Several things to add to Pete’s fairly comprehensive note taking on the ‘crisis’ in Labour. Des Browne, former NIO minister and the Chancellor’s man par excellence in the cabinet was at pains to show this morning that there is not a huge gap (in values) between the Blair and Brown wings of Labour. As well as being sure Gordon will succeed Blair, he also said the PM “should be left to determine the time that he moves on himself”. Hmmm… that seems clear enough to me… Yet Martin Kettle reckons this all adds up to a coup d’partie, if not a coup d’etat.It looks like Tom Watson flagged his thoughts/feelings last week. As Iain Dale notes, it was all very different this time last year, when Tom, rightly, fell back on an old Slugger maxim over the bloody in-fighting that accompanied the last Tory leadership election.
How things have changed?! If you want a benchmark for the effectiveness of the Tory opposition under Cameron, this is it. That party now has a discipline, command of detail and a shared sense of purpose. And a penchant for finding holes and making trouble New Labour.
But Iain is wrong about Blair ignoring the experience of Thatcher (ie ignoring Powell’s maxim that all political careers end in failure). Rather it is that Blair has Clinton’s example in mind of clearly planning his exit. The trouble is he has an antsy party in tow, which, unlike the President’s splendid isolation from the political scrummaging on Capitol Hill, is well placed to very slowly salami slice what remains of his Premiership.
But this is not so much Blair’s problem, as much as it’s Gordon Brown’s. Whenever he takes over, he may find he has large tracts of scorched earth to recover within the party before the next general election!
In which case, Tory Central Office will have cause to rub its hands, quietly (oh, so quietly), in glee..