harman confirmed the trusim that one should believe nothing until it is officially denied by stating that she never said "this is my moment" and then went on to deliver a devastating backhanded compliment to Brown saying she did not accept that "it is over". It's an interesting strategy to take where you support someone by reinforcing a view that you claim you don't think people should be thinking.

What however is Brown to do about any of this? He's been castigated for his obsession with working all hours of the day and night (usefully coined by him as "getting on with the job"), to the point where people say he should take a holiday. He then takes a holiday and everyone starts manoevering around him. If he acts he confirms the workaholic obssessive tag and if he doesn't he's screwed as well. One might almost feel sorry for him but only for a nanosecond.

Some have suggested that what he needs is a damn good reshuffle, perhaps even to the extent of his own "night of the long knives", but even the smallest of reshuffles will be fraught with dangers for his own survival. After all, Brown will have his fair share in the Cabinet of what John Major called "bastards". The names being floated around Westminster as sucessors cannot be easily demoted or removed lest they do a Geoffrey Howe on him.

The key to Brown's problems are actually Brown himself and the history of his journey into the helm of power and leader of Her Majesty's Government. Along the way he has calculated, controlled, manipulated and basically just pissed off so many that the cliche that it's "lonely at the top" has become true for him much faster than it has for others.

Contrary to the argument of Peter Riddell in this morning's Times, I don't think even devolution of power away from Dowing Street will not help him now. In fact, giving a free hand to departments and Cabinet ministers will more likely result in yet more open warfare and perceived spats in the top echelons of Government.

Trust and faith in Brown is not only gone amongst the general public, but it looks to be ebbing away amongst his own colleagues at the top of the Cabinet table too. The voices of support clearly ring hollow when set against the anonymous briefings. When your Cabinet not only start challenging your authority but then start to airbrush you out openly as Miliband has done today, surely it becomes clear that the proverbial game is up.

Having said this, what is the liklihood of Brown going quietly? It's been well noted across the comment sections of the press that it is by no means easy to remove a Labour leader and all the biographies of Brown, along with comment by others that have worked with him, suggest that his character is one that heads for the bunker even when he knows that it's all over. Tom Bower's biography illustrates this character flaw in Brown brilliantly.

Simultaneously, the election that never as showed the country that Brown is totally risk averse when it comes to taking big decisions. The possibilty of a Major style "back me or sack me" confidence vote seems therefore to be out of the question. The most likely scenario is therefore that he will just go on to defeat. The leadership mutterings and shifting "tectonic plates" will go on as each person lines themselves up for the electoral aftermath.

The electorate should be, I'd say, prepared to watch a very long, slow and painful death for the next two years. It will be like a Grand National horse falling at the first, breaking a leg, refusing to give up, whilst the stewards have a sudden moment of compassion and refuse to put it out its misery as it limps around Aintree.


Anonymous said...

I disagree. I wouldn't have before Glasgow, but the momentum is getting too much now. GB will be gone by Christmas.

Letters From A Tory said...

There are two important considerations here:

1. Brown will never ever ever resign. Even cabinet colleagues won't be able to persuade him.

2. There is no mechanism in place within the Labour Party to remove him anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

LFAT: Doesn't need a Labour Party mechanism to remove Brown. Just sufficient of his current ministers to decline to continue to serve.

Once he's lost the confidence of colleagues - and by extension the House of Commons - no PM can survive.

How many is sufficient? Two or three Cabinet ministers should do it.

It really isn't that difficult.

Anonymous said...

Good analysis. Lousy spelling.
wot know spelchukka?

dizzy said...

Typos mixed with dyslexia. Am going though it now and correcting.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the article. I just can't see how they force him out without a vote of confidence, and there are enough MPs who are too scared of losing their seats to do that. The other possibility they face that if they do successfully instigate proceedings, he could decide to go nuclear and call an immediate election to spite them. It wouldn't strike me as out orf character.

Unknown said...

Come and join the webchat at 12.30pm!

Anonymous said...

No idea if he'll go, I just enjoy watching him & the others suffer after their crimes.

Sorry for being pernickety, I'm really only commenting to point out you've not corrected 'simultaneously'.

W.V. = nttut. A typo about Gordon?

dizzy said...

Would love to join but have a lunch date to get too

Anonymous said...

David Miliband and Alan Johnson are both brainy, persuasive and quite dishy. :)

I like the two of them - and I think that they could give David Cameron some serious competition. However, I doubt they can undo the damage that Gordon Brown has done.

It would be such a good general election/contest if Gordon Brown quit now. David Miliband and/or Alan Johnson could possibly beat David Cameron. Harman and Straw could never ever beat David Cameron.

Anonymous said...

I don't think a change of leader would help very much. Labour has a severe shortage of talent. There are a few languishing on the back benches because they are not "one of us" but probably not enough of them.

My advice to GB would be to announce now that he will call an election next May or June.

That would

(a) Force his opponents to back him or sack him, as it would be now or never to wield the knife;

(b) Demonstrate that he respects the normal electoral cycle of Blair and Thatcher rather than holding on until the last minute like Major;

(c) Demonstrate a level of risk, i.e. committing himself to an election before he has to, and declaring it while he looks like losing;

(d) Allow him, if he loses, an election, the dignity of being defeated by the electorate rather than his party.

I never did subscribe to the view that Brown had been a wonderful Chancellor, the best he could have done was to make the Bank of England independent, and then resign. I could see that he had damaged the pension funds as soon as he changed the dividend tax. The tax credits system was fundamentally flawed from day one (not a bad idea, but it should have been based on weekly income and administerd by the DSS or whatever they're called nowadays). He increased national insurance while reducing income tax, which places an unfair burden on employment (Both parties have done this, and somehow the media don't challenge them).

GB has spent ten years taking the credit for a global boom, he can't complain about getting the blame for a global bust.

Conand said...

A night of the long knives would be really good fun and would destroy Labour and finish Brown off perfectly. A display of incompetent control-freak backstabbing, from the master would really make my year.
Miliband is a really very stupid posh bloke with the usual Labour mental problems.

Anonymous said...

hi conand. The thing is - David Miliband is not 'very stupid'. In fact he is 'super clever'. And 'posh' doesn't really come into it. Whatever to posh.

I would like to see Brown squirm - I'm sure DC is hoping Gordon will stay on for another year.


Anonymous said...

Do you think that Gordon Brown really has no 'skeleton in the cupboard'? Surely a man in a grey suit could whisper something in his ear to persuade him to go quietly...

Democratic-Centre said...

However, on the flip side, by making it clear that he would run if only someone would do the dirty work to give him his chance, he effectively admits that he is indecisive, weak and lacking the quality that a leader must have if he hopes to successfully lead.

Where does it say that?

Funny, it came across as a well written article consisting of constructive ambiguity, constructive as to focus and ambiguous as to whom it should apply to.

Besides, the reality is if Miliband were to become Labour leader there is not enough time to remove all the shit on the very shitty end of the stick he would be getting.

I would be tempted to agree with your criticism about Miliband, but think this is just a little injection in the arm of Labour body-politic given both to kill pain and induce hallucinatory political visions. Unfortunately a very small section have reacted adversely to it, obviously less tolerant after one Blair-free year off the stuff.

dizzy said...

Miliband will not, says his friends, wield the knife, but if someone else does he will stand.