Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Can Labour really go on like this for another two years?

The weekend saw me in France on a short holiday so I missed the Sunday papers until today when I got home.

The media agenda is dominated by references to the final two years of John Major; when his troubles just mounted and multiplied as the end came of his administration.

I am struck by yet more simularities between Brown and IDS - our party's ill-fated leader during the 2001-2004 darkest hour and the man who was so unceremoniously ousted after little more than two years in the job and replaced with a caretaker leader whose role became avoiding meltdown and stabilising the vote ahead of the looming 2005 general election; a task successfully undertaken by Michael Howard.

The summer lead up to the 2003 Conservative Conference was a vital period of conspiring amongst Tory MP's away from the party Whips in Westminster. Unencumbered by the need to watch who they were seen talking to, MP's freely negotiated the deal from holiday villa's and their gardens over the summer recess all the while briefing journalists that the 2003 conference speech would be IDS' last - as indeed it turned out to be.

The conference itself was surreal; and one I will never forget. I felt I was alone in thinking that changing leader would not make much difference - our poll ratings had actually improved slightly because of IDS' softening tone and focus on caring for the many and not just the few but the party couldn't see past his truly dismal public performances and preferred to retreat to the comfort zone of tough talking on crime and immigration which a change of leader would open the door to.

The entire conference was always going to be about one thing and one thing only, getting rid of IDS as quickly and as peacefully as possible.

I am becoming convinced that Labour will very soon undergo a similar process, not two years after their last leadership coup conference when T Blair was forced into giving a timetable to quit in 2006; I expect the Labour Party conference to be about nothing else - no policies, no plans for the future but instead an orgy of internicine warfare and plotting that could well culminate in him going before Christmas.

This is a change - for ages I have been working on the assumption that because of Labours very Byzantine rules concerning leadership challenges Gordon Brown was unassailable, but the constant drip of stories from MP's and off the record briefings from cabinet ministers - if carried on through the summer silly season- could easily now become too much for Labour MP's to put up with on top of their poll ratings which seem to be going in just one direction.

More importantly it could also become too much for the union bosses who now hold the Labour Party in the palm of their hands and need a reasonable labour movement to survive into the long term, and who also will want to avoid having to cough up the £20m Labour Party overdraft they are reported to be guaranteeing.

1 comment:

Paul said...

It will be sad if Labour removes Gordon Brown before the next election, if for no other reason than the fact that he's the Conservatives greatest asset election-wise.