Archive for the 'Labour Party' Category

Kelly or Smith for Labour Leader?

May 26, 2008

Its football teams having all failed to qualify for the European Championships, Britain’s national sport for the next few weeks will be to name Brown’s challenger and/or successor.

A reasonable way of going about finding that brave Labour MP is to identify those cabinet ministers whose seat is most in danger.

The most marginal seat held by a cabinet minister is Bolton West – Ruth Kelly’s majority is only 2,064 (5.1%).

Jacqui Smith’s position isn’t much better: her majority in Redditch is just 2,716 (6.7 %). Both are going to be wiped out if something big does NOT happen between now and the spring of 2010.

Labour’s got a serious problem: DEATH

May 23, 2008

Yesterday Labour was humiliated in a by-election triggered by Gwyneth Dunwoody’s death. And Labour’s former PM Tony Blair had a near-death experience. Add those two events together and what you get? In the next two years, the Labour Party had better look after its MPs very carefully. It wouldn’t be very Labour, but they might want to seriously consider private health care and private security for their precious Members of Parliament…

Is there still something that would make Labour rid itself of Gordon?

May 22, 2008

Mike Smithson asks an interesting and legitimate question: what kind of result today in Crewe would mean that Gordon Brown will not lead Labour into the next general election?

What about coming more than twenty percentage points behind the Conservatives or coming third behind the LibDems? Can Brown really survive either or both these humiliations? No, but then again neither scenario is likely. Much more likely that Labour contain their defeat within single digits, and that the LibDems suffer the kind of squeeze suggested in recent polling.

In a way that’s Labour’s problem: having already installed a Leader and a PM without voting, they need a really loud and clear excuse for doing it again. The near certainty of losing the next general election would be one such excuse, but the public doesn’t really think that far in advance. So that doesn’t seem to be big enough. Boris Johnson was a loud enough excuse alright, but Labour did its best to downplay it, and they seem to have convinced themselves that they can live with that.

So now they have set the bar real high for the kind of circumstances that will justify ousting their leader: certain defeat won’t do; Boris won’t do; what must happen so that Labour find the courage to help themselves?

Who will kill Caesar?

May 20, 2008

Today’s rumoured Brutus is Alan Milburn, courtesy of PoliticalBetting.com‘s Mike Smithson. Both Dale and Guido already picked up on it. In this frenzy of names, I keep wondering why nobody mentions the most obvious one, PM.

Brown’s strategy will backfire both north and south of the border

April 16, 2008

You don’t need a nostalgic Blairite to waste his precious time convincing you that Gordon Brown is a poor political strategist: you already know that all too well. So it’s no surprise that Mr. Brown is getting his strategy for the next election completely wrong. Roughly, this is what Brown and whoever advices him are thinking: we’ve got a Scottish problem. If the English electorate perceives us as too Scottish, we really have no chance at the next general elections against two candidates, Cameron and Clegg, who are quintessentially English. So what we are going to do is making sure that the English public can’t say that we are being partial to Scotland. That will also suit the purpose of giving Salmond a very bumpy ride; so that whenever we decide to call the next general elections – because it’s we who call the shots – we’ll get respect from the English for not having given in to our Scottish roots; and also Scottish Labour will be stronger against the SNP just in virtue of the fact that we have made it so difficult for the SNP to govern, thanks to a – relatively to the past – underfunded Scotland.
That sounds, if not clever, at least reasonable. And it explains, along with many other things, the anti-Scotch budget; and the recent unsuccessful trip to Westminster by John Swinney, Scotland’s Finance Secretary. Problem is, Gordon Brown’s strategy is going to backfire. Here’s why: the Scots are going to be particularly outraged by a Scottish Prime Minister who appears to be particularly tough on them of all people. That will inevitably result in a perception of the SNP as the only party standing for Scotland – as was more than obvious over the budget, when Scottish Labour MPs had to go on telly defending anti-scottish legislation: Salmond knows how to play that card; has played it ever since the beginning of his time in office; and Brown is being thick enough to continue playing in Salmond’s hands. This could ultimately result in the SNP being a serious player in the next general elections: it is estimated that, with the present level of support, the SNP could get as many as 30 Westminster parliamentary seats next time around – which could prove decisive in case of a hung parliament (and, needless to say, it’s not with Labour that the SNP would strike a deal).
But Brown’s strategy might backfire in England as much as in Scotland. His thinking is that by being tough on Scotland he’s going to prove to the English that he would do their interest, and never put Scotland’s interest ahead of the interests’ of the majority. Fair enough: problem is that if Brown alienates the Scots, he offers the Conservatives a brilliant argument against him. Cameron can then tell the English: here’s a Scottish politician loathed by his own people; why should we English trust him?

It really takes guts to be Chris Leslie

November 30, 2007

This is yeasterday’s statement by Chris Leslie, who was Brown’s campaign manager:

“In late May I received a phone call from a man calling himself David Abrahams referring me to a woman called Janet Kidd who said that she wanted to be a donor to the campaign. I did not know who Mr Abrahams or Mrs Kidd were. I contacted Mrs Kidd, and unprompted, she sent a cheque for £5,000.” (*)

So, says Leslie, he got in touch with Mrs Kidd about making a donation, and then Mrs Kidd made a donation, unprompted. Unbelievable! And fuckin disrespectful of anybody, anybody who’ll have read the statement.

Benn for Deputy Leader

May 30, 2007

I just watched the six candidates for deputy leader on Newsnight, and I say Hilary Benn. He stuck by what appeared to be his beliefs, even when it meant not distancing himself from Blair, like over Iraq. He’s not a great communicator, but none of them is anyway. One of the things I was surprised by was that Alan Johnson has pretty clearly stolen the place furthest to the right from Blears (god she’s tiny!). If he gets the job, then we’ll see a lot of Blairism vindicated. And, more importantly, a Johnson win would show that the Labour Party is much less tired of Blairism than the media makes it out to be. But I’d vote for Benn (yes, he’s a politician’s son, and that’s bad, but then again that’s one of the few things about himself that he did not choose)

…running out…

May 16, 2007

When Meacher pulled out on Monday, I thought that the leadership contest was on. I was wrong. It is now Wednesday evening, and it is looking increasingly likely that John McDonnell will not get the required 45 nominations. At 6pm, he is still 16 short, and there are only 16 MPs that have still to declare (among those, Charles Clarke and Frank Field): Brown has 307 against McDonnell’s 29.

UPDATE: it’s over. Brown’s got 308 and McDonnell has conceded defeat. This is a sad day for British democracy.

Some considerations on this development: I was expecting Brown not only to let McDonnell run, but possibly to encourage a challenge. Apparently he hasn’t done so. Two possibilities: Brown is indifferent on whether there will be a contest or not because, we can only guess, he has polls telling him that the public won’t mind either way. Labour’s support might be falling, but the fall won’t be accelerated – or so the polls might predict – by a ‘coronation’. If such polls existed, and were accurate, I would be surprised. It definitely wouldn’t be good news for British democracy.

Alternatively, Brown might be actively looking to avoid a contest. Maybe he thinks that McDonnell’s support among unions and party members would be high enough to put him in an uncomfortable situation. The next government might then be forced into acknowledging so much support for Old Labour in its policies, if not in its composition. If this latter scenario is anywhere near the truth, then all the more reason for wanting a contest; because if Brown’s fears are justified, then the Chancellor is effectively silencing his own electorate by stopping McDonnell. And that can’t be good for politics; it can’t be good for Britain; it can’t be good for Labour’s chances at the next elections; and therefore, in the end, it can’t be good for Brown (caveat: it might be that Brown has convinced himself that he will lose at the next general elections, and that therefore he wants to make the most of his time in government. In that case, stopping McDonnell might make sense. But I don’t believe that Labour doesn’t have chances coming 2009, nor do I believe that Brown believes that).

Another interesting thing is that Milburn is supporting Brown, while Clarke hasn’t announced yet. It might be that the former Home Secretary is waiting to see McDonnell’s numbers, and that he is only willing to nominate him if that will turn out to be necessary for a contest. Indeed, McDonnell is miles away from Clarke, but my enemy’s enemy… On the other hand, it might be that Blairites want Brown to lose at the next general elections, and so are promoting a ‘coronation’ – see Milburn’s and Byers’ support. Lots of people would like to think that the Blairites are willing to do anything to screw Brown, but I would be very surprised if that included putting their own political careers and salaries at risk – as inevitably they would do by promoting Labour’s defeat next time around.

One final remark: if we take the way in which MPs are nominating seriously, from a political point of view that is, then we might have to conclude that the kind of leftism represented by John McDonnell is really no longer at home within the Labour Party. And this would have to be added to Blair’s legacy: “I left a Party where socialists couldn’t even get enough nominations to stand for leader”. In this respect, it is indeed a shame that to represent the left is someone which such ideological foreign policy ideas such as McDonnell (see IRA+Iraq).

Oh, and Alex Salmond is the new First Minister of Scotland.

Brown vs McDonnell

May 14, 2007

Brown got what he wanted (or, anyway, what he should have wanted): a contender who cannot win, John McDonnell. This is a much better outcome than no contender at all, which would have looked bad and it would have reduced Brown’s and Labour’s chances at the next general elections even further. It is also better than a Blairite contender with a chance, namely Miliband. Even if Brown would have defeated Miliband, which is probable, that kind of contest might have weakened New Labour; and, in the attempt to distance himself from Miliband, Brown would have probably lost a lot of the votes that will decide the next election. The only outcome which would have probably been better for Brown than McDonnell would have been an unelectable Blairite like Reid – who was wise enough to desist from his heroic journey of self-sacrifice.

McDonnell’s good for Brown: he will provide the Chancellor with a platform to discuss Iraq, and, if Brown cares to, that will be a chance to distance himself from Blair’s foreign policy. But Brown might discover that the only meaningful way to counter McDonnell’s anti-war rhetoric is to stick with Blair’s legacy of liberal interventionism: that would, indeed, be an interesting development. Otherwise Brown might end up in the kind of middle-ground trouble that Hillary’s in across the pond for not apologising over voting for the war.

Also, while the parliamentary vote is quite obvious, and the unions’ vote can be expected, it’ll be important to see how the popular vote goes: if McDonnell doesn’t do better there than in the parliamentary vote, then a lot of the anti-NewLabour rhetoric will have to go. There has been a lot of talk of New Labour losing votes on the left (the SNP in Scotland could be an example): this is a good time to verify that theory.

It might be objected that the kind of votes that New Labour has lost on the left aren’t votes of Labour Party activists and members. But that’s not how it is often put: people tend to say that, in the pursuit of Middle England, Labour has alienated some of its core vote. If none of that goes to McDonnell, then either New Labour has actually interpreted its core vote better than most commentators, or it has alienated it so much that people have left the party altogether.

UPDATE: it looks as though we should have waited before commenting on McDonnell’s challenge to Brown. The left-winger is still 18 (some say 16) nominations short of the required 45. He’s got until tomorrow noon.

embarrassingly Gordon

May 14, 2007

Watch Brown’s reaction to Bremner’s sketch yesterday on Sunday AM. It’s a perfect example of the kind of awkwardness that might very well cost Brown the next election. He must have been told by his aides not to be shy about the fact that Bremner once fooled Margaret Beckett into thinking she was actually speaking with the Chancellor. So Brown is eager to mention the anecdote, but makes a meal of it: he tries to mention it a first time, but nobody is interested, so he gives up half way through. Then Gordon tries again, this time goes through with it, but it’s too late, and again no one’s interested, no one laughs. He was supposed to give the impression that he is not afraid to talk about embarrassing things. But he only succeeded in once again confirming the common-place that he is an embarrassment in public.