All the talk of Brown must go has such as stale flavour about it, as the Labour party conference begins in Manchester. Brown Fightback Begins has more guts about it somehow – I’d hate to see that great clunking bruiser, so subdued of late, give up without a touch of the George Foreman’s. A strategy is emerging – to throw hundred of billions in emergency bank lending and appear on top of the crisis. This is what governments have done in such circumstances from time immemorial. It diminishes the critics if not the criticism. Politicians keep bemoaning their disconnection from the real world but so much of what they do simply widens it and widens it as much as the latest gap between Labour and the Conservatives, now a whopping 28 points. A majority of Labour party members, never a breed who risk putting their feet on the ground too often, also want Brown to quit. The real world this week is of course agog at the financial crisis, which is now Gordons Best Hope. Martin Kettle of the Guardian a columnist who takes a broader view than most, has the thought Ive been struggling to formulate all week The political impact of the financial earthquake has barely made itself felt yet. After all, if this latest economic crunch frightens voters into demanding an experienced hand at the helm then – who knows? – we might even be on the verge of a Brown recovery. Or of a national government.”Can the man who led us into this, lead us out? Hes started already, his role in the Hbos survival and a City clean-up is being spun already. With wonderful gall, he is portraying himself as the same old “fairness for all” Gordon in an article in the Guardian. But back in the netherworld of politics, the Cabinet are starting to hedge their bets. Jack Straw admitting hes been approached, Alan Johnson prepared to stand aside for favourite son ( though not the unions ) David Miliband, James Purnell, another young hopeful joining John Hutton in refusing to condemn the rebels ( I share your pain). The problem with all of them except Straw is their comparative youth, as largely unknown and unblooded members of second generation Labour government, managerial figures mostly, who have never had to display the scars of a big noisy political battle or have been in a job long enough to make much of an impact.
In their anonymity allied to Brown’s exploitation of the financial crisis lies the Prime Minister’s best hope of survival. Its also an indictment of the weakness of cabinet government and testimony to the power of even a badly faltering Prime Minister. A lead lost over a year may be recoverable in such a crisis. But rumour has it that if Labour loses the Glenrothes by-election, the Cabinet will move against him. But what of the Glenrothes campaign?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London