Polly Toynbee visits a focus group in Enfield:
What of Tony Blair? His strength was that he was not Howard the horrible – but otherwise they heaped abuse on Blair for untrustworthiness. So how soon should he go? Curiously, despite this unanimous opprobrium, they all strongly thought an early departure – let alone a coup – would be deeply electorally improper: “What did we have an election for?” Most thought that he should stay for 18 months to two years. But he was finished all the same. All they wanted from him now was a smooth transition, working closely with Gordon Brown until a decent handover day.
Well, exactly. Blair made it clear before the vote that he would not lead Labour into the next election – a position which places on him and those hoping to replace him the responsibility for organising a smooth transition to a new leadership. My feeling is that the bulk of Labour Party members and voters want just that. Those of us with no personal career stake in the outcome of a leadership election simply want the party to keep itself together during that process. Just as in broader politics, inside the Labour Party you need a coalition of support. Gordon Brown seems to have that coalition at the moment while the Campaign Group showed an incredible lack of political nous by thinking they could go for the kill straight away.
The arrogance of those who wanted to go for a swift decapitation, getting the result they wanted from the election whilst ignoring the verdict of the voters has left them looking rather silly. Judging by another report in the Guardian it seems they realise this ahead of todays PLP meeting:
Campaign Group MPs have warned they will walk out of the meeting if they are heckled or bullied by loyalists for criticising Mr Blair’s leadership.
Of course, if they do come in for a bit of teasing it won’t be because they criticised Blair’s leadership but actually tried to end it within hours of him winning an election.
Meanwhile, let’s focus on the domestic agenda eh?