18 September 2009

AJ4PM: Just get on with it

First up, we have John Rentoul saying there is a “bump in Alan Johnson’s road”.  Can it be true?  After all these months of articles and blog posts is the cunning plan now off?  Surely not.  Our Man is just what is needed to resolve “the little local difficulty” with the postmen and, one imagines, the postwomen.

Then comes the reassurance that everything is going to plan.  Two polls hit the streets.  Populus, which should  send a shudder down Labour MPs spines, now indicates that the Tories have moved ahead of Labour as the best party to improve the NHS.  Then:

Mr Cameron also wins the decisive/dithering question, by 69 to 27 per cent. By contrast, 67 per cent see Mr Brown as dithering, and 30 per cent as decisive. Cruelly for Mr Brown, more than 56 per cent view him as unlikeable and just 40 per cent likeable; 86 per cent dull and just 12 per cent charismatic. By contrast, 73 per cent see Mr Cameron as likeable (24 per cent unlikeable); and 72 per cent charismatic against 24 per cent dull.

If that wasn't enough for Labour MPs to realise the time has come to act, comes a further poll for Newsnight which says that Cameron is ‘trusted more’ over cuts:

Asked about Gordon Brown's leadership, 67% of people disapproved of the job the prime minister was doing.

Only 29% said they approved of the way Mr Brown was performing.

But we get another “bump in Alan Johnson’s road”.  Steve Richards says that time has run out for a leadership change:

I find it hard to envisage quite how Labour changes its leader. Is there space this autumn for a leadership contest? In which case is the pre-Budget report and the Queen's Speech postponed until a new leader is in place?

If the change is contemplated in January, does Labour want to spend cash on a contest when an expensive election is weeks away and when the policies are in place? The Tories dumped Margaret Thatcher in November 1990 when there was still plenty of space for readjustment in the parliamentary timetable. I am not ruling out the possibility, but the logistics of timetables are one of several mammoth problems.

Firstly, Thatcher went when the country was about to go to war.  Did we hear the sound of “not now, not with our boys on their way to fight the Gulf War”.

Secondly, why should the niceties of the pre-Budget report and the Queen's Speech interfere with what has to happen?  The Commons returns on 12th October and the Queen’s Speech is not until 18th November.  Just how long does it take for the men to put on their grey suits and pop round No10 for a little chat?

Thirdly, there will not be a drawn out contest that would cost money.  We have a candidate, any bloodletting has to be avoided, which are principal reasons for not having a contest.

Fourthly, as has been discussed many times.  If the Cabinet will not serve or Brown is persuaded to stand down then Our Man takes over.  The Labour party procedures are secondary to what has to happen.

Richards has been tipped off that the election will probably be in April. If that is the case, the sooner the change is made the better, although, as conceded, John Rentoul’s point about Brown 2007-2010 is valid.

Here’s a suggestion.  Messrs. Rentoul and Richards should have a two-way conversation to discuss their differences, which would then be published.  It would make a fascinating read.

After this U-turn of a week, with Brown’s autumn strategy having been blown off course, there will be no sudden turn around in the polls.  The above findings prove that.  Labour MPs should just get on with it.

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