7 January 2010


On two things, and they are important ones, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt are right. Labour would stand a better chance in the next election if Gordon Brown were not leader. And now – or rather some point in the next month – is realistically the last point at which he can be replaced.

But what a ridiculous way to go about trying to replace him. Because of the Labour leadership’s desire in the early 1990s to make it impossible for an incumbent Labour prime minister to be challenged by disaffected Labour MPs, when the rules for leadership elections were last changed only one means of challenging a leader in government was laid down: a vote in favour of an election by party conference. Even in opposition, the only other way for a leadership election to be triggered is for 20 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party – an extraordinarily high threshold given the leader’s powers of patronage – to nominate a particular candidate.

Of course, if a substantial number of Labour MPs voted no confidence in Brown he would be put in an impossible position and would be forced to resign, thereby creating a vacancy, under which other rules apply. (Essentially, an interim leader would be appointed by the National Executive Committee or the NEC would agree a timetable for a quick leadership contest as it did in 2007.) But six months or less before a general election, it was and is never going to happen, let alone on a secret ballot.

Like it or loath it, the only way that Gordon will go is if he decides to go of his own accord – and there has never been any sign that he has given it any thought. It might once have been possible to dream of persuading him to change his mind by gentle persuasion, but it certainly isn’t now. All Hoon and Hewitt have managed is to diminish Labour’s already vanishingly small electoral chances.
  • I missed this from the BBC's Paul Mason, which seems to me to sum up the politics of the moment quite well, though it is schematic.

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