Friday, November 03, 2006

Brown coronation: what's changed, exactly?

The BBC doesn't normally do speculative leadership stories, being content to leave that sort of thing to the written press, so Political Editor Nick Robinson's report of yesterday to the effect that Gordon Brown now looks unlikely to face a Cabinet challenger for the Labour leadership was bound to make people sit up and take notice.

Helpfully, Nick has reproduced the essence of his report on his blog today, in a piece entitled The Future's Brown.

I can't fault his analysis. But where I would slightly differ from Nick is in his assumption that there has really been any great change in the position relating to the leadership since the end of the Labour Conference five weeks ago.

There hasn't, in my view. What has changed is the media's perception of it.

Here's what I wrote at the time. "Mr Brown has largely repaired the damage done as a result of the abortive "coup" against Mr Blair three weeks ago, though he remains on probation for good behaviour....if he continues to behave himself over the next eight months, he might, just might yet get that endorsement from Mr Blair which would kill off all potential serious challenges."

Contrast this, for instance, with the view of the Daily Mail's Ben Brogan who wrote: "The truce is tosh. Tony Blair and his closest supporters are running a stealth campaign to get doubts about the Chancellor's personality and character up in lights. John Reid is emerging as the "Stop Gordon" candidate with the blessing of Number 10."

Both are perfectly respectable points of view, but where I think some commentators went wrong was, firstly, in failing to read the signal in Mr Blair's speech when he said he wanted to "heal," and secondly, by misinterpreting Dr Reid's speech on the closing day as a leadership bid.

As I said on this blog at the time, that was only one of several interpretations, and that Reid's phrase "I intend to play my full part" could be translated merely as a statement of his intention to remain in a senior role under Brown.

My conclusion, then, is that the song remains the same. Gordon has the conditional backing of everyone that really matters. But they still reserve the right to challenge him if it all goes wrong.

The polls, as ever, are the key. If they start to show that Gordon can't beat Cameron but that Reid, Alan Johnson or even David Miliband could, then much of what has been said or written thus far could count for little.

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skipper said...

I note Michael White replicates the Robinson line today. I'm sure you'ree right that Gordon is now home and dry subject to, as ever, polls and events...

snowflake5 said...

Good post. You are right the speculation about a Gordon challenger has come from Tory writers, and is usually based on wishful thinking rather than fact.

Have you seen Matthew Parris's piece in The Times today? It looks like he's feeling a bit desperate at the prospect of Brown's succession. It's worth remembering that it was Parris who started the whole Alan Johnson craze with a piece earlier in the year, where he asserted that it was near certain that Johnson would be the next Labour leader!!

john said...

Certainly the Tories will be delighted that a natural vote loser like Brown gets a coronation.

Will help give the WLQ more momentum and expose Brown for his total lack of leadership,presntational skills not to mention zero charisma.

A real turn off for middle England who will no doubt want to reward him for the apartheid system that he has set up in secondary education.

james higham said...

Yes, Brown is a Tory masterstroke. They'll stroll into government. I mean - look at him. Would you vote for such a man?