Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Brown Challenge?

With a potential Labour wipe-out in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election two days away, rumours are beginning to circulate of a a possible leadership challenge to Gordon Brown in its aftermath. The Blairite duo Stephen Byers and Alan Milburn have made sure they have done some high-visibility campaigning in the seat - all the better to launch a challenge themselves? The website Political Betting has this story of a possible Milburn challenge.

1 comment:

consultant said...

This is a tough one. Labour's popularity is at an incredible low, even for a party mid-way through their third government. MPs in marginal constituencies (and the definition of "marginal" is surely widening with every new opinion poll) become nervous about the next election. As fear sets in, it becomes tempting to blame Brown for all that is going wrong.

The party has two years to move from its current shape into a position where it can win the next election and I can conceive of two scenarios under which they could do this.

The first is to unite behind Brown, stop letting Cameron and the right-wing press set the agenda, and push forward with a re-energised political programme to win back the electorate.

The second would be to wield the axe, and wield it swiftly. If they seriously intend to change their leader before the next election, they need to do it now, in order to give the new Prime Minister maximum time in the role. The bloody aftermath of Crewe might just provide the right circumstances to do this. Then, after the new leader is in place, the party needs to unite behind him, stop letting Cameron and the right-wing press set the agenda, and push forward with a re-energised political programme to win back the electorate.

And herein lies the problem. In either case, the effort, discipline and - to an extent - sheer luck required by all Labour MPs is immense; quite possibly beyond them. Unfortunate though it seems, a third scenario is by far the most likely. The disconents will find a stalking horse to follow Brown, his administration will never recover to take command of the political agenda, and we will watch the party gradually tear itself apart. Maybe Brown will hang on until the next election, maybe he won't, but it will be of little consequence as David Cameron waltzes into Downing Street.

For this is what depressingly few people left in the party seem to be able to see. There is only a certain extent to which Brown can be held accountable for Labour's fortunes; when a government is as sick as the current one, the underlying disease is not confined to the top.