‘The leadership question has been settled’

Henry Venmore-Rowland, History, St John’s

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There are two ways of looking at this: either it was good for the country to have a last effort to eject Gordon Brown, or it was good for the Labour party to attempt to settle the leadership question once and for all.

I suspect that there will be little common ground between Labour and the Conservatives on the first point, but the point still has to be made. Almost any other Labour minister would be seen as an improvement on dear old Gordon, with the exception perhaps of Ed Balls. Peter Watt’s recent revelations prove that the man is petulant, isolated and insecure. A phenomenally bright man, I’ll admit, but the way that Mr Brown took credit for Britain’s boom in a global upturn, only to blame the economic mess on a global bust infuriates me. If he hadn’t been the Chancellor since 1997, he might still have some credibility, but the truth is that the number of people who trust this Government is dwindling. The country is crying out for a Conservative government. Cuts will be painful at first, but necessary. The frontiers of the state need to be rolled back, not only to reverse one of Labour’s legacies to us, the creation of an under-class dependent on benefits, but to encourage investment, control the wastefulness of the public sector, and to balance the books.

But from the Labour party’s point of view, Brown has been suffering attacks from the Blairite brigade for so long that a respite can only be a good thing. As minister after minister insisted in the wake of the Snowstorm, “I am getting on with my job”. It was unlikely that the plot was ever going to succeed anyway. I remember thinking that Gordon Brown would topple after James Purnell’s resignation last year, however it is well documented that Labour are particularly useless when it comes to infighting and plotting, as serial bottler David Miliband has proved.

While a new leader would probably give the party a brief bounce in the polls, the poor organisation of the plot means that the issue has now been laid to rest. Even Charles Clarke’s constituents are fed up with his endless attacks on the leadership. Barring some unexpected events, the Labour party must unite behind their beleaguered leader, and present plans to convince the markets that Britain plc can come through this recession and keep the all important AAA credit rating intact.

Gordon Brown has promised to serve a full term if re-elected. Let him fight his first general election, leaving the petty class war attacks out of the campaign, and let him see if the people want another Labour government.

‘A coup would have been impossible’

Christina Charemi, Law, Magdalen

Their expectations were unreasonable and their actions, irresponsible. Hewitt and Hoon may have secretly hoped that the party would want to abandon what looks like a sinking ship, but they were sorely disappointed. Worse than that, Labour may have plunged into greater difficulties, and they only have themselves to blame.

A coup would have been impossible; without a clear successor among several ambitious contenders, the quest to appoint someone new would have been slow and awkward, diverting Labour’s attention away from the upcoming elections. The new leader, whoever they may have been, would have had to undergo tremendous efforts to cover the distance between Labour and the Conservatives with nothing inherently new to set them apart from Brown’s (and Labour’s) heritage. Brown, by contrast, still appeals to some voters; for instance, his leading role in addressing the global financial crisis has been applauded by many. Despite general fatalism in the media, he has something to offer which partly explains why the difference between the two parties had dropped by almost half in the two months before the attempted “coup”.
But Hewitt and Hoon’s pretence of seeking to create a more determined and vocal wave of support in Brown’s favour was equally unlikely, and a childish excuse. The line-up behind Brown was the only possible response, although some statements of support were more “discreet” than others.

The whole stir has undoubtedly caused damage. The party has come across as disunited, disorganised and a bit dysfunctional. Despite the recent stall in Tory momentum, it seems that the attempted coup may help restore this autumn’s poll equilibrium, although time has shown that this is not irreversible. What is certain, however, is that the incident diverted media attention away from Brown’s respectable PMQs performance that same morning, and will linger in voters’ minds. This will at least strip Labour of any immediate opportunities to make a good impression on voters during the final sprint, and to build on the progress made during the last couple of months.

Elephants in living rooms are ignored for a reason. It would have been better for everyone – including Hewitt and Hoon – if some things were left unsaid. The party’s response mirrors this desire; but sadly what is done cannot be undone. At least, not for the time being.

See Jacob Turner, ex-Labour Club Co-Chair on Why the ‘coup’ was actually good for Labour. http://www.cherwell.org/content/9488