OK, here we go again. I’ve lost track of the number of times that there have been weak and weedy attempts to ditch Gordon Brown over the last 9 months or so. This time things are perhaps a little bit different – the Hoon-Hewitt plot is open and on the record, and they are at least both former cabinet ministers, although they claim this is no coup attempt against Gordon Brown – it could equally strengthen Brown were he to win such a poll of MPs. This then prompted a typical sort of tribalist response, typified by this tweet from Labour candidate for Manchester Withington Lucy Powell:
Look Lucy and anyone else trying to defend that line in public – it’s a load of crap. Labour is not united behind Brown. It’s not united behind anyone as an alternative to Brown either. People might not be behind Hoon and Hewitt (and especially not their timing), but there’s scarcely any Labour person I know that doesn’t have some sort of misgivings about Brown’s leadership. There’s no way to gloss over that. To do so is futile. But, conversely, what I write does not necessarily mean that Brown is not the best person to lead Labour into the election.
That leads me to the conclusion that I am not especially bothered about whether Brown is now ousted or not, and I say this as someone who joined Labour at the age of 16 and still carries the card. If Brown is ousted then a new leader will have too little time to change things much. If Brown stays then Labour will potter ahead towards an election with a wounded leader. Either option is rather sub-optimal.
All I want is some sort of quick decision, some clear line about what is going to happen. No rumbling news stories for days on end. This must be the very last effort to deal with the leadership question before the election. And after that – with a bit of luck – some sort of pragmatic, policy based approach that activists can use in the run up to the election can be developed. Remember the Tories will outspend Labour 3-1.
MPs in the corridors of Westminster: please think of the country, please avoid the crass soundbites about unity, and – above all – do not dither, whatever way the decision goes.
They’ve all gone mad. I am not a Brown fan as you know but I really can’t understand all of this useless manouvering. Either remove him properly or stop trying. I also don’t understand why Brown doesn’t just allow a “put up or shut up” leadership ballot as Major did in 1995. That was his problem in the first place in not allowing a proper contest for the leadership (and I was not not one of the Compass people who backed him – I felt we should be neutral). Why would anyone want to be leader knowing they weren’t chosen democratically? I feel sorry for all those Labour PPCs at the moment. The current cohort of MPs are making them a laughing stock on the doorstep.
The Hewitt/Hoon move appears to be an attempt to unseat the rider, then cross their fingers that the horse keeps going in the right direction, and that an as yet unknown jockey can clamber aboard and bring the horse home. A yes/no ballot on Brown leads nowhere good for the party (never mind the country). A serious challenger for the leadership, with a clear result for one or the other, could possibly allow a regrouping before the election. But would it be on standard rules (MPs, unions, membership) or some kind of “emergency” rules with just the PLP voting? Any sort of campaign would divert resources, energy and focus away from the general election.
Of course, at the heart of all this is David Cameron’s continuing inability to swing the polls his way. While anything more than faint hopes of a hung parliament or even a sneaky Major 1992 style win remain, there are too many in the party who aren’t prepared to bury this issue until after the election.