UK Politics

‘Labour doomed with or without Brown’

A poll in The Times today sums up the pessimism many feel about Gordon Brown and Labour’s chance. Voters are the paper says increasingly writing off Labour as fewer people believe that a change of leader or policy would help the party to win the next general election.

A Populus poll for The Times, undertaken after defeat in Glasgow East, suggests that its slide in popularity is being driven by a collapse in economic confidence – Brown’s former crowning glory and his Achilles heel.

A ministerial plot is apparently even more likely now (Rachel Sylvester also in the Times writes about a “prosecco plot being hatched in Tuscan holiday villas), but while plots might be hatched in the sun the poll found that barely half the electorate (52 per cent) believe that it would improve the party’s fortunes.

The paper reports this is about the same as when the question was asked last in May, despite increased speculation about his future. There has also been a three-point rise, to 44 per cent, in the number saying that even replacing him with “a younger, fresher, more charismatic alternative” would not make Labour more likely to win.

Senior ministers led by deputy PM Harriet Harman continue to argue Brown is the best man for the job, but another Labour MP has come out and called for him to go. This time Gordon Prentice, Labour MP for Pendle. He put it that a “Prime Minister needs a different set of skills from a Chancellor of the Exchequer” and said Brown should “stand down” for the party.

The poll goes on to say that changes to health and education policies will do little to help as economic pessimism takes a grip.

It seems almost unthinkable that he will lumber on for almost two more years before a general election, but as we have already seen so much can happen in a year. Just ask Brown.

Wait and see, as prudence would no doubt advise, seems to be what Labour MPs and the rest of us calling for Brown’s head should be doing this summer.

UPDATE:  More in The Times, the paper has broken a story online saying that “loyal” Harriet and David Miliband are preparing the ground for a leadership election as early as September. Elsewhere it is a dream Milliband and Alan Johnson ticket. Details, it seems.

“A number of ministers are considering standing down in early Autumn, possibly refusing to serve in a Brown reshuffle, it was reported by The Times today. It is alleged that Ms Harman was spotted on Thursday night, watching the scale of Labour’s defeat in the Glasgow East by-election on the television, telling aides ‘this is my moment’. This comes despite public protestations of loyalty from Labour’s deputy leader, who is “minding the shop” in Downing Street this week while Mr Brown is on holiday.”

This is my moment? Two things: first, nobody speaks like that; and second, no it isn’t.