It has to be said that Gordon Brown has played a blinder over the last couple of days. It was like going back to the days when Harold Wilson’s mastery in the art of political tactics left everybody else flat footed.
Brown has, at a stoke, swept away both Iraq and Afghanistan from becoming issues at the coming election. One can only imagine what the opposition would have said if he hadn't visited the troops before the election. What would they prefer? Brown taking the weekend off and then going on a Wednesday and missing another PMQs.
With polls now firmly in hung parliament territory, the small matter of what happens after the election looms larger by the day. Alongside that, there is the not-so-small matter of whether the LibDems want five more years of Gordon Brown. The answer, according to the speculation in The Sunday Times, is no:
Publicly Clegg has declared that he would keep all options open. However, in private he has said that Brown’s “patronising” style and deafness to differing views mean that striking a deal with him would be close to impossible.
Now the interesting bit:
Some members of Brown’s cabinet have secretly discussed whether he should be replaced after the election with a leader better able to cut a deal with the smaller parties. One member privately suggested that Alan Johnson, the affable home secretary, could become a caretaker leader.
We have discussed this before, with the conclusion being that whatever the result, Labour must rebuild itself and the best person to do this is David Miliband.
John Rentoul responded by saying this:
I yield to no one in my admiration of the Foreign Secretary, but I also yield to public opinion, which is as yet not wholly persuaded of his potential. And I think that Johnson is in a strong position to find common ground with the Liberal Democrats.
Short-term solutions, very much the Harold Wilson and Gordon Brown way of doing things, are one thing but the long-term future of the Labour party has to be considered in parallel.
A possible way though this dilemma would be for Johnson, as the nominated Prime Minister, to cut a deal with the LibDems, while at the same time Miliband becomes leader of the Labour party.
This may be a hypothetical matter for now, but it is worthy of consideration if the polls continue to indicate a hung parliament a real possibility.