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%.