Monday, 8 June 2009

The lost plot

So it's over. Tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting seems to have put the lid on the coup that never quite was against Gordon Brown.

Crucial meetings of the PLP - like crucial leader's speeches at the party conference - are tests that leaders are likely to pass. The media briefing operation was well drilled too. But the political impact is real.

There is little or no prospect of the 'plotmail' letter surfacing with fifty signatures.

The crucial comment after the meeting was that of Barry Sheerman, who was pushing for a secret PLP ballot today, but who said after the meeting that he would 'stand down' his criticisms:

[Brown] said he was willing to change, he was wiling to listen more to the parliamentary party...if that is true yes we will stand down the criticisms that we have made publicly in the last week".

It is the role of senior non-usual suspects like Sheerman and Nick Raynsford who best serve as proxies for the mass of backbench opinion, rather more than the better known critics of the Prime Minister.

According to the PoliticsHome tally, Around a dozen MPs have gone public in calling for Brown to go this week.

Charles Clarke and Fiona MacTaggart called for the PM to stand down as leader, having done so last summer as, for the first time, did Tom Harris who has blogged his intervention. The Guardian's indefatigable Andrew Sparrow, who seems to have live-blogged the entire week of shuffles, counts and coups has pieced together the post-PLP meeting comments.

Stephen Byers continued the argument debating Ben Bradshaw at the Progress meeting afterwards, Alex
Smith, LabourList editor, offers a twitter report.

The tone of Harris' intervention - "I’ve done some media this evening but after today, that’s it" - and the (reported) decisions of James Purnell and Hazel Blears not to make resignation statements suggest that some MPs feel they should honestly put their own views on the record, without necessarily having the appetite to fight a guerrilla war if their colleagues are unpersuaded.

In reality, the danger to Gordon Brown peaked between 10pm and midnight on Thursday - as the Cabinet made their decision to back him. At that point, Next Left was swimming against the tide of expert opinion in explaning why it wasn't all over, but it was difficult to see what the backbenches could do other than by persuading the Cabinet to act.

This is not the last we will hear of the 'will Brown go' question. But, after two failed coup plots already, I am suspicious of the idea that there will be an extensive appetite - in Parliament, as opposed to the media - for a third round in the Autumn.


Captain Fun said...

Do you really and honestly believe this, or are you trying to talk yourself into it ?

I'd love it to be true, but it won't be, we all know deep down that it won't be

What was it Margaret Thatcher said ? I fight on, I fight to win ! She was backseat driving not long afterwards

Charlie Marks said...

Sunder - my guess is that the coup was ended by the fact that the plotters are Blairites. Last thing Labour needs is a continuation of the anti-worker pro-capitalist policies...

Captain Fun - Ah, but the Tories at that time were still in a strong position. Labour is losing support of the capitalists who see a better deal in Cameron.

Sunder Katwala said...

Captain Fun

Sorry, I am not sure I understand what your point is. As I reported on Thursday night, most media commentators were saying "this is all over now. The belief of most was that Brown will be out within the week, or two, and a leadership contest begun to replace him.

I am reporting that this threat has gone. I don't think that is contested. As far as I can tell, there is now nobody who believes that there will be any move among MPs to deselect him in the next month.

What remains from the "plot" is - as I suggest at the end - among his fiercest critics the return to the idea (as after last Autumn) that he is "on probation". This could lead to another round of speculation in the Autumn. It is debatable whether that will engage many people, though perhaps it could.

I wasn't saying it is now 100% certain that Brown will be there at the election, but it is the case that "the coup" is off. I presume you disagree about what might happen in 3-6 months time; rather than disagreeing about "the coup" being off?