Thursday 11 June 2009

Brown survives for now, but for how long?

At the beginning of this week, it seemed as if Gordon Brown had managed to hold on to his job despite a disastrous week of cabinet resignations, humiliating election defeats, failed reshuffle attempts, and backbench plots to oust him from power.

I’d originally wanted to blog about Brown’s problems last week, but so much was happening on a daily basis, I thought if I post anything it’s going to be out of date within a day, or I’m going to miss some major development. I think finally, now is an appropriate moment to look back and evaluate things.

I don’t believe Brown has any chance at all of leading Labour to victory at the next General Election, instead his leadership is likely to result in a crushing defeat similar to that suffered by the Conservatives in 1997.

I thought it was a significant moment when the Guardian newspaper came out last Wednesday calling for Brown to go. As a leader of the Labour party, you know you’re in serious trouble when even the Guardian has totally given up on you.

Since coming to power, Brown has failed to put in place a clear vision or idea of what his Premiership is all about. There seemed to be this popular opinion that under Brown, he would return Labour to its more natural political beliefs and values, and move away from New Labour.

The only problem with this, is that Brown was as much responsible for the creation of New Labour as Tony Blair, but Brown supporters have tried to bury this idea. What we now have is government in its third term of office, which is now exhausted and has run out of ideas.

Secondly there is Brown’s personality. I actually believe that Brown is overall a decent and principled politician, but there are aspects of his character and personality, which in power have proved to be a hindrance to him.

At the weekend it was revealed that Peter Mandelson had once written an email to Derek Draper in which he discussed Brown’s character flaws, labelling him ‘insecure’ ‘self conscious’ and ‘angry’.

None of this information is particularly new, these character traits have been well known for years. What I do believe is that in power, parts of his personality have meant that he’s struggled to deliver his message effectively to the public, whilst his relationship with many government ministers has been poor which has resulted in alienating colleagues and driving them towards resignation.

Finally we still have the Blair/Brown split in the party, which has existed since Labour came to power. Having pushed for Blair’s removal for so long, it’s hardly surprising that Blairite ministers are the last people supporting Brown.

Personally I think Brown should be replaced sooner rather than later, a new leader should be installed and a General Election called for sometime in the autumn. This is unlikely to happen now, and instead we’re all going to have to watch the painful sight of a tired, weak government stumble on until next year, happy to hang on to power purely for the sake of having power.

Following the resignation of James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Minister, no leading figure within the Cabinet seemed to have the guts to come forward and take the initiative. That opportunity has gone now, and we’ll have wait and see if another challenge will emerge in the coming months.

For me, although the Tories would be favourites to win any election called today, I don’t believe it’s a complete formality that they would cruise to victory. The Tories still require a significant swing in votes in order to get elected with a healthy majority.

Secondly there are still areas of Tory policy that at best could be described as patchy, and at worst non-existent. Does anyone know what the Tories foreign policy is for example?

Finally, although voters are looking more favourably at the Conservative Party, I don’t detect the same wave of enthusiasm for them in the same way that people had for New Labour under Tony Blair during the mid 1990s.

With a new leader in charge it’s quite possible that we could end up with a hung-parliament at the next election, which would be a fascinating development.

On Monday this week, Brown faced Labour backbenchers and promised that he would try to change, I’m doubtful that he can do this, and interestingly enough I read that this was an opinion that even Tony Blair held during his time as PM. All I can see is Brown and the Labour government stumbling from one problem to the next until we have a General Election.


  1. I agree when you say that GB is a decent person but I think to be a true leader you need to be able to engage with people, have charisma and to get people to buy into your vision. GB does not have the ability to do any of these. He keeps banging on about he will “get on with the job” but he’s a doer – a back office person and not a front of house sales person. Maybe he underestimated the real qualities needed to be a true leader which is more than being able to just deliver but being a people person - he seems to have conflicts with people in his own party. I don’t think any media training will help GB connect with the public.

    If there was another general election I would probably vote for Labour as I think another party would cause too much disruption at this time and I don’t know what any of the other parties are offering as an alternative but I would want to see someone else replace GB – someone with fire in their belly who can really motivate people. I don’t think Labour will win with GB as leader. Also, why is the media jumping on this Alan Johnson to challenge GB? I don’t know anything about him (are there any other alternatives anyway?) David Milliband but they say he’s too young. I doubt GB will stand down but apparently he’s supposed to be cantankerous anyway.


  2. I'm still confused as to why Brown tried to change his persona when he first got the top job. The country was sick of Blair, and in Brown it seemed we had a leader who was serious and straightforward, substance over style. But then he goes all Blair on us, flashing that awful smile all over the place and poking his nose into trivial matters of popular culture. Trouble is, he's terrible at being Tony Blair, and it's now far too late to revert back to his dour old self again. What a pickle he's in. But the party won't oust him - they wouldn't know where to start. Maybe they could ask the Tories how it's done?