Thursday, September 07, 2006

Will Brown be the loser in the long-run?

The combination of work all day and meetings all evening meant I missed all of yesterday’s political excitement.

Andy when I did eventually land home, I was more interested in finding out the Scotland result against Lithuania, so the extended political coverage was just a nuisance.

For what it’s worth, though, here are my thoughts on New Labour’s internal wars.

I have always thought that Brown’s best chance of winning a fourth term would be a handover relatively late in this parliament – late enough to call a general election during the honeymoon period without appearing to cut and run.

This attempted putsch even if it hastens a Brown premiership in the short term will probably do him long-term damage. No doubt it increases the likelihood of a serious Blairite challenge in any leadership election and a legacy of ill-feeling even if Brown wins. There must be at least some danger that Brown will suffer Heseltine’s fate – the regicide doesn’t get to wear the crown.

Any honeymoon period is likely to be short, much shorter than, say, John Major’s after the Tories ditched Margaret Thatcher. Major had the advantages of being relatively unknown, of thus being able to distance himself a little from Thatcherite excesses and having a much more conciliatory style than his predecessor. Also, it wasn’t him who had wielded the knife.

Brown by contrast has been an architect of New Labour, the second most important figure in the government for nine years, at the heart of past and current conflict and has a more combative style than Blair. The novelty of a Brown premiership will soon wear off.

Even if the current putsch is successful, while it may hasten Brown’s occupancy of No 10, it will reduce his chances of uniting the party and winning the next election, so it will shorten the time he gets to stay there.

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