25 April 2009

Gordon, the decision is yours

Dear Gordon,

I have wanted to write this letter for a while, and now is the appropriate time for you to hear what I have to say. The weekends are always a good time for thought and reflection, this one especially so, after the week you have endured.

I have taken a keen interest in politics for many years and have been an active participate. These days I observe from the sidelines. We met briefly some years ago in your early days as Chancellor. I was an industry representative involved with the formulation of the London Underground PPP proposals. Indeed, I had many meetings with your junior ministers and senior officials.

Looking back to June 2007, I have always held the view that it was a fundamental error for you to have been elected unopposed as Labour leader. It would have been better for you and the Labour party to have had an election. There is no doubt you would have won, and having an internal debate about policy would have given you a solid platform to move forward, and more importantly enhanced your credibility.

The other grave error was to initiate speculation about the October 2007 election that never happened. It was demeaning to use the office you hold in this way, and then showing utter weakness by calling it off, after being wrong-footed by the Tories. It was also not sensible to go on The Andrew Marr Show to do this. Much better to have made a statement in Downing Street.

Since then you have taken a beating in the polls and more generally in the eyes of the electorate. Of course they respect you for tackling the banking crisis of last Autumn. But let us be clear about this. The voters would have expected any Prime Minister to have done this. After all, that is what is expected of a leader.

Before we move to the present day, a couple of further points. You and Tony were unbeatable. Him doing the empathy lark, setting the overall strategy and playing on the world stage. Your role was also key, being the intellectual force of new Labour, developing and implementing polices on the home front, and, of course, being a very successful Chancellor. Neither of you could have succeeded without the other.

Back in 1992, after Kinnock’s failure at the election, you could have had the leadership. Tony wasn't well positioned. However, you flunked your chance. Worse still, if I remember correctly, Tony felt rather let down with your decision. After John Smith’s untimely death, Tony took his chance and the rest is history. By taking the decisive decision to stand, Tony proved that he had a natural ability to lead.

Moving to the present day, there are three events that have happened in the last couple of weeks that make your position untenable. One is “McBridegate”. The others are your plans to reform MPs’ expenses and the 50p tax policy.

The seriousness of the e-mail scandal has had a detrimental affect on your physical and mental wellbeing and judgement. You have panicked in the quest to regain the political initiative, having lost control of the agenda. As usual you have chosen the path of short-term tactical advantage in the hope of wrong footing the Tories. It has backfired in a spectacular way. On MPs’ expenses you have alienated the Commons, and over the 50p tax issue you have debunked one of the core principles of New Labour, the one of aspiration. Should you fail to win the vote next week on expenses, or you have to fundamentally change your proposals, your credibility will be in ruins.

Over the last few days you have had an awful press, which has turned to ridicule after the publication of the Bloomberg article. Moreover, you have misread the mood in the country over tax and spend. You will be aware that leadership speculation has now restarted, and it is rumoured that Tony is unhappy with recent developments.

My guess is that the June elections will be disastrous. Labour will be humiliated, with it’s core vote eroded.

I honestly do not see how you can recover from this position. The leadership rumours will get worse and there could well be further revelations about the working methods of your closest advisors.

Gordon, you have to decide what to do. You could choose to stay on, but I would not advise this. Your reputation and credibility will suffer further, and the party that you have spent your whole life working for will disintegrate.

Of course, you cannot take any immediate action. However, after the June election results are announced you have to make the supreme sacrifice. You should not allow others to take this decision on your behalf. You will find that people will respect you and back your decision, because it is in your own best interests.

The Labour party can then unite behind a new leader who may be able regain the political initiative and narrow the Tory lead before the election, although I admit this will be difficult, as Cameron has captured the public mood. My recommendation to you would be that Alan Johnson is the best person for this task. Mandy can decide on the strategy to allow this to come about, so the damage to the Labour party is limited.

I appreciate this advice will come as a painful blow, but the decision you have to take is one of statesmanship. I assume you would not want your final period of office to be increasingly undermined, in a similar disgraceful way as you and your supporters behaved towards Tony in 2006. You yourself will be further ridiculed.

Up to now you have not found it easy to listen to advise, no matter how sound this is. I am sure after you have considered the above, you will take the harrowing decision to resign in June for the sake of the country and the Labour party.

Kindest regards

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