04 September 2009

Losing control of the agenda

Eric Joyce’s resignation neatly rounds off the week when Brown utterly failed to regain the political initiative.  Brown is now at the mercy of events and his autumn fight back is in tatters.  Perhaps the most damaging part of Joyce’s resignation letter, perfectly timed to undermine Brown’s speech on Afghanistan later today, is this:

I do not think the public will accept for much longer that our losses can be justified by simply referring to the risk of greater terrorism on our streets. Nor do I think we can continue with the present level of uncertainty about the future of our deployment in Afghanistan.

Obviously, this resignation is going to strike a cord with the public mood towards the war.  This should be coupled with the fact that Brown has little hope of convincing the public that his Afghanistan strategy is robust.

This resignation just further damages Brown’s credibility and leaves him politically in a much weaker position.

So, is this part of a coup?  That is doubtful, although for Joyce to say in his letter to Brown, “This seems to me the least disruptive time to do that” isn't sustainable.  For Brown, it couldn't have come at a worse time.  Moreover, Joyce has little too much baggage from the expenses scandal to start the ball rolling:

In the 2005-06 parliamentary session, he claimed £174,811 in expenses, the highest of all MPs, and had the dubious distinction of becoming the first MP to claim cumulatively more than £1m. When one newspaper asked him what he would do if he were asked to repay any of the £40,000 of unpaid capital gains tax on the sale of his second home, he said he would "suck it and see".

Whether Joyce becomes the catalyst for others to plot against Brown remains to be seen.

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