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Could Gordon really go BEFORE the election?

November 26th, 2007


    Is it worth betting that Labour will have another leader?

It’s Monday and that means it’s the day of the Guardian column of Jackie Ashley – who for a long time has been one of Brown’s most enthusiastic media cheer leaders. And this morning, as she tries to assess the political damage that Gordon has suffered in the past few weeks, she touches on what has not really been debated – could he go BEFORE the general election?

Ashley writes:“..For the past few days there has been an air of drift and desperation. The prime minister seems hurt and surprised rather than roused and up for it. Once utterly loyal Brownite backbenchers, senior ones, tell me they don’t expect him to fight the next election. Blairites who kept their mouths zipped through the first months are plotting again to replace him. I have almost lost count of the number of non-political friends who say: “Sorry, I just don’t like him….what is also clear is that the prime minister’s uncertain performances in the Commons are causing real problems inside the parliamentary Labour party. He should be in no doubt. There is real anxiety, not just from Blairites or those he has offended in the past, but among the MPs he depends on.”

I think that Ashley is right about his Commons performances. The Tory approach seems to be to goad him into losing his temper and when he does that he has lost.

But can we envisage reaching a point where he could be pushed or he stood aside voluntarily? Unlike the the Conservatives and the Lib Dems Labour appears less likely to move against a failing leader. Yes Tony was pushed and he went earlier than he had planned. But that was against the backdrop of last year’s Israeli conflict when his stance caused massive stirrings throughout his party.

A lot depends on the polls and as I’ve been arguing here Labour is not doing as badly as the drip drip of negative headlines might appear. For most of the time, even during the past month, Labour has been ahead of where it was in the final months of Tony Blair.

Very few surveys have shown that the Tories have a big enough lead that can be translated into a Commons majority. Still the most likely outcome of the general election is a hung parliament.

    I cannot see Brown being ousted. But if he started to believe that he himself was impeding Labour’s election chances then you could envisage him standing aside. Unlike his predecessor the movement means everything to him.

In the betting the favourite time slot for Brown going is 2011 or beyond. On Betfair’s “Party leaders at the election” market you can get 4/1 on Cameron being the only one of Brown/Cameron/Campbell to still be there. Brown alone is 7/1.

Mike Smithson






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