Being Prime Minister is a numbers game

For the time being the cyber coup is over. The PM’s spinners took to the airwaves after the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting last night to report his victory. The few plotters that have gone public appeared defeated for the time being. There are veiled threats about the autumn. It is difficult to see they will have better circumstances then than they have now.

If they had the numbers to bring him down, they would have done so this week-end. If they had kept the Ministerial resignations rolling, and if each resigning Minister had criticised Mr Brown as a few did, it could have brought him down. If the backbenchers had been able to raise a significant number of names, and then started to announce new names every day, they might have forced a contest. Instead, both groups failed to work together, some appeared to be following their own personal agendas, and they were outspun by the centre. The rebels so far have lacked leadership, lacked planning and lacked resolve.Lots of Labour MPs do not like Mr Brown, and do not rate the party’s chances highly under him, but they have not yet been persuaded there is a better option that would save them.

Mr Brown has promised to listen more and to take his backbenchers more seriously. That will mean a tack to the left. The best thing he could do is abandon the Post office plans. Selling a minority stake for not very much, and leaving the taxpayer with the mighty pension deficit, was never a good deal. That could be the best bone to toss to the half starved backbenchers. It would mean the task of changing the Post Office would be left to the next government, who would then have a freer hand to do a decent deal that made sense for taxpayers and the business. I would want it to include a substantial employee shareholding.

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29 Comments

  1. Mick Anderson
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    It seems more likely that these self-serving MPs didn’t like the idea of bringing the General Election forwards.

    Many of them must expect to lose their jobs, and they will want to take as much pay and allowance from their existing posts before joining the ranks of the unemployed.

    • Acorn
      Posted June 9, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      Spot on Mick. These toady trougher Turkeys are not only not going to vote for Christmas, they won’t vote for a P45 either.

      It feels like this is all happening somewhere else. It has nothing to do with me. I have no influence whatsoever over its outcome. I am now required to believe that there will be a “road to Damascus” conversion of a prime minister that only one person out of every 1800 voters, actually voted for!

      It would not surprise me if ZaNuLabour treat the next general election as “advisory only”. Don’t be surprised if a national crisis suddenly appears, that has to delay the election to some undefined future date. It is not impossible for the UK to become a de-facto one party state. The Labour project to build its Enduring Client State is not yet complete, but not far off.

      • jean baker
        Posted June 9, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Hence @ZaNulabor’s’ resounding hammering in the polls ………….

      • Brigham
        Posted June 9, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        I wrote a piece and submitted it before I read yours. If you read it you will see how much I agree with you.

      • Adrian Peirson
        Posted June 13, 2009 at 4:41 am | Permalink

        You mean like a Swine flu Pandemic.

    • oldrightie
      Posted June 9, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Spot on plus the fear of their mis-doings, real or manufactured, going public. Check out our pic on my blog for a perfect resume of Brown’s PLP.

  2. Ian Jones
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Substantial shareholding of the Royal Mail. The pension deficit is coming in around £6 to £10bn, there is nothing to own but liabilities.

    Or is it going to be another case of my crappy private pension having to fund the lavish pensions of the public sector once again. Not sure if anyone has noticed but the demands on the taxpayer seem to outweigh his ability to pay……. or willingness if it keeps going. I hear Australia is a nice place to live.

  3. figurewizard
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    By allowing Brown to side step the consequences of the collapse of Labour’s fortunes the PLP has countersigned the party’s death warrant. As Mick Anderson points out here they have confirmed themselves to be no more than a bunch of self servers. Worse still the tag ‘gutless’ can now safely be attached to them. The hope of any sort of renewal under a new leader will be greatly diminished as a result and the longer Brown clings to office the less likely such a renewal becomes.

  4. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    JR: “The best thing he could do is abandon the Post office plans. Selling a minority stake for not very much, and leaving the taxpayer with the mighty pension deficit, was never a good deal.”

    I am left wondering why your party intended to support this very same measure. I have written here before about the foolishness of your party’s support for this, particularly when a general election is no more than a year away and, if you win, you can then deal with the Post Office in the way you think best. I don’t recollect any such reservations being expressed by you then.

    Reply: On the contrary, I set out why it was bad deal for the taxpayer

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted June 9, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Would you have voted for it though?

  5. Neil Craig
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    It is the lack of any leadership that has done for them. I still think Alan Johnston could save Labour by fighting an election on a PR platform & am, in some ways glad not to have the dilemma. This does reinfoce my belief that Brown, dreadful though he has turned out to be, is still the best of them.

    • THE ESSEX BOYS
      Posted June 9, 2009 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      The insider info that we had received by Wednesday is that David Milliband would be following Purnell, so we got rather excited in our subsequent blogging on Thursday evening! Not to be…well now anyway.
      We can scorn the yellow streak of Brown’s cabinet but who WOULD want the job in those circumstances knowing an election would be foisted on them within weeks with Brown bleating in the background?
      Much better tactics to give Brown the push closer to Spring with his successor immediately calling an election to show he knows what the public want.
      We’re reminded of Australia in early 1983 when Malcolm Fraser called a general election with Bill Hayden as his opponent but the ALP immediately dumped Hayden and elected Bob Hawke who romped home. Not quite an analogy but it warns us not to underestimate the impact of a popular newcomer when the timing of his arrival is impeccable and his support base and infrastructure is sound!

      • THE ESSEX BOYS
        Posted June 10, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        We were pleased to see that Newsnight also subsequently refered to Bob Hawke’s triumph in 1983 and its relevance to Labour’s possible 2010 tactics in dumping Brown close to the election.

        We feel sure that the lessons of history will not escape an arch-strategist such as the new ‘Deputy PM’!

        DON’T STOP WORRYING OR BITING YOUR NAILS MR BROWN!

  6. eeyore
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    We may all imagine possible scenarios. How about this? Mr Brown staggers on till the autumn, spinning, lying, boasting, squandering other people’s hard-earned cash on bribing his chums in Scotland and the NE, until the wall of Monopoly money he has thrown at the nation appears to be having some small positive effect. At the party conference (or Boast Fest) he brags of his glorious triumph, praises his own magnificent character, leers, sneers, announces Job Well Done, and graciously steps down to rapturous mafficking from the smellysocks. Immediately, Postman Pat is crowned with laurel, hoisted high upon a shield and rammed into No 10.

    Our twinkling Postie asks, in all humility, for a little time to ease himself into the job. Before you know where you are, Spring has sprung and Election time has come round. Mr Brown has all he wants (almost): the Lisbon Treaty in the bag without a referendum, otium cum dignitate (at least in his own eye), a promise of some serious quid pro quo backscratching from the Eurocrats – and bags of opportunity for boasting, which is more precious to him than rubies and lovelier by far than the eyelids of the morning. Labour MPs too have all they want: a new leader for the Election, no more nightmarish Mr Brown making their toes curl and their flesh creep, a slim chance of avoiding the mother of all beatings, and £250,000 a nob in their pockets from betraying their poor suffering nation for another 12 months. Kerr-ching!!!

  7. Pat
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    If it is correct that Mr. Brown or his supporters use and threaten anonymous briefings against any opposition, then every step that they take to secure his position in the party also damages the party in the eyes of the country- at least as where it is labour MPs being briefed against. If they continue in that manner then The conservatives need only wait for power, decide what to do with it, and wonder who the leader of the opposition will be.

  8. jean baker
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Thank you for (another) crystal clear explanation; your views are shared by everyone I know.

  9. Mike Stallard
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I link all this up.
    The weak and venal backbench Labour MPs are in it for what they can get out of the State between now and the election.
    The cabinet and ministers are in it for what they can get out of it from the State between now and the election.
    The fat quangocats are in it etc etc.
    The new civil servants are in it……
    The people on benefits are in it for themselves and for what they can get before the election.
    That’s an awful lot of people.

    Meanwhile those of us who are on life savings, or who are stupid enough to work are taxed till the pips squeak in order to pay for the people hanging, like piglets off the State’s teats.

    Our only hope, if we are not to end up like Argentina, is that the Conservatives can put it right, as they usually seem to.

    • jean baker
      Posted June 9, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Britain needs and deserves a return to democratic government which serves the public and is happy to do so – honestly and openly.

      Socialists seem to believe that the world not only owes them a lucrative living, but that it is funded on vast borrowings against the taxpayers already funding their salaries !

  10. Adrian Peirson
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    How do we factor in a Swine Flu Pandemic in the Autumn and Winter ( now widely believed to be a weaponised and a deliberate release ) and the Civil Contingencies Bill into he picture.

    Recall the anthrax releases in the US just after 9-11 were eventually traced back to Fort Deitrich in Maryland, and the 2001 Foot and mouth outbreak was traced to Pirbrights LEVEL 4 Bioweapons lab and H1N1 was found too to be a weaponised variant, interestingly, the two French students killed in London were Biochemists, it is rumoured that it was they that made the discovery.
    The world does not work according to how many think it does.
    1 month ago, Baxter Pharamaceuticals shipped Vaccine to 14 EU countries, quite by chance, a Czech doctor discovered that they contained two strains of LIVE FLU Virus, and during the recent Pandemic scare, a container of LIVE FLU VIRUS Exploded on a Swiss train.

    People need to factor these sorts of things into their picture of the World when trying to make predictions about what is going to happen next.

  11. Nick Smith
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I think Labour’s best policy is to do as little as possible between now and the next election and, indeed I understand there is precious little on the agenda between now and then. Brown can tour the world acting the statesman and doubtless line up a few sinecures. The rest can plot their election campaign which I fear will be rather grubby. My one hope is that they do not resort to reckless pre-election bribes in the pre-Budget Statement or the Budget if we get that far, but I trust that enough of us will see through that tactic.

    I was reading George Osborne’s speech today to the ABI – it is rather ironic that the present government is benefiting in its gilts sales from the market pricing in an almost certain change of government in a year’s time.

  12. Brigham
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    This is slightly off subject, but I would like to hear your take on the government buying £30M worth of computer equipment, from Alan Sugar’s company Viglen, shortly before giving him a peerage and making him a government adviser. I know we all have to be careful of the libel laws!

    • THE ESSEX BOYS
      Posted June 10, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Incidentally we aquire our information via an excellent service provided by ePolititiX.com who monitor and advise of activities involving any specified MP.
      It shows us just how hard some MPs work out of the public eye.

  13. Brigham
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    I have just heard that Brown is looking at new forms of voting in general elections. Cameron says “He is changing the rules to avoid losing.” I have a different view. When he took over as PM he refused to have a general election because he thought the economy was in such a state he was the only one able to handle it. I remember thinking to myself, if the country was in dire straights, when the election became due, he may use the same excuse to put it off, eventually permanently. It now looks, to me, that he is looking for a method to rig the elections so that he will be in power permanently. I expect many people reading this will feel that I am paranoid, but I have long thought that Brown is showing megalomaniac traits. I think that the opposition parties need to be very careful of this mans suggestions.

    • jean baker
      Posted June 10, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      You’re not ‘paranoid’, are you simply not swayed by empty rhetoric – spin and manipulation. Your observations are justified and shared by vast swathes of the electorate. Churchill did not consider himself paranoid when his intelligence and instincts alerted him to Hitler’s true intentions behind the rhetoric. Britain is scarcely recoginizable from that which it inherited 12 years ago …. many believe Nulabor’s true agenda is a continuing march to Federalism/socialist totalitarianism. Zanulielabor has proved itself to be 110% untrustworthy.

  14. Citizen Responsible
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    What bothers me, is the way Gordon Brown is pretending that the voter’s anger about the scandal of MP’s expenses has led to demands to reform the voting system to include more proportional representation. Is he manoeuvring to build a coalition with the Lib Dems and keep the Conservatives out of office at the next election and himself installed at Number 10 for another term? The word on the street is that he would like to have Vince Cable as his Chancellor.

  15. Javelin
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Am I the only person to notice that the near zero percent interest rates are a little strange. It’s like the tide has gone out before the tsunami. We’ve replaced an over supply of credit with a under pricing of credit (to help investment).

    The BRIC countries are about to grow as world resource demanders. The price of goods, and inflation is about to rise dramatically. People in the UK still have massive mortgages. The current fall in house prices is due to the withdrawl of demand.

    If interest rates rise, as I expect them then THIS is what Brown will be remembered for. His economic time bomb going nuclear.

  16. Fool
    Posted June 10, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure that calling an election now is the answer. I completely sympathise with the Conservative party and can only worry that the BNP win will push more Labour voters to the polls. What Conservatives need to do is to get out and make themselves known. Of course, it would be difficult to put forth any manifesto that the Labour party would be sure to steal, but I think people want to start hearing about policies and not just rhetoric.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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