Friday 5 June 2009

Disagreement with integrity

The reshuffle has begun - which proves the Prime Minister can reconstruct his government, showing that the Purnell resignation has not yet proved terminal. Nick Robinson for the BBC reports that the Chancellor will now remain in post. Yvette Cooper is in line for a major promotion, if not quite as elevated one as that punted here on Wednesday.

A major part of the test for the Labour party this weekend is how Ministers and MPs conduct themselves, even while touring the television studios disagreeing deeply with their colleagues about the leadership of the party and the country.

Douglas Alexander has just given a calm and effective performance on the Today programme- "I don't deny that there are decisions that need to be taken" , as Alexander respectfully disagreed with James Purnell - "“James is a friend and I regret the decision he’s reached. I think James has made the wrong judgement” while describing Purnell's resignation as "conscienceful".

Alexander's interview had a similar tonality to Purnell's own resignation letter - " If the consensus is that you should continue, then I will support the government loyally from the backbenches. But I do believe that this question now needs to be put" - and was all the more effective for it.

It is a much better approach in this situation for the Prime Minister's supporters to acknowledge that Labour MPs can disagree about the leadership with integrity. A 'shock and awe' approach to dissidents could backfire badly.

Indeed, Alexander was partly responding to Barry Sheerman's complaint about his local party executive being put under pressure to rein him in.

Earlier, Paul Farrelly called for the Prime Minister to stand down, expressing his anger at being "outed" by Nick Brown as a plotter, which he denied, and arguing this was a continuation of the dark arts of Damian McBride.

Farrelly's argument appeared to be that he was not a plotter then, but had become one now - though by stating his view publicly rather than through private machinations.

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