Labour Leadership Challenge

One thing I’ve always wondered/ worried about is the way the media report politics. It makes it seem like a trivial game instead of determining the fates of millions. Talk of “political positioning” and “support for the PM” bring to mind “political football.” I think the only reason they do this is to make politics “easier” to understand/ explain/ report.

Anyway, there is a new challenge to Gordon Brown’s leadership. Andrew Wells of UK Polling Report looks at polling to determine whether electoral prospects for Labour will improve with a new leader. Conclusion: can’t really say;

The moral is, don’t look at hypothetical polls of how people think they might vote with X in charge. People are rubbish at predicting how they will react, especially how they would react to a politician most of them know little about, becoming PM and doing things none of the respondents can predict. We don’t really know how the public would react in practice to Alan Johnson, or David Miliband as leader, but we do know what they think of Gordon Brown.

Sunder Katwala at Next Left believes the

… moment of maximum danger for Gordon Brown’s leadership of the Labour Party into the General Election was the evening of Thursday June 4th 2009 when James Purnell resigned from the Cabinet, as the polls closed in the local and European elections, and other Cabinet members declined to follow him.

and that the decision of other Cabinet members to support Brown saved Brown’s premiership.

He also believes that this challenge will fail:

Firstly, it is much easier to present as a "Blairite" intervention, in contrast to (say) a Hewitt-Cruddas or Mullin-Hewitt intervention, which would have been much more impactful were it possible. So that would imply that non-Blairite support has failed to respond to calls to lead a revolt. Rumours of a right-left pact, involving Compass, would seem to have been much exaggerated (and, indeed, denied by Compass).

Secondly, and probably crucially, it suggests that they have failed to get any Cabinet minister to be part of the, following unfounded rumours last night about Tessa Jowell, who has dismissed the possibility of a resignation, as the New Statesman reported first.

Thirdly, the timing of the interevention hasn’t helped it, though it is very unlikely this could be thought decisive, except in demonstrating the lack of ruthless assassin like abilities which have been a consistent feature of these sporadic attempts.

I think the timing here refers to proximity to the election (16 weeks), Gordon Brown doing well in today’s PMQs, and Labour having some success in early January campaigning. A leadership challenge just seems odd and capable only of hampering Labour’s chances as they begin to “navel-gaze” instead of fighting the Tories and dealing with the country’s problems. It also leads to a public perception of an uncontrolled and ill-disciplined party which doesn’t help electoral prospects.

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