James Forsyth

Can Brown make it through December?

Can Brown make it through December?
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The question of Gordon Brown’s leadership won’t go away, but there’s a feeling that nothing will happen for a while yet. Andrew Grice writes in The Independent today that the coup might come in December:

“Labour's hard left and the trade unions are the dogs that have not barked. The assumption is that they stick with him for fear of something worse, and calculate that their best hope would be to exploit a backlash against New Labour after an election defeat.

I am told that their mood is now changing. Some left-wing MPs and union bosses are coming round to the view that they would have an overriding duty to avoid a massacre that could keep the party out of power for a generation."If nothing has changed by December, we would have nothing to lose," said one prominent left-winger.”

This chimes with what I heard a few days ago from a union fixer. Certainly, the interventions from Jon Cruddas and Derek Simpson this week suggest that the mood on the left is hardening against Brown. But the questions as always when it comes to whether Brown can be ousted are what’s the mechanism and is there a candidate. The left might come to realise that it missed its best chance to get rid of Brown when it decided to wait rather than join in the June coup.

My understanding is that the current strategic dilemma for the ring leaders of the June insurrection is how and what to brief to show that they still have the stomach for the fight without raising expectations or exposing themselves to ridicule. They know that little will happen at conference on this front but don’t want that to be the end of the matter. Hence, the spate of stories suggesting that a change of leadership might happen later rather than sooner.

PS Tucked away in The Times’s assessment of the leadership question is this line, make of it what you will:

“A Cabinet minister this week told The Times that the Prime Minister will step down in the new year on the ground that his “failing eyesight” made it impossible to continue.”

PPS The headline comes from a great Merle Haggard song, have a listen.