People keep asking me who I want as the new PM. They often say “Which potential Labour leader do the Conservatives fear?”, or suggest we are out to keep Gordon Brown for party advantage.
Conservatives are united. We want David Cameron as the next PM. Having some interim Labour PM will not make much difference, as the opinion polls show. Can we get what we want? Not this year, as Gordon Brown is unlikely to give in to the popular pressure to call an election. Nor are a significant number of Labour MPs in the midst of their party’s electoral meltdown likely to vote in the Commons for an early general election against the advice of their leadership. I suppose if Labour swapped leaders a caretaker leader might make a few changes to the worst problems and go for an earlier election. That too is not in the Conservatives gift.
Just as with the Speaker, the issue of the leadership of our country rests with the large majority of Labour MPs in the Commons. People today forget they voted in 355 Labour MPs and the Speaker, with only 197 Conservatives in May 2005. There are 640 MPs in total, leaving out the Sinn Fein members. Labour should have no problem gaining a majority to struggle on.
So what will Labour do? One possible scenario is:
1. They will all vote against an early election.
2. Some will sign the round robin email telling the PM he should go
3. Attempts to unite around a single candidate like Alan Johnson will be met with threats from Brownites to put up a candidate against him, making the whole process in prospect much longer and messier.
4. Mr Brown will realise he has to keep his Chancellor, and confirm Mr Darling in his job. Mr Balls will be given some other promotion, maybe to Home Secretary.
5. Mr David Miliband has already confirmed his wish to keep his job as Foreign Secretary, and will be allowed to continue there.
6. The General Election will be in a year’s time.
A second possible scenario is Gordon Brown goes for broke. He continues with the plan to put Ed Balls in as Chancellor and Peter Mandelson in as Foreign Secretary. In the process he could trigger the loss of Mr Darling and even David Miliband. There could then be more rolling resignations or refusals to serve as the reshuffle continues. Trying to be tough could look strong if he called his critics bluff successfully, but could backfire spectacularly if the other Ministers have had enough.