hutch0 (hutch0) wrote,
hutch0
hutch0

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rotten boroughs - the last days of rome

You'll all know that I'm not exactly Gordon Brown's biggest fan, but I'm starting to discover that there is a point at which schadenfreude starts to become sympathy, maybe even pity. I'm not quite there yet, but I could see how it could happen.
Last night, while I was watching the Big Brother launch programme, the Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell resigned. He was the third Cabinet member in as many days to step down, but more damaging was the letter he sent to Gordon as he went, calling for him to quit as well.
Michael Portillo made a good point that the more people who quit and call for Gordon's resignation, the less courage it takes for subsequent people to do the same. It's always hardest for the first one in the line, and once they've made the jump it's easier for others to follow.
The government is facing a real tragedy, something of Shakespearean proportions, and it's sobering to watch it. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind actually wanting to take over the leadership of the Party right now. If Gordon does step down, or is deposed, his successor will have to call an immediate election. They wouldn't be constitutionally obliged to, but one criticism of Gordon has been that he succeeded Tony Blair as Leader and Prime Minister without an election - without even the formality of a leadership contest - and I doubt whether the media would swallow another Prime Minister taking over without a mandate. And the chances of Labour winning an election right now seem, on the face of it, to be mighty slim.
By law, Gordon isn't required to call an election until next June, and I think he's done the sums and realised that if he can hang on until then he might, just, squeak through. There are faint signs that the economy is, if not picking up, at least not deteriorating further. If things do pick up, Gordon could go to the country next year as the man who saved the economy. This eternal Night Of The Long Knives involving the expenses scandal would be over by then, too, and it would be fading in the public consciousness and Gordon could present himself as the Sheriff who cleaned up Parliament.
Hanging on, though, that's the tricky thing. The results from the local council elections are starting to come in, and so far they don't look pretty. But local council elections are not general elections, and unless there's a total meltdown it should be possible for the government to ride it out.
At the moment the media are parsing Gordon's Cabinet reshuffle. They all seem to be missing the fact that Gordon has been able to carry out a reshuffle, that he's been able to find MPs who're still willing to lash themselves to the mast beside him. Some, of course, will have an eye on future careers. If it's true that Alan Johnson - who is still being tipped by commentators as the next Labour leader - has accepted the post of Home Secretary left vacant by Jacqui Smith, he's in an ideal position to make a move if a leadership challenge goes ahead.
Still, there is a definite fin de siecle feeling here, the spectacle of the New Labour Project, which marched so confidently into Downing Street in 1997, dragging itself along by its fingertips, gravely wounded. It's been a hell of a ride.

edit - now it's being reported that Defence Secretary John Hutton is going to stand down as well.

edit - and Alan Sugar gets a peerage and takes on an `enterprise' role in the government. I wonder if Simon Cowell will be offered a post...
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