Richard Willis's Blog

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Happy New Year Gordon – Now Go!

As we are about to enter 2010, a certain General Election year, senior Labour back-benchers have today renewed their calls for Gordon Brown to resign as Prime Minister and party leader. Since he took over the leadership of the Labour Party from Tony Blair, Gordon Brown has rarely enjoyed universal support, even within his own party. We know that John Hutton indicated his view that Brown would be “f***ing disaster” as leader and clearly a section of senior Labour representatives share that view.

In June Cabinet member James Purnell quit as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions once polls had closed on the European and local elections. He called for Gordon Brown to resign even though at that time he did not even know the degree to which Labour would be slaughtered at the polls. A series of other more junior Government members joined the exodus, although Brown weathered the storm and launched repeated fight-backs. A few weeks back there was a glimmer of hope for Brown’s supporters when the polls appeared to show a narrowing of the deficit behind the Conservatives to single figures. This has since been somewhat countered by other polls showing a much larger Conservative lead.

The clear hope within the Labour Party is that as the election approaches and voters focus on the choice between the two main parties, that the gap will narrow, giving Labour a fighting chance of being the largest party in a hung Parliament. To be successful that hope relied on projecting an improved image of Government unity and competence. That hope has been shattered tonight as two senior figures have called for Brown to go in the interests of the Labour Party.

The first out of the blocks was Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, the influential Chairman of the Commons Select Committee for Children, Schools and Families. I listened to him interviewed on Radio 4 where he stated that he thought Brown should resign. He has also said the same to his local paper.

The second senior figure to call on Brown to resign is former Home Secretary Charles Clarke. He has called for Brown to resign in order to avoid the Conservatives being in power for more than a decade (Iain Dale has this article). Neither Sheerman nor Clarke are Brown’s biggest fans and they have called for him to go before but the reminder of divisions within the party are the last thing that Number 10 would have wanted as they prepare to launch their umpteenth relaunch. Today’s resignation calls have the appearance of a co-ordinated move and it will be interesting to see if more follow.

Unless at least one senior cabinet figure resigns and calls for Brown to go he is likely to soldier on to General Election defeat. Undoubtedly that is what Conservative Campaign Headquarters would prefer but the internal disruption that a leadership election could cause, so close to an election, is probably dream scenario number two. The only situation that could truly transform Labour’s prospects would be a smooth transfer of power to a popular, credible leader, around whom the party immediately united. Any suggestions?

Brown has seen off his critics before and his resilience should not be underestimated. At present his critics are mere noises off but if momentum can be generated by today’s resignation calls he could be distracted from his main focus, which is preparation from the impending General Election. Either way, it is bad news for a Labour Party that is struggling to constistently maintain a poll rating of over 30%.


December 30, 2009 - Posted by | National


  1. Brown will stay to the bitter end in that he will not resign and hand over to someone better able to salvage something for Labour. He may well go to the country in March although the smart money seems to be backing May 6th to coincide with the Local Elections.

    My guess at the outcome? Tory majority of 25 to 35.

    Comment by Steve Foley | December 30, 2009 | Reply

  2. I am going to pray before the dawn of the New Year and ask God to finally rid us of the awful
    Labour Government and the “how to waste of public money” Labour Administration in Reading. May all our wishes come true, Amen

    Comment by Tony Bliar | December 30, 2009 | Reply

  3. Don’t believe the previous commenter. He isn’t me. No-one who can’t spell should be trusted.

    Btw, my heir presumptive (DC, that is, not GB) is only hoping for a 26-35 majority, is he? Cherie says I was inconsolable at my last election in 2005 because my majority was ONLY 66.

    Ah well, expectations, expectations, expectations.

    Love and kisses.

    Tony Blair

    Comment by keeptonyblairforpm | December 31, 2009 | Reply

  4. Always odd to read of the Labour council in Reading when they don’t have anything close to a majority…….how is this the case?
    As for GB….the sooner this man and his buddies are out of office , then the better it will be for the UK.
    However lets pray (if that is the way) that DC has the balls that Mrs Thatcher obviously had when it comes to sorting out our debt problems.
    A good start would be to light ‘the bonfire of quangos’ which could save many billions of the £100 billion or more that they cost us each year.
    The question is …….does DC have either those balls or the matches?

    Comment by howard thomas | December 31, 2009 | Reply

    • Mr Thomas – it is still reasonable to describe it as a “Labour Council” as Labour have minority control with all of the Cabinet/Executive posts. They also managed to pass their budget, albeit with Lib Dem support.

      I agree that a bonfire of the quangos would be good and Cameron has pledged to do this, including the Regional Assemblies. However, there are some quangos that are useful and necessary, and so not all will go.

      Have a happy New Year!

      Comment by Richard Willis | December 31, 2009 | Reply

  5. Meanwhile, far from Westminster…
    Recent by-election results and polling seem to have energised Labour activists. With minor parties likely to do well, the work at street level becomes even more important. Ukip will do quite well in the South West, helping the Lib Dems (despite the chaos within Ukip at the moment), BNP will be scary in its heartlands. SNP will decline, I expect Plaid to do OK. Respect is a busted flush, though. Local independents and the like will take 1% as opposed to their usual 0.2%, meaning many seats will be ultra-marginal.
    This is Old Morris’s Almanac, however Nostramorris says this: ” A great dolphin will rise in the South, bringing fire and primroses to the city of basalt. There will be hurricanes and a man called Leroi”
    Happy New Election Year

    Comment by Jonny Morris | December 31, 2009 | Reply

    • Jonny – I remember comforting myself with similar delusions prior to 1997!

      Anyway Happy New Year to you. Will we be seeing you in Reading?

      Comment by Richard Willis | December 31, 2009 | Reply

  6. Not all quangos would have to go on the bonfire, but bearing in mind that we spend circa £100billion anually, there is a lot of fuel for the fire.
    What needs to be done is to look at each and ask the question….do we really ,really need this? If not then close down, and if so how can we reduce the running costs?
    The cuts in public spending will need to be ruthless, its far better to be ruthless with deadwood than with the jobs of mediacal staff for example.
    Speaking of the council budget….If the Conservative party wish to have an influence on it in 2010 then it will be nesessary to put forward some proposals as to where money can be saved in order to prevent a rise in council tax. Realistically, if this is not done the Libdems and Labour will end up setting the budget in 2010 as they did in 2009 with the Conservative influence being nil again.
    Should the Conservatives gain control of the council next year , this head in the sand option will finish!

    That said have a good new year Richard

    Comment by howard thomas | December 31, 2009 | Reply

    • A Happy New Year to you too!

      Comment by Richard Willis | January 1, 2010 | Reply

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