Sunday, 14 September 2008

The need for a narrative

Plotters against Gordon Brown now have a tactic of a kind which is to ask for leadership nomination forms, hoping to create momentum for a contest. These efforts are reinforced by what appear to be carefully timed statements from dissidents. It is always amusing to see how these individuals are then billed as 'ministers' by the media when they are about as low as it is possible to be in the food chain. This applies even more to those who achieved junior ministerial status and were then let go.

Is this effort going to go anywhere? No. First, they are not going to get 71 signatures. Even more important they are not to get a credible candidate to put his or her name forward in a letter to the party. Although they have some recruits from the left, and Gordon Brown is being attacked from two sides, the core of the rebellion is made of ultra Blairites.

Nevertheless, the spectacle of the Labour Party tearing itself apart in public is not good for the Government and it is not good for Gordon Brown. Once again he appears to have made a mess of the extension of the 'Warm Front' scheme, hinting at a great deal of help for those in fuel poverty and then simply extending the scope of a scheme which has often been blighted by shoddy workmanship.

What Brown needs is a stellar performance at the party conference. However, on current form, he is unlikely to deliver it. The leadership row will then rumble on without resolution while the Conservatives benefit. What Labour really needs is a new narrative rather than a new leader. Of course, a new leader could help that search, but it is not as if that narrative is readily at hand. Like Thatcherism, New Labour has become an exhausted project. A Labour equivalent of John Major just might avoid electoral defeat, but would not resolve the underlying problems.

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