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Now for the Labour implosion

For the leader of the Labour Party and our Prime Minister things are terminally frightful, but they are now looking just as bad for the Labour Party as a whole. I have been pondering the consequences of the latest Labour electoral reverse by reading the Coffee House blog, which is now my favourite political (as in who’s-in-who’s-out) blog, as opposed to the metacontext stuff that we do here. Several points stand out:

For the benefit of those who have not been following this, Labour have just lost their twenty fifth safest seat in a by-election, to the Scottish Nationalists this time. If they can’t hold seats like this, what can they hold? Gordon Brown is clearly electoral death, even in Scotland, maybe particularly in Scotland. For as long as this appalling man leads their party, no Labour MP can feel safe. So, you would think, all they need to do now is get on the phone to each other and decide on an alternative.

But, the trouble is that, closely related to the above, the semi-plausible Labour Party leader, among the half-dozen or so semi-plausible choices, with a majority that is most likely to survive the next general election is … Gordon Brown! Pick any of the others, and what remains of Labour could go into the next Parliament with a leader who has just lost his seat.

Even if they do pick another Prime Minister, he or she will be a new Prime Minister. This is not like the chaotic Conservatives of the nineties and noughts picking yet another new Opposition Leader. This will be a rabble of discredited politicians choosing another national political leader, having just themselves picked the previous dud. That uncontested succession is looking like more and more of a blunder, and what is more a blunder by the Labour Party as a whole, not by the mere Prime Minister. And as the travails of the present incumbent incompetent illustrate so well, you never really know how well or how badly some new guy will do. Even cabinet ministers don’t get anything like the kind of sustained media glare shone on them that Prime Ministers do. A new guy will be a leap into the unknown. If he’s no better than Gordon Brown …

The governing parliamentary party is now a complete shambles, and worse, a complete shambles which seems to have no obvious way of rescuing itself, which is what the word complete always means in such circumstances. David Cameron is now saying: let’s have an election now. The country can’t wait until 2010. I think Cameron’s timing is spot on. Earlier I here speculated about the already then widely touted idea of scorched earth, between now and the next election, the scorchers being Gordon Brown and his Labour Party, and Britain being the scorchee. Now it looks like the Labour Party is about to get a terminal roasting right now. Maybe others can see some kind of way out for these people now, but I can’t. What now looks like happening is that the government will implode, as the saying goes. Just what that will involve, who can say? It might even get interesting in the House of Commons. There might even be a vote of no confidence in the government that the government will lose, or perhaps win too badly to carry on. Certainly, a Geoffrey Howe moment looks like coming soon, when a Labour heavyweight gets up, very publicly, and says, Prime Minister, it’s over, as Howe did in the House of Commons to Thatcher. But such a speech is just as likely to be an impulsive moment of personal rage as part of any thought-through plan about what the hell to do next. Because the thing is, no matter how bad things get for Labour, the circumstances are such that they could then get even worse. Even diehard socialists of the sort who built the Labour Party in the first place only voted for it because it looked like it could become a plausible parliamentary instrument to do the things they wanted. If Labour stops being even that, will anyone want to go on voting for it?

Fellow Samizdatista Michael Jennings says that after about a decade of Conservative rule, over a very difficult clutch of circumstances, Labour will be back. I agree that something will be back, but will it be Labour? Forget voting Labour. Will anyone even want to stand for it? I expect Guido Fawkes to be listening out for stories concerning seemingly heavyweight Labourites grabbing that Job in The City while the going is still good, and abandoning all hope of any political future. Worse, that New Generation that political pundits will be confidently expecting, in the manner of Cameron and his young pals, may simply fail to materialise, of anything like adequate quality. Don’t forget, by the way, just as an aside, that the Labour Party is now pretty much bankrupt.

The underlying story here is the economy, not the Labour Party economy, the national economy. Which is also unravelling horribly, and which can surely only get worse in the next year or two. It has become clear to me that I am angry about this “New” Labour Party because, although I never supported it and never voted for it, I did actually believe them when they said that they wouldn’t completely screw up on the tax-and-spend front. I actually feel personally betrayed! Blair, I thought, got it, about spending only what you can get from tax and that you can only get so much tax. Well, maybe he did, but he handed the country over to a stupid grump who quite clearly did not and does not get it. The stupid grump only pretended to, and now he’s stopped even pretending. It’s almost as if Blair wanted the Labour Party to implode, “apres moi”. He made the one promise that he must have known that a Brown-lead Labour Party would not then keep, and left them to destroy themselves, with a great big grin on his face. I hope that this Labour melt-down causes some retro-analysis of Tony Blair and of his alleged competence, as both a Party leader and a national leader. It’s not just Iraq, not just civil liberties, not just the relentless crumbling and dumbing down of the public sector. It’s the economy, stupid. Blair let it happen. The only thing he knew how to do well was to keep on being Prime Minister, until such time as he was unable even to do that.

Will things now calm down for Labour? Am I becoming overwrought, again? Maybe. Will Brown, or someone, steady the ship, hold the horses, steady the buffs (whoever they may be)? Perhaps. But they’ve been saying that for the last six months and more, and yet things keep getting worse. And they are now getting much worse much faster.

Interesting times.

30 comments to Now for the Labour implosion

  • Tanuki

    Brown really has blown it.

    I heard someone opining on the BBC (of all places) this morning that if there was an election today, Labour would be down to about 100 seats. That would cast them well back into the wilderness for a decade or so – they would probably respond by veering leftwards as a result.

    “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money” –-Margaret Thatcher.

  • Trying to be a good libertarian

    Extremely perceptive piece. The only benefit of an election of a 2010 election as far as I can see is that the longer GB waits, the more thorough the kicking that the electorate will give to Labour.

    The “Buffs”, BTW, were an old Kent regiment raised in the 16th century, which still existed as late as the World Wars. There was a memorial to their fallen in my local parish church near Faversham. “Steady the Buffs” is an exhortation (of possibly apocryphal derivation) to stiffen the sinews, straighten your bat, and generally take it like a man.

  • Sam Duncan

    Well, I called it wrong. Can’t say I’m terribly unhappy about it, though. I never thought I’d be pleased to see a “Nationalist” win. Of course, that’s the trouble – and the reason so many diehard socialists felt they could vote for him – right there: the SNP isn’t a nationalist party, it’s just another bunch of social democrat EU fans, able to hint, in fact, that they’re the “real” socialists when it suits them.

    Ho hum. Fun and games at Westminster, but business as usual at the Numptorium, then.

  • As for Brown, there isn’t enough time for a replacement to restore credibility before the next election, so Labour should probably wait until after they’ve been hammered, elect a new leader in oppostion and spend 4/5 years gaining credibility whilst hoping the economy fails to revive under the Tories.

    Harry’s Place comment from Greg.

    That is within a mm of advocating scorched earth.

    If that happens I hope Labour will in the future be about as popular as the British Union of Fascists.

    It’s a horrible thing to say but if Brown was boweled in Trafalgar Square I’d pay to watch. Sixty million people depend on him not fucking-up and he has fucked-up royally and he will not go graciously.

    He has spent most of my adult life as someone I disagree with (fair play and all that) but he has also spent most of that time claiming to be competent and he clearly isn’t. A politician who claims competence and demonstrably isn’t yet is not prepared to call it a day when he is utterly pwned is someone for whom lamp-posts and hemp rope were invented.

    But it isn’t just competence. Is it? It is also Brown’s epic arrogance. I always objected to the NeuArbeit program but it isn’t just wrong in conception, it has been botched in execution and I will be a grizzled old git before the damage is fixed, if it ever is.

    Brown is going down with the ship of state and, dear readers, I urge you to keep your ankles clear because he’s gonna grab at ’em.

    He is that amoral. He is obviously the greatest PM we have ever had and that he’s made a complete arse of it and that we have realised that means he wants us to know it is our faults, not his, not his parties’ our even the last eleven years.

    He has only said one thing which was right. He is Heathcliff and quite simply if he can’t get Cathy then no one can.

    I have, on occasion, been as petty in my romantic entanglements. I have always felt bad later because while I am human I am also moral. But the idea of fucking sixty million people over for my own vanity was not one I even entertained.

    And that is why I am a member of your esteemed commentariat and not Her Maj’s First Lord of the Treasury.

    It is also why if Mr Brown has the vaguest shred of dignity he ought to go now. Not because it will help the Labour Party but because he just ought to. If he has any dignity. Or morality. Or even cares about the country he has sought to serve for so long.

  • Ian B

    I’m just wondering if the Nats are going to be able to go ahead for full independence; if that’s where they really want to head they’ll have to get their political intuition about when to do it exactly right. But it may happen. If so, Labour, the party of scottish methodists, is truly dead.

    If that happens, the remainder of Britain is permanently conservative and a new credible opposition will be needed. Can we hope then for a new dispensation, in which the debate is no longer between socialism and conservatism, but about how libertarian our conservatism can be? And does that make Cameroon well and truly the answer to the wrong question?

    I am so pleased about this result by the way. Chuffed.

  • Ian B,
    I threw a Coke can over the fucking house when I heard.

  • Ian B

    Nick, I had a small glass of sherry and, throwing caution to the wind, a chocolate biscuit too!

    Regarding Broon and Labour, I hate to be too optimistic but they seem to be entirely fucked. They can’t realistically impose another PM on us and expect to get away with it, can they? And then, who would want to inherit the faded purple from Broon? It’s almost certain to be a poisoned chalice- you get to be the man who takes the flying shit for two years then leads Labour to an ignominous savaging in the polls. Only an unimaginably arrogant, stupid buffoon, puffed up on pure conceit, completely divorced from reality, would do it.

    It’s going to be Ed Woodballs, isn’t it?

  • RAB

    Well your house must be a little shorter than mine Nick.
    I’m not strong enough for that.

    I had a large whiskey and a deep fried Mars Bar!

    Well when in Glasgow East……

  • Any of you seen Ed “should be hung by the” Balls website. He is the most deeply sinister cunt I have ever seen and I once got genital warts from a French bird.

    He is though the kinda hubristic fucker to give it a go mind.

    RAB. I hope, if you were in Glasgow, it was a Whisky you had.

    Ian. Optimistic. You are on past record positively believing things can indeed only get better..

    That Monocular Jock Cunt is so over.

  • RAB

    Nick, I was trying to remember what my namesake

    C Nesbitt used to drink in the series
    Something brewed by monks, and very very cheap.
    But I couldn’t remember the name of so…

    Yup this is the Titanic of the Red Funnel line.

    Labour may go down with all hands.

  • Kevin B

    Of course, what’s supposed to happen in cases like this is that the evil pretender gets locked in the tower, (or in this case spends more time with his family), and the true prince returns from over the water to reclaim his crown.

    Bonny Prince Tone anyone?

    I reckon they’re desparate enough to try it.

  • Tanuki

    RAB@7:08: Something brewed by monks, and very very cheap.

    Buckfast Tonic Wine. Or ‘Buckie’ as Gorbals Mick and his chums would call it.

  • RAB

    Yep that’s the stuff!

    Thanks Tanuki.

    There is an upside
    it dry cleans your clothes
    if you spill it

  • Maybe our Princess Barry will kiss Gordon the Frog and make everything better ?

    In any case, when it gets a bit cooler here in NY, I’m going to have a celebratory scotch.


  • Undead Labour has a choice of the Adams family,any one of which will scupper Labour for a generation. Bunter Balls,Gollum Milliband,Rosa Krebs Harman,Irma Bunt Smith,the prospect of any of this bunch of house haunters being PM is wonderful.

  • Ronnie

    Its funny. The big things like Iraq, Trident and the economy are definitely the major factors but the seemingly small things have a growing impact the longer a government stays in power.

    Things like the man in Wales who was given an on-the-spot fine of 30 quid when he was caught having a fag in his own van. Or the deal the government has done with ISPs in the UK to monitor and then punish customers who download music ‘illegally’.

    These two things only happened during this week. There were more last week and there will be more next week. Things like sensors on bins, health warnings on beer bottles etc, etc, etc…

    As time passes governments seem to go to war with their people, start attcking single mums and disabled people, and then can’t understand why everyone hates them. Then, they announce that they will ‘listen’ and then don’t. Then they become the party that everyone holds crosses up to and laughs at for the next 10 or 15 years.

    I think its time for us to have fixed term parliaments – 4 years; and a two-term limit on Prime Ministers. We have to stop this cycle of collapse and madness soon.

    I also think that politicians should go back to having real jobs either before they can be elected or while they are MPs.

    It sounds regressive but the current group of ‘younger’ MPs, now becoming leadership contenders have mostly been full-time political activists all their lives. Not only have they never been in touch with the lives of the masses but they share a dangerous political tribal psychosis with their colleagues. Watch them on telly, no wonder Paxo starts shouting at them.

    Maybe they should do community service during their long holidays…

  • Ronnie, that stuff is not small.

    My wife smokes. Her driving instructor smoked. He was a good lad. She passed her test But even though smoking is legal and he owned the car he couldn’t smoke in it, ever. I mean at the end of the day he took the L plates off and went to Tesco or whatever because it was his wheels as well as his means of business.

    he couldn’t smoke it ever because it was his place of business and there is an absolute ban on smoking in places of business. As a driving instructor he was frequently taking folk to the test centre. Now guess what? Not only did they test the candidates driving. If they smelled even stale smoke from a day or so back in the car he was fined.

    He couldn’t even have a fag in his own set of wheels when off duty and on his own time.

    That is not small. I visited the civil-rights museum in Atlanta, Georgia. I was staggered not by the Klan or the lynchings (I knew of those horrors already) but the voluminous petty-minded horror of US apartheid laws and the fact that so much of it was aimed squarely at whites. It made sense in retrospect. They’d already kicked the blacks into submission and were terrified that the whites, those with the potential to express an opinion, would kick-off.

    Real repression is so often in the details and the “little” things. If not it’s too bloody obvious for folks to wear it.

    Other than that, Ronnie, sound words.

  • the evil pretender gets locked in the tower, (or in this case spends more time with his family)


    I share your excitement guys. When you all done drinking stuff, can someone please explain why is it that Scotland is so much more leftist than the rest of Britain?

  • Alice

    There definitely is too much mirth going on here!

    Remember that old Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson (he even got a mention on the Beatles “Taxman”):

    A week is a long time in politics.

    The sad thing is that, even after Labour has failed the people of Glasgow East for (literally) generations, Labour can still come very close to squeeking out a victory.

    The sadder thing is that the Cameroonians are so happy to come in third. What was that about the soft bigotry of low expectations?

    Why not just go straight to the end-game? — let the EU Commissioners appoint the British Leader directly. No need for a referendum on that.

  • RAB

    Good old smite control then
    again Nick?
    I see from subsequent comments that you have
    developed patience
    with Perrys botty cough machine!

    I agreed with every word of that!

    Not just Gurning Gordon
    is fucked.

    But honour is but a thing from childhood
    for these folk isn’t it?

    Gordon’s dad knew how to spell it
    but the son of the Manse
    Not he!

  • Alisa,
    This might be out of date. It’s from a while back.

    UK GDP per capita:
    1. England
    2. Wales
    3. Scotland
    4. Northern Ireland

    Government spending per capita:
    1. Northern Ireland (not including military/police)
    2. Scotland
    3. Wales
    4. England

    And turkeys don’t usually vote for Christmas.

  • Heh. Quite illuminating – thanks Nick.

    Still, I am interested in the historical reasons – I guess Paul would be the person to ask?

  • Laird

    Ronnie, a thought on your call for fixed-term Parliaments: Here in the US we have fixed-term Congresses (and Presidencies, of course). The unfortunate result is the “perpetual campaign,” which begins the day after the election and becomes positively feverish for the 90 days between Labor Day and Election Day. One of the advantages of the UK’s current system is that hard-core campaigning is limited to the six weeks or so after elections are called. (At least, that’s the way it appears from this side of the pond.) You should be grateful for small favors.

    I agree with you on term limits, though. We desperately need them here, too, but it’s not going to happen until the Revolution.

  • Sam Duncan

    Ian B: Actually, Labour was the party of Scottish Roman Catholics (or more specifically, 19th-Century Irish immigrants to the west and their descendants). Much of the “tribal” voting and reluctance to consider voting for another party has historically been due to Catholics “voting the way the priest told them to”. By relying on this, Labour has been sitting on a time bomb in the west of Scotland. It’s clear that the fear of the Church no longer holds as true as it once did, and even where it does, the party’s recent difficulties with it (several local Catholic clergymen have been critical of the government recently) carry a great deal more significance here than elsewhere.

    The corollary of which is that protestants – Rangers fans, since the Church doesn’t have a lot to do with it any more – tend to be Unionists, which might go to explain why Labour still so nearly won.

    Living here, its so easy to take that aspect for granted (and to assume that it can’t possibly matter in this day and age) that I didn’t really consider it in my original post.

    As for the SNP itself, if the referendum were held today, the “No” vote would be crushing, I have no doubt about that, despite the party’s successes. The plan, apparently, is to hold it after a Tory General Election victory, emphasizing the imagined “Tory England/Socialist Scotland” aspect. However, as far as I can see, Salmond’s efforts to sow dissent between Holyrood and Westminster so far haven’t done nearly as much for him as he might have hoped. Support for “independence” remains much as it was a year ago. The Union is stronger than it has appeared of late. (I hear louder calls for its demise from England than at home; and these people would do well to remember that the figures they quote are averaged across four areas of vastly different population size. The north-eastern counties of England receive more from, and contribute less to the Exchequer than Scotland does on average, and there are parts of Scotland that are comparable to the Home Counties. That’s not to say the West Lothian Question doesn’t need answered, but it’s no reason to destroy our country.)

    A Tory government may help (no doubt the Nats have fond memories of the last one), but – much as I hate his Conservatism-lite – I think Cameron may be playing rather a canny game on this front. It may not be enough to help the Scottish party’s chances before the next election (although I suspect it might count coming even a – very – distant third in Glasgow East something of a success; they were fourth in 2005 behind the LibDems, and in my own constituency, containing part of the leafy West End, they’ve been known to finish behind Tommy Sheridan’s Socialists with fewer votes than they got on Thursday), but I have a feeling Alec may have a harder time than he thinks.

  • Ian B

    Sam, Labour and Methodism…

    As to the referendum, it’s down to what referendum you hold, really. Since the issue affects the whole UK, it wouldn’t be acceptable to just have a referendum in Scotland. Neither would it be fair to have the rest of the UK hold Scotland in the union against its will. So the Scots should have a referendum on whether they want to leave, while the rest of the UK should have a referendum on whether we want them out, and if either says yes, off goes Scotland, cheerio, don’t slam the door on your way out, kind of thing.

    With a high probability of the English kicking Scotland out, the Scots would be more likely to vote to go rather than be humiliatingly shown the door anyway, and the resultant unanimity either side of the border would seal the fate of the Scottish raj in Westminster. We could ensure the Yes vote in England just by running posters with Gordon Brown’s face on them and “Never Again” in bold letters.


  • Sam Duncan

    I’m well aware of Labour’s links with Methodism, but Methodism was never a strong force in the West of Scotland. I can think of two Methodist churches in the north west of Glasgow, but within ten minutes walk of here there are still at least half a dozen congregations of the Church of Scotland and its various presbyterian offshoots (fifty years ago, it would have been more like three times that), three Roman Catholic “chapels” as they’re known here, and two Episcopal. (And even that gives a rather false picture: Roman Catholicism is – just – the largest Christian denomination in the city.) Things may be different Fife, where Brown hails from, but Labour has always been closely associated with the church of Rome in its Scottish heartlands of Glasgow and Lanarkshire; this is as unsurprising here as Hattersley’s talk of Methodism in the North of England.

    (Conversely, it’s quite not true to say as it once was in England, that the established church was “the Tory party at prayer” – the church always contained many differing views – but Conservative associations were always full of Church of Scotland people.)

    And it’s also the case that the two have fallen out of late. While – as I say – it may be hard to believe in this day and age, I’m quite sure this has something to do with Glaswegians’ new-found willingness to vote against the party. It’s not the whole story; of course the link must be weakening anyway, with the fear of Hell losing its sting somewhat, and the same factors are at play as in the rest of the country, but it can’t be dismissed by pointing out that Labour is the party of Northern English Methodism. Not here it ain’t.

  • Hugo

    If there was a vote of no confidence, the government would not lose it. It’s in the interests of Labour MPs for the general election to be as late as possible. After all, if they’re going to lose it, might as well keep getting paid for as long as possible.

    The only way we’ll get an election is if Brown chooses. And why would he? Things can hardly get worse for him. Slim chance they might get better. Who knows?

    I welcome the SNP’s win. Bring on Scottish independence. More tax competition, and indeed policy competition, can’t be bad.

  • The Gillie

    Sam Duncan: As for the SNP itself, if the referendum were held today, the “No” vote would be crushing

    The poster above doesn’t seem to have much of an understanding of politics.
    The reason Nulab, The Tories and the Lib dems are blocking a referendum, is because the result even at this point is too close to call. Remember how the unionist parties said no to new powers for the parliament and within 48 hours of salmond releasing his white paper on independence they were tripping over each other to set up a dodgy commission on new powers.
    I must admit though, i do like the word “crushing”- very dramatic but utter bullshit.
    Try thinking for yourself tumshy heid.

  • Tom

    I did actually believe them when they said that they wouldn’t completely screw up on the tax-and-spend front. I actually feel personally betrayed!

    To slightly paraphrase Animal House, you can’t spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes! You f**ked up – you trusted them!

  • toad

    The really bad thing is that politicians, pundits, and a lot of businessmen still don’t realize how bad things are globally. Nearly everyone seems to have binging on borrowed money. It is starting to sink in here and there. Some Republicans have stated that no matter how much Obama tries to blame previous administrations it is going to go on long enough that he will end up “owning it.” The best thing labor could have done for it self was to have called for an election last year and lost it. Now it is too, too, late. I’m afraid in 2010 I’ll be drinking home brew.