Will Labour bottle the leadership election?

In 1997 after the arrival of the Blair babes a joke circulated widely in political circles.
“What is the difference between a Blair babe and a shopping trolley?” went the popular jest. “A shopping trolley has a mind of its own” came the reply.

It was unfair then, for many of the men newly elected for Labour in 1997 did what the Blair babes did. They stuck to the pager messages, they repeated the inane and misleading Nu Labour soundbites, and refused to answer any difficult questions, just like their female colleagues.Maybe they believed they had abolished boom and bust and had made the Bank of England independent. Maybe now they understand they did not. Rather they created a worse boom and bust, and left the Bank floundering without the power and information it used to have to run the money markets properly.They certainly failed to provide any intelligent criticism of the executive, or to represent the needs of their constituents to keep tax and spending down to sensible levels.

Today it is some of the Blair babes who are leading the charge for a proper debate about Labour’s values and the direction of the government. They are clearly hoping to flush out a “big beast” to challenge the PM. In the meantime they are out to destablise him.

Gordon Brown will understand only too well what their game is. It is after all the game his “friends” used to destablise Blair. If you can get enough people to resign from office, aided by enough backbenchers to call for change, the position of the Leader eventually becomes untenable and he may decide to go. It worked with Blair. I doubt if it will work so easily with Brown, who still seems to want this job he has spent his adult life working to achieve. Unless the mutineers can gain more numbers quickly, this rebellion will peter out and show that Labour cannot run a Leadership election, let alone a successful General Election.

The sadness of all this is it is massive diversion from tackling the real issues of the Credit Crunch, the sterling crisis and the government financial mess. Indeed, it probably makes it more difficult for the PM to tackle these things, as his MP critics probably want him to spend and tax more, rather than understanding that it is because he has taxed, wasted and borrowed so much that we are in the economic hole we are now in.

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16 Comments

  1. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted September 14, 2008 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    John. I wonder how much Labour are spending on advisors when they can come here and get it for free. Trouble is you are telling the truth. They dont want to hear that. They just want to continue in their fantasy world of spend,spend, spend without any regard of where the money comes from. They cannot accept the a government must be run like a business for the most part.
    They have not and just look what has happened. What a mess.

  2. Blank Xavier
    Posted September 14, 2008 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    In a recent post there was discussion about the role of regulation in financial service, regarding the question of whether there should be more or less regulation in response to the recent banking problems.

    One line of thought was that the regulator failed and accordingly brought into question its existance because it had failed to work.

    I have to say, a similar line of thought comes to mind regarding Government.

    We see again and again Government behaving in its own interest at the expense of the nation. I would say Government has shown by its repeated failure that it does not work.

  3. Posted September 14, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    At least Miss McDonagh has spoken with clarity and honesty during her recent rounds of interviews, which must be some kind of first for the Labour party since 1997. Gordon Brown will probably survive any challenge that may emerge from this , albeit even weaker than ever if such a thing is possible. The real victims however are going to be the rest of us as we wait with gritted teeth for the chance of a general election.

  4. Posted September 14, 2008 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Probably yes.

  5. Tony Makara
    Posted September 14, 2008 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    One of the major flaws of the representative system is that, aside from elections, the voters have to rely on politicians to hold government and their own party to account. This has become a problem with the Labour government, being largely composed of career-politicians, because of its culture of complicity. We have not had the checks and balances that we saw under Conservative administrations when MPs would openly question the direction the party leadership was taking on a whole range of issues. Party loyalty is important but must be qualified by personal conscience. Labour's drive to become elected and remain re-electable has carried a heavy price, creating a generation of career-mongers who have basked in the comfort-zone and only now are realising that they about to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the reality of electoral defeat. Labour has to change its culture, has to rid itself of these leeches if it is ever to become a credible poltical force again.

    • mikestallard
      Posted September 14, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      A worry here is that there are far too many Labour MPs on the benches of parliament. This means that the Labour Whips and Cabinet are never really threatened: they do exactly what they want and it is either very bossy or very little. Also, of course, they never turn up anyway; they announce policy anywhere rather than parliament, and they treat Prime Minister's questions like a comedy.
      It is all the fault of us, the electorate, for giving them such a thumping majority.
      Well, now the Labour are about to be annihilated and the Conservatives are about to get a thumping majority.
      I wonder if they will really be any different to their Labour predecessors?

  6. T. England
    Posted September 14, 2008 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    What needs to be said?
    Labour are imploding at quite a pace now & with no new super hero Tony B flying over the horizon to save them the Labour troups have started to panic & throw their pies at each other!
    Mostly it seems that Labour MPs have said Brown is the best man for the job, fair enough! Some may see that as bad judgement on their part, some may see it that he is the ONLY man for the job because Labour has no one else the public want to see as Labour leader let alone run the country.

    Labour MPs just can’t accept that their left wing policies have been a major part of their downfall can they? They can try to blame/believe it’s the credit crunch & Brown if they like, but many like me think different!

    (Paras left out)

    I do believe Cameron will have one chance to show that he will look after the British public when he gets to power, or the election after next will be messy!
    The saying “look after your own” isn’t a saying for nothing, Labour forgot this at their peril!

    As for the economy, I would be very interested in your view John!
    I have always liked to watch financial programmes & like watching the interviews to get my own take on things, as I have already had quite a rant above I’ll be brief.
    From what I can make out from recent interviews, etc I’ve seen over the last week is this!

    The world is slipping into recession quicker than “they” thought, pointing to places, not only like India slowing down, but countries like Dubai that are now seeing things starting to slow up, investors are starting to desert developing countries now because of the risk!
    Many countries in the EU will go into a hard recession.
    Things could get as bad as the last depression.
    We will have to wait for America to come out of their recession before we will see an up turn over here, but America isn’t coming out of recession any time soon.
    AND lastly!
    But the most worrying thing I have heard over the last week watching different interviews is this.
    The half a trillion we have seen the credit crunch take from us all is only HALF of what the losses could be! I KNOW!
    If some financial experts think it will be possible for us all to have to take another half a trillion hit, what then?
    No wonder there is talk today of meltdown, the worst thing is! It seems they’re not just using scare tactics :o(

    Reply: I have set out my thoughts on the crisis at some length on the site.

  7. Pete Chown
    Posted September 14, 2008 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    "Maybe they believed they had abolished boom and bust and had made the Bank of England independent. Maybe now they understand they did not."

    I didn't understand this bit; are you saying that the Bank of England is not independent? It doesn't have statutory independence like the ECB, but the Chancellor has never overruled the MPC's advice, so does it make any difference?

    I tend to agree with you on the boom and bust. Clearly the rises in commodity prices have affected all countries, but we seem to be in a worse position because of the government's lack of prudence with the public finances. Having said that, it's true that for ten years the MPC kept us pretty close to its inflation target:
    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_econ
    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/articles/economic_tr

    (Both these documents contain a lot of detail, but they also have graphs showing the headline rate of inflation over the period concerned. That's what I'm really interested in.)

    "Rather they created a worse boom and bust, and left the Bank floundering without the power and information it used to have to run the money markets properly."

    The FSA took over a lot of the Bank's regulatory powers, I suppose. Do you think things would have worked better if they hadn't? I don't really see the difference myself; any business which concerns money is regulated to death as it is, and still Northern Rock managed to lose billions of other people's money.

    Reply: Previous blogs expalin just how much damage Brown did the once more independent Bank. He took away its powers to supervise the day to day ops of the main banks, and the role of managing the government's debt. The so called independence to fix interest rates was overtaken by his change of target and the fact that he chooses all the members directly or indirectly.

    • Tony Makara
      Posted September 14, 2008 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      The Bank of England is in no way independent. In his open letter to the governor in May 1997 Gordon Brown make it quite clear that the government reserves the right to intervene and override any decision taken by the BOE if it is deemed to be in the national interest. One has to take into consideration the psychological effect this clause has on BOE strategy, which always has to weight its decisions against whether the government thinks it is in the national interest.

  8. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted September 14, 2008 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Labour can make progress by slashing £40 billion from public spending plans over four years with cash put into reducing the PSBR by making the sort of changes that John Redwood often suggests . The £360 rebate for basic rate taxpayers under the age of 65 funded by the asset sales that I proposed yesterday could give the economy a short term boost while cutting spending and borrowing would pave the way for lasting recovery by making the economy more stable . Interest rates would really fall massively if fiscal policy were tightened by £10 billion a year for four years allowing the property market to recover and exports to rise . If you don't crowd out private investment with rampant public borrowing and big government then like Eire you can get a strong economy.

    Of course Labour will never do the above so George Osborne & Philip Hammond will have a gruesome task to slash public spending by tens of billions of pounds so that the bloated client state shares the pain that we all feel in the real private sector economy . As a person on roughly £12,000 p/a I cannot afford these high income taxes and the interest bills on the vast PSBR's that Labour are running up mean that taxes will be high for future generations . That is terrible for the economy and social mobility – we need drastic action to starve off this mess ! Health authorities , NHS computer schemes , LEA's , people using incapacity benefit as a way to retire early , the New Deal , Business Department & Local Government Ministry , QUANGO's & Whitehall consultants , civil service numbers , government procurement , Culture Department , tax credit fiasco and transport subsidies that could be replaced by private money are obvious targets for cuts . Matching Labour spending plans and sharing the proceeds of growth just does not cut it – five years of very tight public spending growth is vital to make UK plc solvent . We can then catch up our competitors and be tax competitive again while social mobility can rise once more .

  9. adam
    Posted September 14, 2008 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Blairs babes have become Browns bogeys. He is attempting to gobble them all up before anyone notices.

  10. Posted September 14, 2008 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    To be fair boom & bust has almost been abolished. Where the world used to grow at an average of 2% a depression might knock 4% off growth for a few years, Today we see world average growth of 5% & the present mess is merely knocking it back to about 0% growth, which is merely lack of boom but not bust.

    The reason for this is nothing to do with politicians but technological improvement – computer capacity doubles less than every 18 months, the GM capacity is probably doing the same, materials strengths continue to improve & so on.

    The downside of this is that an economy may continue for years to underperform & get away with convincing people how well they are doing. Indeed this is exactly what Gordon has been saying about our 2.5% growth rate, with very little opposition dispute.

    Thus, while our economy has grown 30% in the last 11 years, China's has grown by 200%, without us noticing how badly we are doing.

    • Johnny Norfolk
      Posted September 15, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink

      What do you mean almost abolished it either has or not. We can see it has not by miles.

  11. Dr Dan H.
    Posted September 15, 2008 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    The thing you have to remember about any leadership battle in the Labour Party is that if by some mischance someone manages to boot out Gordon, then they will then become leader of the Labour Party. Now, the Labour Party when set up was set up as a society where the principle officers (Leader, treasurer etc.) shared unlimited liability for the society's debts; this being a way of keeping them honest, or so the principle goes.

    As things now stand the Labour Party owes some 19 million pounds and has experienced a collapse in donations to its cause, possibly since (giving money to -ed) an organisation which is due to vanish from office in 18 months is silly at best.

    So, they're in hock up to their eyeballs and whoever's left in the top jobs when the chickens come home to roost is going to get bankrupted (which is automatic expulsion from Parliament).

    This leaves the Labour Party in a curious quandry. The Party is agreed that they all want rid of Gordon as leader, but two things hold them back: whoever gets his job inherits a poisoned chalice and whoever inherits will also be forced into an early election (possibly even by Her Majesty losing patience with the bickering). The Labour Party as a political entity is dead meat walking either way; they're going to get such a kicking at the next election that the Lib-Dems are likely to take over as the Opposition, but if the squabbling hordes can at least put up, they'll remain on the gravy train for another 18 months, as opposed to getting turfed off early with a booby prize for the leader.

    So, I do not think Gordon will get the boot, since nobody else is stupid enough to want to replace him.

    • mikestallard
      Posted September 16, 2008 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Thank you for that extremely clear comment which, I must admit, came out of the blue.
      I have been puzzled for some time that no Labour politician actually wants the top job – they do not seem to me to be that kind of person! (Harriet Harman? Peter Hain? Ed Balls?)
      Now I know.
      I have couple of good friends who are the sort of backbone people of Labour – cloth cap etc etc. They stopped their subscription when Tony Blair came in. I suspect there aren't many Old Labour people out there willing to be associated with New Labour now. I hear the subscriptions are at rock bottom as is the membership too.
      And, of course, Lord Levy did for the very very rich donor.

  12. the other adam
    Posted September 15, 2008 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Labour had their 'leadership' (Inept tyranny) 'election' (coronation) and they decided that Brown was the only possible person to be considered worthy of leading them.
    We need a General Election immediately.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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