Wednesday, 6 January 2010

You really couldn't make it up

To say I was surprised would be an understatement when Reuters rang me up to say that two former Labour ministers are proposing a secret ballot on whether Gordon Brown should continue as party leader. I am pleased that a more experienced commentator also finds it extraordinary: Coup

Leaving aside the dubious constitutionality of the move, taking this action just months before a general election is unprecedented. If it was successful, it would be some while before a new leader was installed. In the interim, chaos would reign. And just who is this charismatic leader in waiting who is going to save Labour's bacon? This is a gift wrapped present for David Cameron just after he had an uncertain start to his policy launch.

The underlying narrative is that there are Labour MPs who think that it is Gordon Brown who is denying them a chance of winning the general elction. Brown is unpopular, but this is not really just about personalities. It is about the exhaustion of the New Labour project with a battle going on between those (e.g., Peter Mandelson) who are still loyal to the project and those who want to see a return to core Labour values.


Shankar said...

The discussion of "core Labour values" and the end of New Labour raises some interesting questions. To what extent could it be argued that the median voter has moved to the left since 1997? Certainly Cameron has made a great effort to portray his party as the natural party of the NHS and education. And could there be a case that
Britain might need stronger private sector trade unions (not as extreme as Scargill) given the rise in poorly paid service jobs. Unions seem eager to profit from the recession but is this merely wishful thinking?

Wyn Grant said...

One of the interesting issues here is whether the median voter is a bit of a fiction. What the empirical research shows is that voters array themselves along up to four dimensions, of which only one is the traditional left-right one concerned with public expenditure/taxation size/reach of the state and public services. Unions are now really strong only in the public sector and are weak in, for example, large retail stores.