My view that the next big crunch moment for Gordon Brown will come if the BNP performs well on June 4 is shared by super psephologist John Curtice. The real threat to Brown therefore could come from the limited number of English council elections being held on the day, rather than the elections to the European Parliament. As Curtice says about the Euro poll in the Indy:
Even the most recent opinion polls still suggest the party stands at 27 per cent in Westminster voting intentions. Getting 23 per cent or thereabouts ought not be too difficult. And so long as the result is not significantly worse than 2004, Labour’s spin machine will be able to argue it can recover in 2010 just as it did in 2005.
The council elections are a different matter…
Adds however… Nick Robinson, who is to the even more crowded arena of political journalism what Robert Peston is to financial, is not a believer in Brown’s “defenestration” and says on the topic of Royal Mail part-privatisation ( below) : “Unlike the vote on the Gurkhas, the Tories are backing the government’s position and are, I’m told, unlikely to switch to siding with Labour rebels… they also believe that Gordon Brown will suffer more if he wins with their support than if he is defeated….Of course, no government wants to rely on opposition backing but any suggestion that defeat on the Royal Mail would finish off Gordon Brown will guarantee that the Tories stride into the yes lobby with ministers.” That’s politics! Picking up on what John Curtice says:
The few scraps of power Labour does have in shire England are all vulnerable. The party is defending just four councils: Derbyshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire. All four will be lost if the swing against Labour reflects that currently registered by the opinion polls. And never before has a party suffered a complete wipe-out on local election day .Those with long memories will recall the last and only time that Labour suffered defeat in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It was in 1977 during the darkest days of the last Labour government under Jim Callaghan, a government whose demise heralded 18 years of Tory rule.
The tipping point could come if Brown fails to see off the most serious rebellion yet over the privatisation of the Post Office in a Commons vote likely later next month. So far the government are digging in, although this is being discounted by the rebels. My hunch is Brown wont back off this one and with good reasons that are more than tactical. In the Times Rachel Sylvester offers a good overview of whats at stake no less than the survival of new Labour with its mixed economy message, and whats left of its appeal to middle Britain.
… the real issue is that the Prime Minister has nothing substantial to say about how he wants to improve the country once the recession is over .All the public is hearing from Labour is a left-wing message that is electorally disastrous, one former Cabinet minister says. A few of us decided that we cannot let the impression remain that that is all Labour is.
No wonder David Cameron is elevating June 4, despite its inevitable very low poll, to the level of a notice to quit on Brown. As if to prove Rachel Sylvester’s point, the PM’s speech today on more parent power in running schools was a limp response to the swirling threats surrounding him and seemed more than slightly desperate and ill thought through. As the underwhelmed BBC report put it:
As usual Mr Brown talked about Britain but in the UK’s devolved education systems his proposals would apply only to England.
And the idea is still in the planning stage. The Department for Children, Schools and Families was not able to say how it would operate in practice.
The new idea is that they could require an intervention in other local schools too.
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