13 September 2009

AJ4PM: The weekend debate so far

As John Rentoul says:

I'll shut up about the Labour leadership in a moment, but the trouble is that everything comes back to it.

A field a trees has been flattened this weekend to cover the ‘little local difficulty’ of Brown’s leadership.  Perhaps the various articles should have started off by saying, “We apologise to John Rentoul for not having picked up on what he was saying months ago, but we now wish to climb on the bandwagon”

Yesterday, we had Andrew Grice agreeing with Rentoul’s earlier sentiments that the biggest danger to Brown will come in January.  Anonymous sources in the Mail on Sunday don't think so and will urge Alan Johnson to get on with it after the party conference. Interestingly, the article also suggests that Frank Field is one of the plotters.

Moving on.  Andrew Rawnsley suggests Labour should fight.  Indeed they should, but some of us have already poked our fingers in this pie.  On Alan Johnson:

There is a lazy consensus around the notion that installing Alan Johnson may save some Labour seats. I like the home secretary. He is an engaging personality who can speak human.

A ‘lazy consensus’.  It is more like a stampede.  Then, having not invented the AJ4PM idea himself, Rawnsley declares:

In the last few days, he was presented with one of the easiest gigs for a home secretary when three men were convicted for the plot to blow out of the sky seven airliners as they crossed the Atlantic. Watching his lacklustre statement, I couldn't help think what a Tony Blair or a John Reid might have done with that opportunity to communicate the government's case about security. One of the home secretary's admirers among Labour MPs agrees that he came over as "wooden and tired". At least Mr Johnson can be an accomplished communicator when he is on song.

Amusingly, Rentoul puts it rather differently:

When the verdicts in the plane bomb plot were announced, the Home Secretary appeared on television. I cannot remember a thing that he said, but, at a moment when the nation was paying unusual attention, he spoke in clear, simple language and sounded both perfectly reasonable and completely prime ministerial.

Before continuing with John Rentoul, let us just move sideways to Martin Ivens, who says there will be no second coming for Brown and Alan Johnson won’t move against an unpopular prime minister.

Back to John Rentoul.  His chief supporter has two issues that should be addressed.  Earlier this week he posted about the significance about plans by Labour MPs to “Put it to the vote”.  This can’t be right.  It is too obvious and if there is a cunning plan, why would it be in the papers.  Hopi Sen agrees.  In fairness he modifies his view today:

On its own, this device is not going to push Brown out, but it allows Labour MPs to express their view in a secret ballot, so it is likely to attract the support of many more than the 23 that have publicly called for Brown's head (excluding members of the hard left Campaign Group). One MP told me: "There are more Blairites in the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] than there were when Tony was leader."

However, the main trust of his article is this:

The question of whether Gordon Brown can survive until April, when he is expected to see the Queen to ask for the dissolution, is not going to go away. And it is becoming increasingly clear that the answer depends on two people: his Chancellor and his Foreign Secretary.

He argues the case:

Everyone knows, however, that Brown cannot be forced out unless the Cabinet turns against him. Most ministers say that the mood is fatalist and they doubt whether Alan Johnson really wants the top job. There are only two people at the Cabinet table that really want to be prime minister, one told me: Gordon Brown and Ed Balls. I am not so sure. I think that Johnson is ready and willing to serve his party and his country, but cannot be the beneficiary of his own coup. Perhaps he should do more to signal his availability, but his Cabinet colleagues have to do the dirty work.

He correctly says it will not be Mandy, then:

The task must fall, therefore, to the other two important members of the Cabinet. I doubt that Brown could survive the resignation of both his Chancellor and his Foreign Secretary, and so he would probably stand down before any such threat were made public. That is why it is worth looking again at the conventional wisdom that neither Darling nor Miliband would do such a thing.

Now hang on here.  Yes, there is logic to the argument that Darling and Miliband will put on their grey suits and tell Brown it is over and force his resignation.  This, of course, will be spun that Our Dear Leader is stepping aside “for the sake of the party he loves”.  However, to suggest that Geoffrey Howe will advise the Labour party on ‘how to it’ is not going to happen so close to the election.  He would never have resigned at a similar point in the electoral cycle.

If there is to be a transition to Alan Johnson, as there has to be, then it has got to be done smoothly and efficiently with little blood on the carpet.  Nothing else will do.  Also, it has to be October.  As argued, the change is too cynical in January, too late and and unknown unknowns could make the change impossible to execute.

So, there we have it.  We are no further forward and won’t be until after Brown’s speech and the failure of the polls to move.

PS: Our Man is on the Politics Show later where his every word and gesture will be closely analysed.

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1 comment:

  1. When will this all end? I am losing the will to live.