Friday, October 05, 2007

....and could Brown survive the loss of his majority?

If the general election is finally called next week - and a growing number of pundits now think it won't be - there seem to me to be three plausible scenarios as to the possible outcome, as follows:

(i) Labour manages to hang on to its existing majority, there or thereabouts. I am as convinced as I can be that they will not increase it significantly, for the simple reason that David Cameron is not Michael Howard.

(ii) Labour loses between 15-25 seats and the Brown premiership descends into a John Major-type situation, constantly at the mercy of a few rebels while the momentum is with the opposition.

(iii) Labour loses its overall majority altogether while remaining the largest single party in a hung Parliament. Though this is the least likely outcome of the three, it remains a distinct possibility.

So following on from the previous post, which looked at Dave Cameron's chances of surviving a Tory defeat, what would happen to Gordon if scenario (iii) were actually to come to pass?

Well, he'd have to go, wouldn't he. Apart from anything else, he would look a complete and utter plonker for having squandered a majority of 66 with two and a half years of the Parliament left to go. His judgement and reputation as a supreme political strategist would be shot to pieces - for ever.

A hung Parliament with Labour as the largest party would almost certainly mean a coalition with the Lib Dems - but even if Sir Menzies Campbell was content to serve under his old pal Gordon, his MPs would not let him.

No, the price of such a coalition would be that Gordon would have to fall on his sword, with a new government formed under a caretaker Prime Minister while the Labour Party chose its new leader - who might of course turn out to be the careteaker leader himself.

So who would it be? Well, this is where the speculation about a Year of three Prime Ministers gets really interesting.

People have lazily assumed that if we are to have a third premier this year, it will be David Cameron, but given our skewed electoral system this is highly unlikely - which is why whatever he may say in public, Dave is still desperate for Gordon to back out.

No, if there is to be a third Prime Minister of 2007, it will be someone else entirely - probably a senior Cabinet minister who will be tasked with leading Labour and the coalition through the choppy waters that would follow Brown's inevitable demise.

Step forward, Mr Jack Straw.

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Anonymous said...

Step forward, Mr Jack Straw.

This has got to be one of the most terrifying blog posts I have ever read.

skipper said...

Fascinating speculation Paul, but I feel sure Gordon will muster the courage not to do what everyone has assumed he will do. Given your scenarios, Straw would make a believable caretaker I agree; it wouldn't be good for Miliband so soon but our lady Home Secretary might do a turn.

The Half-Blood Welshman said...

Your third point was that a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition would be a racing certainty in a hung parliament.

Except...the Liberal Democrats seem all set to lose about 50/60 seats in an immediate election. Unless it was a very close hung parliament, they would be unable to help Brown, and any thought of his dealing with such a devastated force would give his aides nightmares. Imagine how it would go down in their country; "They lost 90% of their seats and entered government thanks to Labour..." If Labour just lose their overall majority, might they not go for a minority government on the basis of SNP abstentions on crucial English only votes?

But I personally don't think Brown will go for it. I may well look a total idiot on Tuesday, but he's never done a brave or adventurous thing in his life before, and it seems unlikely that he'll start now. More likely in my view is that he will wait until 2009/2010 - like John Major or Neville Chamberlain (who intended to have an election in late 1939).

On your point about a caretaker leader - Straw simply doesn't cut the mustard as a leader, and to everyone bar Labour voters, Jacqui Smith came across as totally lost, machine-like and generally way out of her depth during the near-attacks crisis. Step forward Hilary Benn perhaps? I'd think about voting for him, but not for any other member of the current cabinet.