Coo what a coup

As predicted the snow coup was over almost before it started. Mr Hoon and Mrs Hewitt did not entice a single new name onto the media to support the idea of a challenge to the PM. That must be a new record for a lack of support.

It has taught us three things. Senior Labour figures are divided over the wisdom of running with the PM as their Leader. Labour is preoccupied by its own internal troubles, which are more to do with personalities than with policy. The government ignores the financial crisis rumbling around its head.

Instead of a champion emerging with policies to tackle the deficit more immediately and manfully, to reform public services and to put the economy on a path of sustainable recovery, we witnessed several important figures in the government delaying their support for the PM and then writing lukewarm words that fell far short of endorsing him. The Chancellor clearly is not impressed by his neighbour, and did the minimum. The Foreign Secretary could not even manage the minimum, delaying the longest and then producing a very watered down statement.

These were not the brave deeds of people having genuine disagreements about how to rescue the country. Nor are they the words of loyalists who understand they all will be hanged together if it does not work.

I was invited onto Five Live to comment on the aborted coup. The BBC had done an excellent job explaining the coup through the words of John Pienaar just before my interview. I felt that in order not repeat that I should talk about the national financial crisis the Cabinet was ignoring owing to its personality preoccupations. The coup is symptomatic of a wider collapse in government, an inability to concentrate on solutions to our problems. The BBC had no wish to go there, so it was difficult to see what they wanted from me as they had already done it themselves through their Political Correspondent. They didn’t seem to know either, so they kept it short. They seemed most interested when I replied to their question about the Conservative party interest. From that point of view it could not be better. It leaves the government led by Mr Brown, the Conservatives preferred opponent at the next election, whilst doing him more damage from friendly fire.


  1. A.Sedgwick
    January 7, 2010

    1. Calibre of past cabinet ministers further exposed.

    2. Urgent need for legislation to prevent unelected PMs taking office.

    3. The boy Brown done well at PMQs – ugh. It is time DC got hold of Bercow behind the Chair and told him that unless he enforces Brown to answer the questions he will not bother asking them and will walk out of the Chamber with his MPs. There is an "emperor no clothes" situation in the media – PMQs is a complete farce and makes a mockery of the Commons.

  2. Kevin Lohse
    January 7, 2010

    Dear John. I would imagine that they wanted a soundbite from a "dry" Tory that could be twisted into an attack on Dave, thereby perpetuating the, "they're all the same", meme, a vital plank in Labour's defence of the indefensible. I trust you saw that one coming anyway.

  3. Neil Craig
    January 7, 2010

    The fourth thing it proves is that there is nobody in the Labour party anybody can name & who is interested in this poisoned chalice who would be half as good as Brown.

    That Brown is the best the party can offer is not high praise but a sign of the intellectual bankruptcy of what passes for socialism. I will make the caveat that I think under Johnson Labour would do better, not because of his personal qualities but because he has promised a referendum on PR. I suspect he will be the party's leader this time next year.

  4. APL
    January 7, 2010

    JR: "From that point of view it could not be better. It leaves the government led by Mr Brown, the Conservatives preferred opponent at the next election, whilst doing him more damage from friendly fire."

    And there we have laid bare the cancer at the heart of British politics.

    The opposition would prefer to fight the election on personallities rather than policies.

    We might ask why? My opinion is they have no policies sufficiently different from the current governments to have a hope of influencing the electorate one way or the other.

    Then, why might that be? Because all government originates in Brussels, what ever pretend goverment is returned after the next election the policies will not change – cannot be changed.

    The whole thing is a clamatous fraud.

    reply: The Conservatives will fight on positive proposals to change then UK for the better as Mr Cameron made clear this morning on the Today programme. He is publishing draft chapters of the Manifesto to give you more idea of what they want to do.

    1. APL
      January 7, 2010

      JR: "The Conservatives will fight on positive proposals to change then UK for the better as Mr Cameron made clear this morning on the Today programme. He is publishing draft chapters of the Manifesto to give you more idea of what they want to do."

      Is there anything in the manefesto that conflicts with leglislation originating from Brussels, or was what I said correct?

  5. MarkE
    January 7, 2010

    We are sinking ever further into recession and the government does nothing because it is too busy preparing for the next election, which it is putting off as long as possible (those ministerial cars are comfortable).

    This is not the first time we have faced crises with lame duck government and, unless something changes, it will not be the last. What is your view John on Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell's proposal for a recall mechanism in their book "The Plan"? If we could recall every MP we would thus effectively demand a general election. Obviously some safeguards would be needed to avoid incurring huge expenses as unscrupulous opposition parties tried to recall the MPs in marginal constituencies at every opportunity, but that is not insurmountable.

    [please accept my apology if the words "Hannan" and "Carswell" qualify as foul language in Cameron's party]

    Reply: I blogged in broad support of their book at the time and have set out my own views on how to reform our governemnt and our democracy on this website at some length.

  6. Mike Stallard
    January 7, 2010

    Notice that Frank Field and Charles Clarke were in favour of a leadership election…….

  7. Demetrius
    January 7, 2010

    You are right about the collapse in government, but it follows on from the overall mess as well as the financial. The worry is whether this will turn into a major financial crisis if the bond and currency markets are spooked by it all.

  8. JT
    January 7, 2010

    They can't win it with him – or without him.

  9. Stuart Fairney
    January 7, 2010

    Is a post on the fact we now have power cuts !!! for the first time since the 1970's a possibility?

  10. Lindsay McDougall
    January 7, 2010

    I think that there probably are underlying policy differences and that Lord Mandelson was in on the plot. The danger to us is that the Labour governement will produce a 2010/11 budget that reduces the annual deficit by around £20 billion, split say 50-50 between modest public expenditure reductions and tax increases, make a great fuss about their prudence and responsibility (as if!) and go to the country in March, leaving a 6 week campaign in which they will hammer us on Europe.

    My guess is that the whole point of the 'coup' and the cool response of cabinet members is to force that policy change from a reluctant Gordon Brown.

  11. Steve Tierney
    January 7, 2010

    Im glad he survived. A new leader might close the poll gap enough to give them a fighting chance.

  12. Martin
    January 7, 2010

    Maybe it was a diversion tactic to deflect media attention from latest ID card extension. Non-EU footballers now need ID cards.

    No news yet as to who is checking these – the Police, St John's Ambulance or referees before kick off.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      January 7, 2010

      Amazing! so if one of the world's most recognised footballers, say Drogba of Chelsea and the Ivory Coast doesn't have one…. What would happen?

  13. ManicBeancounter
    January 8, 2010

    I feel quite sorry for Mr Brown. No, seriously. The poor chap spent many years building his power base as shadow chancellor and then chancellor. His lust for power was widely known, and lead to him undermining a much more popular and charismatic leader. He built this power by avoidance of straight answers and building around him cowering sycophants.
    When he finally achieves his prize, Mr Brown finds that he does not enjoy the job, and his endless evasions have near-destroyed the economy. Yet any opposition in his party is so marginalised that he will have to face the electorate to relieve him of his own unhappiness and this country of the misery that he and his cohorts have inflicted.

  14. Adam Collyer
    January 8, 2010

    David Miliband was on Radio 4 this morning declaring his support for the PM. I can't remember his exact words but they were something like: "I'm getting on with the business of being in government. We have an election to fight and win."

    Says it all really.

  15. Ex Liverpool rioter
    January 8, 2010

    Amazing how "The powers" think a "Control grid" will lock us down. My its going to be a "Long Hot summer" & i am not talking about Global warming!


  16. Javelin
    January 8, 2010

    I could quote Churchill or Kennedy or any number of others about inaction being more risky than action, but I think the Bard says it so much better … "They go to their graves like beds". – Shakespeare.

  17. angela king
    January 9, 2010

    Re. that coup! What Labour ministers said… and what they really meant.

  18. james harries
    January 11, 2010

    The snow coup, JR?
    The chicken coup, more like

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