Please to be being quiet.

Update: Excellent posts by Sunder Katwala and Luke Akehurst summarise the logistical and political problems with this latest spasm.

Look, I’m a Blairite. Once being a third class juinior assistant understrapper under Tony Blair’s leadership is one of the things I’m proudest of in politics.

But I do sometimes wonder if my much more senior comrades in arms have anything like the political sense of our former leader.

Having senior Blairites throwing stones at Gordon Brown is harmful to the party, and doesn’t even constitute anything so useful as a worked out plan to achieve their aims.

So we have a ballot on the leadership. What then? Elect a new leader and have an snap General election on the subject of… something or other? Well, that would work really well, I think.

It’s incredibly frustrating when, just as we appear to be getting some traction on policy, making some important points, all this stuff is opened up again.

On top of that, we now throw the centre right of the party into a further bout of infighting, which we really don’t need, in the wider cause of ensuring the Labour party stays in the centre ground of British politics.

I’ve long believed that Gordon Brown’s fate is in his own hands. Quite right too. If he really believed that someone else would do a better job in winning the next election, I think he would chose to stand down as party leader.

You might be sceptical about this, (and I can imagine the reaction of certain people to this suggestion!) but I believe it’s true. Gordon Brown has served the Labour movement for thirty years, and I’m certain is acutely aware that giving Labour the best chance of working in the interests of the British people is far more important than the career of one man.

Yet a cool assessment of such a question can’t and won’t happen if the party is a house divided against itself, and especially not if those doing the dividing seem to be members of a particular faction of the party.

A spasm of speculation and disloyalty at the very moment the Conservatives are coming under real scrutiny is worse than divisive, it actually reduces the chances of us winning the election, who-ever is leader.

So I’m sorry. My reaction to this latest outburst is to want to hold my head in my hands. What good can this possibly do?

27 Responses to “Please to be being quiet.”

  1. quietzapple

    As few Labour MPs have significant central policy differences with Brown the situation doesn’t ape Major’s difficulties.

    It is a diversion, and if Labour looks significantly divided that will be damaging.

    Thus far Hoon and Hewitt (and Field) are only just minor additions to Clarke et al. They have better PR, and that is largely because tory media have mobilised behind them.

    Nick Robinson, former Nat Chair of the Young Conservatives, was in post like the tory he is. Paul Waugh of the Standard was blogging on this yesterday.

    It does look a little like a Tory Media coup which managed to find a couple of ex ministers to support it.

  2. Matthew Cain

    I agree with your sentiment – and it’s not the job of the PLP to determine alone who leads the Labour party.

    But the idea that GB holds his own fate in his hands is, unfortunately, not right. He holds in his hands the short and medium term future of the Labour party.

    And if he really was capable of putting himself before Labour, he wouldn’t have got rid of Tony Blair in the manner (and timing) with which he did.

    But for now, such matters are not important.

  3. Liam Murray

    I know you predicted this reaction but I think you’re wrong in the belief that Brown would’ve stood aside if he thought someone else had a better chance.

    I think he’s probably right to conclude that’s not the case right now, early Jan 2010, and so he should and will fight this latest nonsense off. But last summer was different – all his (largely good) actions on banking and stimulus were in place, an election was still a year away and his party had considerable political capital off the back of that action – he should have stepped aside and let someone else lead the party but I think vanity didn’t let him.

    • CS Clark

      ‘an election was still a year away ‘?
      I would have thought one part of the calculation then and now is whether a new leader would feel compelled to call an election as his first order of business. (For a while I did wonder whether Brown had a secret agreement to quit this Spring for a quick coronation and election, until I considered the likelihood of it remaining secret.)

      • Liam Murray

        The pressure for an election then would’ve came but I think it could’ve been resisted.

        Even if it became to hard to resist conceding and calling an election then – with Labour action on the stimulus & the Tories largely making that call wrong fresh in the minds of people – I suspect Labour would’ve faired better than they’re likely to this summer.

        Gordon’s actions in 94 (Granita etc.) show he has been capable of understanding the party’s wider interest distinct from his own – his actions in recent years don’t..

  4. CS Clark

    It’s incredibly frustrating when, just as we appear to be getting some traction on policy, making some important points, all this stuff is opened up again.

    Frustrating? Inevitable, wasn’t it? If some people are hoping for Brown to fall on his sword with impeccable timing, the last thing they want is for slight improvement. Any sense of rising optimism must have been like a siren going off. To an extent I see their point – if you are a true Rentoullian of the ‘Tories slump to 10-point lead’ school, you are going to be concerned by good news. But, of course, I am totally in agreement with you that this isn’t going to help.

  5. AB

    What Liam said.

    If GB has genuinely and consistently believed since the summer of 1997 that he is the best possible leader of the Labour Party, that makes his judgment too bad for him to hold the post. If he hasn’t believed that but has clung on anyway, his self-regard makes him unfit for it.

    Actually I’m more sceptical than Liam: IMHO the Granita deal was simply Brown recognising he would lose any leadership election and instead extracting what concessions he could for not forcing one. Pure maximisation of own utility. Nothing generous or altruistic about it.

    • AB

      Duh I meant 2007, obviously, not 1997. Mind you, he probably believes the latter also.

  6. bert

    “Quite why the bulk of Labour MPs are reluctant to do anything about a leader who looks like an electoral liability will be studied by historians for years to come. ”

    Best quote of the day.

    • Mike

      Whence does that clueless quote come? Not from this article or even comments.

    • Mike

      The number of comprehensives labelled as “failing” dropped from about half in 1997 to one in 10 now.
      Guardian, 02/01/10.
      Now, that’s a quote.

  7. newmania

    You always say you are a Blairite Hopi but as perhaps your most assiduous reader I cannot recall any single occassion when you adopted a position that was not way to the left of Blair.I find it a bit of shame actually because it means there is so little common ground that I end up baying abuse with a loud speaker .
    Are you sure the rebels are not rather more principled than you are ? Perhaps they see that the long term decline of the Labour Party cannot be arrested without a decisive turn to the right .

  8. quietzapple

    It is quite often rather naive to look at Labour politics as left vs right wing.

    The Brown thesis which Blair joined him in developing that power must be obtained to be exercised is neither surely?

    The African dimension to The Project remains important. I also view the Second Iraq war as a principled and fairly left wing stance, whatever faux lefties imagine.

    In a similar way Harold Wilson was famous for his pragmatism. Yet he was on the losing side in his cabinet over arms for South Africa, which was a principled stand.

    Even on this one strand of policy and principle various analyses are possible, and the left – right dichotomy may mislead.

  9. newmania

    It is quite often rather naive to look at Labour politics as left vs right wing.

    I agree its like toothpaste , its all the same shit but if you have two brands you take some punters from yourself but a few from the other guy. Thats why you tend to get a proliferation of brands when the product is the “same old shit ” . Shampoo , washing powder , that sort of thing .

    I find it quite astonishing the New Labour can go into an election with leader that absolutely everyone agrees is going to be dismissed ther second the election is over
    What are we voting for ( or against ) Hopi ,Ed or Dave and who do you support ?

  10. bert

    You guys cannot possibly have any serious consideration to David Miliband being leader, worse still PM?

    I agree with Eric Joyce –

    “But today’s most newsworthy detail was that two cabinet ministers created a flap in the pigeon coop, but turned out not to be foxes but chickens.”

    That sums up nicely Labour’s chronic and paralysing cowardice regarding Brown.

    Just think if Labour had got rid of him 18 months ago – they might even have won the election.

    • quietzapple

      As both Hoon & Hewitt admit they had no contact with any current Cabinet Minister this is as inaccurate as your election prediction.

      You have airbrushed the future to your own satisfaction, but to no other purpose.

      • bert

        “You have airbrushed the future to your own satisfaction, but to no other purpose.”

        There is absolutely no sense of irony in this statement – that’s why it is so funny.

  11. Emily

    And do we know for certain the position of Labor in the South-east,particullary as it appears that Martin alter stepped in pretty smartish last night to quell a counter-revolt…?

  12. newmania

    Its not just so called “Tory Trolls ” ( …what next Tory vermin perhaps ?…) its seems to be generally accepted that Brown will not last long post election. Read the Guardian or indeed Next Left . Hopi will, I am sure, confirm that this is the case he is a bright boy
    Thats the problem when , like Hopi ,you are too scared to make changes because 1 We would have to have an elction and ,2 There is now an election we cannot avoid
    What happens after it …well obviously Brown will be toast but Unite will back Balls which is going to be one heck of a fight

  13. newmania

    Sunder Katwala put it this way
    “I would expect the focus of media attention will increasingly shift to the ‘next generation’ and post-election future Labour leadership stakes, as it already has to a large extent as Rentoul’s column and Nick Watt’s rather good, balanced and fair Miliband v Miliband profile in yesterday’s Guardian shows that it already has.”

    Thats what I mean it is inconcievable that Brown could hang on in the unlikely event he won. He is already in the grave as far as the left are concerned

  14. ballet studio

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your articles. You obviously know what you are talking about! Your site is so easy to navigate too, I’ve bookmarked it in my favourites 😀


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