Tuesday, September 16, 2008

White Flags And Snowballs

The radio was full of talk about a challenge to Gordon Brown's leadership this morning. Nomination papers have been requested by a small number of Labour MPs. Not enough to force a challenge by the terms of Labour's Constitution, but enough, the disgruntled MPs are said to hope, to embarrass Brown into a contest.

Unless the anti-Gordon brigade have a Tony Blair or a new Nye Bevan in waiting, of course, a leadership contest right now will hand the election to the Tories tied with a nice white flag. And I suspect there is no young lion waiting to galvanise the party and the British public with a new idea or a bold restatement of Labour's traditional values. The name of David Milliband is often bandied about, but he'll be associated too closely to the present administration in the public's mind (and the public loathe Brown)to take Labour into the next election with a snowball's chance in Hell of winning. To me, anyway, he just looks and sounds like a bank manager. What does he stand for? What does he believe? Why is he in the Labour Party? Like most of his cabinet colleagues, ambition has made him so cautious--not to say, possibly, duplicitous--in his speech and writing no one really knows.

I hope Brown remains as PM and I hope Labour win the next election. I think there is some chance of the former happening, and no chance of the latter. But it may be, as I've said before, that what the party really needs is to be comprehensively defeated by Cameron. A few years in Opposition watching Cameron and the Conservatives show their true colours may help those who have been softened by too many good meals at Westminster remember exactly why they sought the job of MP in the first place.

It might also help the fickle public focus on the cost of accepting everything a politician says just because he knows how to smile when he says it--although even after we have learned to our not-very-great-surprise that the cute new Tory Party remains racist, homophobic, rooted in elitism and culturally ignorant, there will doubtless be a lot of Little Englanders out there who still think they're the best thing since God gave the civilised people of the world Waitrose.

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