Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Brown lives to lose another day

Well, the results were utterly awful. And we’re stuck with Gordon Brown, at least for the time being.

Maybe that’s not cause for unbridled weeping, though.

I’ve slightly rethought part of my Friday post. I said (among many other things): “If Brown could hang on into the autumn without causing further party convulsions or further hardening the anti-Labour vote, I’d support that. But I don’t see it.”

I still think Labour would fare less badly, at least initially, with Alan Johnson as leader (a new poll suggests this). And I’m still wary of the effects of much more of Brown’s politically inept lurching (he has promised to change; I think I’ll believe that when I see it). But there’s a flipside, and it relates to another point I made: that the fury at MPs’ expenses is getting in the way of everything else, so a general election in this context would be pretty much single-issue and other political issues would struggle to get a look in.

Likewise, replacing party leaders in the current frenzy of disgust could well have scant political impact amid a ‘so what, you’re all thieving bastards and we hate you’ mood.

So maybe it’s for the best that Brown has survived the last week’s clumsy, inept moves against him (less a putsch than a series of shoves). People may be more receptive to a new Labour leader a few months down the line, with a general election signalled for a few months after that. Although whether there’ll be enough momentum and organisation to edge Brown out later in the year is anyone’s guess. Whether the PLP and cabinet are capable of coherent strategic action at all any more is anyone’s guess.

(Also, I recommend reading Brian Barder’s case for keeping Brown on and toughing it out until next May. I don’t share his conclusion, but he makes some shrewd points very well – particularly numbers 2, 3 and 4. And Paulie has good thoughts on the sort of political reforms that Labour should be getting stuck into.)

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