James Forsyth

What the election that never was tells us about the Brownite future

What the election that never was tells us about the Brownite future
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About six months ago I was at an away day discussing the prospects for the first year of a Tory government. Most people present were on the right but a senior figure from Blair’s Downing Street was also there to provide a Labour perspective on things. At one point in proceedings we were discussing who would be the next Labour leader and someone was making the case for Ed Miliband. The figure from Blair’s Number 10 interrupted, ‘He’s not bad. But he’s a Brownite so he’s incapable of making a decision.’

This anecdote came back to me reading Andrew Rawnsley on the election that never was in The Observer. Rawnsley reveals how as Brown was trying to decide whether or not to cancel the election or not he summoned together Douglas Alexander, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Spencer Livermore, Damien McBride and Sue Nye. He asked each of them what they thought he should do. As Rawnsely writes, ‘No one expressed a clear view. No one wanted responsibility for the decision. “So we are not going to do it then?” asked Brown morosely. Everyone avoided his gaze.’

The other striking detail in Rawnsley’s account of the election that never was, is about it how destroyed relations between the next generation of Brownites. Livermore caught McBride briefing against him and Douglas Alexander and Ed Miliband, trying to pin the blame for the whole disaster onto the three of them when others--including Ed Balls--had also been responsible. When Livermore confronted McBride about this, he responded, ‘I’ve been told to by Ed.’ The two men then got into a screaming match of such epic proportions that Sue Nye had to get them out of the room.

This rupture between Balls and the others is going to be very important in any future Labour leadership contest. It means that Balls’ support base in the parliamentary party really will be confined to the Brownite ultras. 

 

 

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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