It looks like the latest (and very probably last) attempt by factions within the Labour Party to remove Gordon Brown has already run its course, with all the major figures in the Cabinet lining up to offer their public support to the Prime Minister. It doesn’t really matter how weasel their words are, or whether they are doing so because they feel they ought to rather than because they want to, Brown will survive. Again.
It’s difficult to work out what thought processes, if any, were whirring away in the otherwise empty heads of Geoff Hoon (a former Chief Whip) and Patricia Hewitt when they drafted the email to backbenchers which has caused all the fuss. Labour has had a (relatively) good start to the year: the opinion polls have showed the Tory lead narrowing, David Cameron has been having a fit of the wobbles over tax and Brown put in a dominant performance at PMQs just minutes before the story broke. Why then did Hewitt and Hoon make a move that has served only to take the heat off Cameron and snuff out Labour’s recovery before it had even warmed up?
Yet again rolling news made more of the story than was warranted. Sky (with its seemingly indelible ‘Breaking News’ banner) and the BBC have valiantly done their best to give the story legs all day, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the press will have another stab at blowing it out of all proportion tomorrow, but it really does look as though this coup is going to go the way of all the others and that Gordon will limp on to probable defeat in March/May/June. I can’t help but think that there wouldn’t be such a feeding frenzy if, say, Douglas Hogg and Stephen Dorrell (or any other obscure pair of former Cabinet ministers) had sent an email around Tory backbenchers calling for David Cameron to face a leadership contest, but I suppose I should be quite used to the media running with the Conservative news agenda at every opportunity.
The only winners from this are the Tories, who once again manage to give the slip to one of those rare moments when their policies were actually being scrutinised. And the sad thing is, if the Tories are the winners there are going to be vast numbers of people who will be the losers. There are many areas where Labour has failed over the last twelve and a half years (tackling inequality, protecting civil liberties, meaningful constitutional reform, avoiding illegal wars, to name but a few) but it has to be remembered that on all of those issues a Conservative government would be inestimably worse. As someone who isn’t a Labour supporter, perhaps I shouldn’t intrude into the private grief of others but – if today’s events are indeed the pre-cursor for a comfortable Tory victory at the General Election – the Labour Party will have a good place to start when the inevitable inquest gets under way.