Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Labour's Own Little Storm

While the rest of the country was dealing with the snow that always seems to surprise us in winter, with only a few noble, resolute schools opening their doors to the hardy elites, Labour decided to engulf itself in its own little storm. Two former ministers, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, have written a letter to colleagues urging that the parliamentary Labour party hold a leadership ballot.

This is not the first time that Gordon Brown has faced leadership rumblings since he took over, although, as Nick Robinson points out on his blog, it is unprecedented for such a challenge to be made just weeks away from a likely election. Brown, who secured the leadership unopposed thanks to the strong-arm tactics he had been employing for years beforehand, must be wondering whether it really was worth all the trouble. Even John Major, the Tories' last, troubled premier, managed to win two leadership elections and a General Election. Brown's tactic is to see off such elections before they materialise.

Well, he will probably be able to see off the latest leadership threat too. Neither Hoon nor Hewitt are impressive former ministers, and their letter sounds as if they are twisting in the wind rather than sitting at the heart of a well thought out conspiracy. Neither is it clear what alternative there is to Brown. David Miliband has been found wanting once before, and not he, nor Alan Johnson, nor any of the oft touted next leaders offers such a fresh new dynamic that they could conceivably change Labour's election chances. Labour's best bet remains sticking with its current leader - for all his communicative inadequacies - and getting behind his economic diagnosis. Flitting around looking for the saviour who doesn't exist is pure farce - but then Geoff Hoon, after all, was the man who happily took us into Iraq and behaved with such grace over the David Kelly affair. Not, perhaps, Labour's cutest political strategist.

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