Labour MPs reprieve humble Brown – for now

June 9, 2009

Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meetings are usually drab affairs. The leader turns up, listens to a few grumbles from backbench MPs, a few reporters hang around outside hoping to grab a half-decent quote and in the end a Labour apparatchik puts a rose-tinted spin on proceedings.

Not so on Monday night, one of those rare “crunch time” events for a party leader that creates such a frenzy inside and outside the venue. Parliament’s committee room 14 was so full one MP of robust stature tried to force not one, but two doors in an attempt to get in, and ended up with a sore shoulder. Veteran party member Greville (now Lord) Janner, a member of the Magic Circle, gave up trying to get in and instead entertained reporters with a couple of magic tricks. His skills may have been of more use on the other side of the door.

Gordon Brown, we were led to believe, faced being sawn in half by his own party after a disastrous showing in local and European elections. However, as so often is the case, the reality did not live up to the hype and the prime minister slipped away via a trap door, but not before making a speech telling everyone how humble he was and how he promised to listen in future. This is a classic leader’s smoke and mirrors trick, show them you’re listening, come out with a few “reform” initiatives in the ensuing days and when the air has cleared go back to whatever it was you were doing that upset them in the first place.

Leaders are not unseated at PLP meetings, despite how many times you read that these events are a firing squad. In fact, Brown strolled down the long, dark committee corridor, beamed at reporters and threw them a cheery “hi guys”. His predecessor Tony Blair used to do the same thing ahead of a tricky PLP, the final time with his suit jacket casually thrown over one shoulder like a model from a menswear catalogue.

Brown knew what he had to do, and for now he has bought himself some time. He also knows that the odds of a full blown rebellion are slim. It’s easy to go on television and say “Gordon must go”, it’s another matter to get that anger and dissent distilled into something more potent and then pour it down the throat of a potential challenger. The point is not lost on Labour members. They know they are on the rack, but any change of leadership now will only hasten electoral defeat. The public won’t tolerate another unelected prime minister installed at Number 10 and nor should they. Brown may still be in one piece, but it will take more than magic tricks and humility to save him if he doesn’t make sure his party is in the same state fairly soon.


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Who in their right mind would want to lead the New Labour Party now?
What amazes me is the delusion that Gordon Brown having played a very large part in “managing” the economy in the mess it’s in now is somehow the best man to get us out of it. That must the the ultimate oxymoron.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

This was a narrow escape for Gordon Brown, damage has been done though and despite not losing his job he may be considered a political lame duck from now on.

Posted by Nikkei 225 | Report as abusive

This is such a well-written piece and so true. Brown is just going to have to get on with it for a while.

Posted by Lady M | Report as abusive

The Labour Party has run out of people who want to be Cabinet Ministers, let alone the PRIME Minister. The only interest of their MPs over the next 11 months is for each of them to keep their head down and hope that they will be one of the few who survive the election.

There will be efforts to embed one or two of NuLab’s special projects such as ratifying the Lisbon Treaty before they go and there’ll be a few spoiling tactics aimed at making life as difficult as possible for the incoming government, but essentially the UK no longer has a functioning government and will drift like a ship without a rudder until the middle of 2010.

The good news for those who still have money available to invest in the stock market is that there will be major rally in Spring 2010 in anticipation of Labour’s departure.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

I like a considerable number of people I’ve talked with are sick of the sycophantic comments “I back Gordon” blah, blah, blah. These Cabinet members are such a pathetic bunch, they are just a spine looking for a yellow streak. Brown professes “I’m not arrogant”, “I’m listening”. He’s certainly not listening to what the majority of the British people are saying, GET OUT.

Posted by malcolm | Report as abusive