There was an interesting article in the Guardian yesterday by Robert Harris - "Tony Blair should sack Gordon Brown and serve the full term he promised". He reminds us that,
A poll of Labour party members on the weekend before the Granita agreement, showed Blair with 47%, John Prescott with 15%, and Brown trailing a poor third, with 11%.Thus Brown's standing aside was never crucial to Blair. Nor did Brown have a chance of winning. Blair would have won the contest and could have been unencumbered by the Granita agreement and the ensuing twelve years of Brownite brooding.
Equally interesting is that the comments on the article are not nearly as anti-Tony as I expected on the Guardian's site, normally so full of fairly rabid anti-blairites. 'Mainstream people' trust to greater and lesser degrees Tony Blair. They do not trust the Labour Party. Brown has not the charisma to win their trust and is increasingly being seen as a shady backroom plotter who is a bit too much of a geek with much misplaced self-confidence. He's all about himself and nobody likes that guy. And politics is personal.
Blair unfortunately can't sack Brown without, as Harris points out, an overt sign of disloyalty. He erred by letting him stay in the Treasury for too long and becoming too identified with decent economic performance. Successes here gave Brown and his supporters (Nick Brown et al) something to talk about at any and every opportunity - and gave Brown some increased legitimacy of his own which he has used to further his own personal ambition of ascension to the premiership and only sparingly for the good of the party. His involvement in the general election last year brought on board probably only as many people from the left as they lost from the right due to the tories "vote Blair get Brown" campaign.
The more the Chancellor plays this game, the greater the inevitability of him losing. If he wants to be PM he needs to not take the PLP, the Labour Party and the Public for granted in assuming they will be delighted to have him. He needs to be earning their support. But that isn't his style, he's the Chancellor, he doesn't need anybody. He got the Chancellorship through a dodgy deal, and he seeks the Premiership the same way. But if there was a contest now he would not win, just as he would not have won back in '94. It seems unlikely to me that the Chancellor has secreted within him the charisma to engage an electorate and to deliver election wins. His assuming control would not either win over the 'awkward squad' who will not settle for 'new' Labour under any leader. And how satisfying would it be to win the top job by sleight of hand, and then to lose it at the ballot box by lack of support?
Brown's personal agenda for power has interfered with the business of government for far too long and Blair is definitely at fault for letting it. I don't understand why he has let the situation get to this point and assume that Brown has something else to bargain with, but I don't know what it is.
Blair owes Brown nothing and should demand loyalty and discipline or dismiss him to the backbenches.
Posted by Paul in UK Labour Party Politics at May 10, 2006 04:42 AM