14 November 2009

What will the PLP do?

There is much sympathy out there at present for Brown after his “week of weeks” and views expressed as to whether he will now survive as Labour leader.  A key event take place next week and it worth paying some attention to the small matter of PLP elections.

Hopi Sen highlights the timetable:

The Parliamentary Labour Party has now proposed the timetable for the election for chair of the parliamentary party, which will be finalised by the whole PLP next week.

Nominations will open on the 18th November and close on the 23rd. The election itself will be on Thursday the 26th, the same day as the vote on the Queen’s speech, with the result in the early evening.

Once-upon-a-time the speculation was that Barry Sheerman would stand as a “Brown must go” candidate and Hopi wonders if this will still be the case:

Sheerman has varied his reasons for his possible challenge, sometimes saying it would be a direct challenge to Gordon Brown and at other times saying he wanted to stand because he felt the PLP hadn’t been aggressive enough in his defence of MPs over the expenses scandal.

So two interesting issues – will Sheerman stand, and on what basis?

I’d put the line on Sheerman at about 100 votes if he stood on his own, but probably less if it was an explicit challenge to the PM, especially after this week.

Polly Toynbee, once a Brown cheerleader, is convinced that he has to go if Labour are to stand a chance at the next election.  She quotes Paul Whiteley of Essex University, whose British Election Study polls every month:

Of course it can't be done with Gordon Brown as leader. Opinion has crystallised, and they won't listen to a word he says. Their mind is made up. He's a loser, and that's it.

Toynbee says the views amongst Labour MPs haven't changed:

"Febrile", "rudderless", "despaired" are all descriptions I've heard this week of Labour at Westminster. No one knows what others think but more are said to be agitating than in June, both of right and left. Like riderless horses, retiring MPs are beyond the reach of whips. A plan for someone to stand as PLP leader on a "Gordon must go" ticket hangs in the air: it would let MPs vote in a secret ballot for what they fear to say out loud.

There maybe rumblings against Brown at the PLP but Hopi has a point.  After the events of this week a move against Brown is unlikely to happen.  As noted, the parliamentary timetable makes this near impossible before Christmas.

‘A week is a long time in politics’ and for the moment the mood music has changed.  As discussed, if a challenge does come it will be in January as John Rentoul has always said.

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  1. Team Cameron could still easily snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by allowing the Sun to lead the agenda.

  2. Dougal - you've got it all wrong. The Sun saved Gordon's bacon by actually making people feel sorry for him and so staving off a PLP challenge. What better news could there be for Cameron?

    Ok I don't really believe that - far more likey to have been cock up than conspiracy - but could well be the effect.