Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The long kiss goodbye posted by Richard Seymour
What are the odds that Gordon Brown will be deposed by a Blairite challenger before the next election? According to the FT, Brown is banking on a short recession and rapid recovery, and most New Labourites are backing him in that assessment. When the economy turns around, they imagine, all will be well. Voters will reward him for steering Britain through a crisis with steely resolve, and a masterful strategy of triangulation will appropriate Tory policies in order to win over the middle class voters that might otherwise desert the New Labour coalition. If this really is the view of New Labour, not only are they economically purblind but they are as distant from political reality as Jim Davidson is from comedy.
Face facts. New Labour is not experiencing mid-term blues, or the blowback from a manageable economic crisis. It is heading toward a defeat of a magnitude that would once have called into question the future longevity of the party itself. Even consider recent news. Brown has just had another mini rebellion on the 10p tax issue, the polls are so catastrophic that it doesn't look reversible and the government faces yet another crucial by-election just as Wendy Alexander has to step down from the leadership of Scottish Labour over breaking donation rules. It isn't beyond the range of possibilities that a seat with a mountainous Labour majority will turn SNP. In fact, Brown's decision to make the election as soon as possible reflects his awareness that as time goes on it becomes not only possible but increasingly probable that the government will be hammered again. If Brown doesn't maintain a respectable majority, that may be it for him.
I suppose the natural inclination of any challenger, be it Charles Clarke or David Miliband (two curiously unattractive prospects), would be to wait until after an election disaster, but that all depends on how suicidal Labour MPs, and particularly those closest to the Brownite inner circle, are. If they really have an instinct for survival, they may create the crisis 'prematurely', within months. Hacks close to the government, such as Andrew Rawnsley of The Observer, have been hinting for some time that Brown's closest advisors are increasingly ready to dump him. Place your bets now.