Labour doomed… with or without Brown

The media world has been ablaze lately with questions regarding Gordon Browns leadership and his ability to lead Labour to a 4th General election victory. Indeed the Labour party is finding itself increasingly divided as to what should happen now in the face of a string of by-election defeats in some of the previously safest Labour seats in the country and an economy that is increasingly on the down turn. There are some in the Labour ranks who believe that old Gord is having a run of bad luck and he will inevitably pick up his game after the Summer recess. These are people that acknowledge that whatever his mistakes now, what ever his personal flaws, all of the Labour party were more than happy to ride on the back of his reforms, the same reforms that led them to record electoral success under Blair. Therefore they recognise a degree of loyalty is required and cling to the hope that things will get better.

Personally I admire these individuals far more. Whilst I may disagree with them politically and in their perceptions of certain members of their party, I too believe that in times of crisis it is vital to get behind your leader sure in the knowledge that the ‘other lot’ would be far worse. If the boot was on the other foot I would still back Cameron absolutely certain that yet another Conservative leader would prove suicidal for the party. However, back to Labour, there are other individuals, snakes in the grass if you will, who believe that the summer should be the time to plot Browns downfall and scout for potential successors.  Andrew Porter of the telegraph, revealed earlier this week that some 30 Labour MPs were already cooking up a killer letter, ready to be given to Brown at the end of the summer recess.

As a Conservative theres nothing I would relish more than seeing Gordon being booted out on his backside by his own party, not purely for my own sense of satisfaction but because of what would inevitably follow. We conservatives only have to look back to the fall of Thatcher to see what bitterness and in-fighting can do to a party. Many conveniently ignore the fact that Thatcher did win the first ballot of the Conservative leadership contest and it was likely she would do the same in the second ballot. Therefore in many ways her party would back her, despite their misgivings about her leadership. I am sure the same can be said of many in the Labour ranks.

However it was the snakes in the Tory grass that refused to let it lie. They set out to topple her and her cabinet would be pushed in to dealing the death blow. If Gordon Brown does go then I feel it will be the cabinet that push him and not a majority of his parliamentary party. This view is further reinforced as the media is reporting that Harriet Harman was reported to have been overheard saying after the defeat in Glasgow East ‘This is my moment’ whilst David Milliband is said to be investigating how to mount a leadership campaign. However if Brown does get pushed it wont be the new dawn that Labour hope it will be as a poll published by populus suggests that around half of voters do not believe that a new leader will improve the party’s fortunes.

The new dawn Labour will get will be merely a repeat of the dawn of 23rd November 1990, the day after the Tories toppled their greatest leader in living memory. We did go on to win the 1992 election yes, albeit by a whisker because we had such an incompetent and unpopular opposition. However that win only delayed an inevitable thrashing 5 years later. In my view the Tories should have lost the 1992 election for the sake of our own electoral prospects just as Labour for their own sake need to lose the next election. If Labour ditch Brown, they will fall apart at the seams not just for this election but the one after that and the one after that. They will find it hugely difficult to regain the public’s trust and I think the sensible wing of the party know this.

There simply isn’t enough time to convince the country that yet another Labour leader put in to Number 10, yet again without an election, can lead the country effectively. Not when they are faced with such a resurgent Tory party and the charismatic Cameron. Cameron would rip them apart at the dispatch box and then the electorate would rip them apart at the ballot box for taking the country for fools. Labour are on the way out either way, now they can do it the easy, dignified way or they can do it the hard way which would send them in to the political wilderness for many years to come. They can lose by 100 seats with Brown or they can lose by 200 without Brown either way they will lose. I personally hope they will do it the hard way but if I was a Labour supporter I would be fighting Browns corner tooth and nail. The fact remains that no matter how incomepetent or bumbling Brown may be, he is the best and only Labour man for the job… which is in itself a sad statement.

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25 thoughts on “Labour doomed… with or without Brown

  1. It was not thought likely that Thatcher would win the second ballot at all. Virtually all her cabinet colleagues warned her she wouldn’t and advised her to step-down to save the humiliation.

  2. And if the ooposition was so incompetent why did the Tory party ditch Thatcher?- because they were in the polls where Labour is now.

  3. Thatcher was personally unpopular and people wanted a change. Brown is in pretty much the same circumstances as Thatcher was and Labour risk making the same mistakes we made. I think Thatcher would have lost the 1992 election but I also believe Kinnock would have been such a disaster that we would be back in not long after. I suppose we’ll never know just as we will never know what would have happened had thatcher stood in the second ballot, although having won the first ballot and only narrowly missing an outright victory I am pretty confident that she would have won the second. Instead Thatcher will be remembered as a prime minister that never lost an election and was stabbed in the back by the party she propelled to unprecedented success. Brown may be subject to the same fate.

  4. Not a single political historian argues that Thatcher could have won the second ballot.

    Thatcher was in a very bad position in 1990. She was pretty much as unpopular as Gordon Brown (more so even, given the length of time she’d been in office), and her style of leadership was becoming a serious problem. It was clear that the following election was all but lost. This was ultimately the deciding factor.

  5. If she couldn’t win the second, then why against all expectation did she win the first? You under-estimate the loyalty to thatcher that was potent even at the height of her unpopularity. Incidently historians are only speculating. They know no more than you or I.

  6. The consensus amongst political historians is that support fell away from Thatcher after she failed to gain enough support in the first ballot. Support went to Heseltine in the most part. This was because opinion polls during the same week indicated that the Conservatives would enjoy a lead of 10 points over Labour if Heseltine was elected leader, whereas I think Thatcher had a defeict of about 20 points.

    And you do not know as much political historians, neither do I. They have interviewed many, if not all, the politicians involved. They have studies all the accounts and the available political papers, This is aside from their own historical judgement, of which they are trained in.

  7. Good points on Thatcher. And she was almost as unpopular as Brown now is. We will never REALLY know what would have happened had she remained. So much depends upon “events”.

    Whatever, it is true that she never lost an election. She has that in common with Tony Blair.

    Join the dots, as Tony used to say.

    Google Keep Tony Blair – just so that you know that there are some of us who think changing … er dumping a leader mid-term is NEVER good idea.

  8. ‘They have interviewed many if not all the politicians involved’ yes… most likely the ones who toppled her! Of course they are goinng to say she would have lost or else they look like the treacherous rats they are. Either way we shall never know, many still believe she could have won. Many don’t. Neither will know what would have happened because it didnt happen. Trained Historian or not.

    As for Tony, I liked him. He was strong enough to acknowledge that Thatcher got a heck of alot right especially when it came to economic reform and he was pragamtic enough to adopt and advance them.

  9. Pretty much all of Thatcher’s cabinet colleagues, and most of her closest confidents, advised her step down after the first ballot (Even Dennis.) Their main reason for this was they thought Thatcher would lose the second ballot. Records since show that support was ebbing away to Heseltine after the first ballot. Although we don’t know 100%, the evidence is heavily weighed in favor of the conclusion that she was about to lose the second ballot.

    This conclusion Dan, is what we might call an informed assessment. Yours is not. You simply ‘believe’ she could have won. However, your belief is contrary to the position she herself accepted she was in, contrary to the advice she overwhelmingly received, and contrary to the conclusions drawn by the body political historians.

    You should consider the fact that the greater part of academic assessment is ranged against your ‘belief’. Though, you obviously don’t understand the difference between real analysis and your own partisan view-point,

  10. Thatcher didn’t pull out because she didn’t think she could win, she pulled out because she couldn’t believe even members of her own cabinet, although not all, had stabbed her in the back. She was unpopular with the public yes, she had already lost 2 cabinet members and she couldnt afford the embarrassment of losing anymore which surely would have happened had she stayed on.

    You are touting the popular opinion which is misinformed. Those closet to lady T acknowledge she never accepted the decision of certain members of her cabinet and she was so convinced she could win that she said of her cabinent colleagues betrayal ‘I’ll never forget and i’ll never forgive’.

    Incidently had the pre 1975 rules been in place Thatcher would have won outright in the first ballot and she very nearly won outright in the first ballot this to me suggests there remained a great deal of loyalty even att he most troublesome time of her premiership. Opinion polls rock bottom, obvious successors in place, all indicators suggesting getting rid of thatcher would be beneficial yet still they backed her. I believe they would have done it in the secoond round two and academics can say what they want. Incidently if Hestletine was so popular why did they jump at the chance to elect major? Mrs T was far more popular in tory ranks.

    Fact not fiction or fairytale is Margaret Thatcher won well over 50% of the parliamentary party in the first balot, she would have done the same in the second. Tebbit, Parkinson, Baker, Ridley, Wakeham, Brooke, Howard and Morrison all pledged their support and said she could win a second ballot. Thatcher never believed she couldn’t, her decision to back down came because she was dismayed at how her own cabinet seemed to be ‘going wobbly’ when she needed them to be strongest and she didnt want to risk any further embarrassment. She would have won, ‘indicators’ or not.

  11. Dan. I’m afraid this is a distortion of how it really was.

    Thatcher pulled out because she was advised there was a good chance she would lose the second ballot. It was put to her time and again that if she continued she would lose to Heseltiner. As I have said, the weight of evidence is that the abstentions from the first ballot were drifting towards Heseltine not back to Thatcher. In addition, about 40 other MPs who had voted for her in the first ballot had signaled otherwise for the second ballot. She resigned because it was the best way to block Heseltine.

    Your suggestion that Mrs T’s popularity amongst tories ensured John Major’s victory is accurate. She herself calculated that if she resigned there would be a backlash against Heseltine and an alternative contender would win the ballot. She was correct in her final judgement. However, if she had carried on, she risked handing the leadership to Heseltine.

    Her closest supporters did maintain their support, but they also expressed their fear that she would lose the second ballot. Wakeham, in fact, did not believe she could do it. Lilley, Howard, Gummer, Lamont, Maude, Brooke, Waddington, King, Alan Clark and so on, all told her she would lose. So you are wrong, except in the cases of Parkinson and Baker. She has admitted herself that the soundings were consistently bad.

    You cannot be taken seriously Dan if your attitude is “indicators or not”. You are battling against the weight of analysis in order to support your misinformed view still touted by provincial tories who cling on to the belief that Thatcher could have won. This is not what she was advised or what she accepted.

  12. Daniel there were 6 abstentions. Had that ‘massive’ number gone to hestletine it wouldnt have made a jot of difference. Asumming all of those who voted for thatcher remained with her, thatcher would have won. I believe when push came to shove they would have stuck with her.

    It was the first round that was regarded as the REAL test ad she won with over half the votes. Remember historians and academics arent always right. The brightest minds in the world once said the earth was flat. Academics and historians get it wrong because they dont always see the full picture. They dont truly know what happened behind closed doors. They can only speculate which is what we are doing now.

    The fact remains thatcher was only 1% shy of winning the first ballot outright she had over half the parliamentary party. That is hardly a leader who has lost her parliamentary party and if those 40 mp’s truly were going to turn against her they would have done so in the first ballot. Hestletine lost, so did Thatcher although the difference was Thatcher never got a chance to contest the election. You are right about one thing she was convinced to go, she certainly was not happy about it because she did believe she could win and does to this day.

  13. Well, once again Dan, you avoid bringing any evidence to the table.

    Actually there were sixteen spoilt papers, and I didn’t say it was a ‘massive’ number. Also, we cannot “assume” that Thatcher would have got the same votes. Again you say you “believe” they would have “stuck with her”, but I’m afraid this is contrary to the evidence which suggests about 40 supporters had deserted her.

    To answer your question, those 40 decided to switch their votes because she had not, surprisingly, gained enough votes in the first ballot. Her authority was thus weakened making her position even more precarious than it already was. There was, consequently, a sizable switch in support.

    The first round was indeed the real test, and although she won over half the votes, it wasn’t enough. While her initial intent was to carry on, over the following few days she calculated that the risk was too great.

    In her memoirs, which I have in front of me, she says: “I had lost cabinet support. I could not even muster up a credible campaign team. It was the end.” Though it is perhaps unwise to quote Thatcher too much, this one line sums-up the position as it was.

    As for your jibe against academics, they did indeed think the world was flat, but by looking at the available evidence they come to an alternative view. This is what historians do. The available evidence shows that almost all her cabinet members and key personal warned she would lose the second ballot. She accepted this advice because there were only a few dissenting voices, and the historical consensus confirms all this.

  14. Perhaps you are right. We will never know for sure. Regardless I believe Thatcher should have remained. I think it was a shoddy and undignified end to a glittering career and an exit that she should never have been subject to. We as a party and indeed a country owe her a great deal and I belive that it was up to the public to turf her out and not her own treacherous party. We had to lose at some point and personally id rather go down with thatcher lol than hang on for a few measly more years and dig an even deeper hole. In addition I think Kinnock was a total numpty so he would have been useless and we’d have probably got the 1997 or 2001 election but again this is a personal opinion. We’ll never know because it never happened.

    Incidently this post is about Brown being turfed out and a warning to Labour not to make the same mistakes we made.

  15. We will of course never know for certain. But we can look at the evidence and make a reasonable estimate. This is what I have done.

    It was indeed an undignified end to her career, but one that she herself contributed to. It is alright for you to say that the party should have “gone down” with Thatcher, but the MPs whose seats and jobs were on the line were not as convinced. Many of them work hard for their seats and were unimpressed by Thatcher’s increasingly high-handed approach and the 20 point poll defecit.

    Many of Brown’s MPs will be in the same position now.

  16. Indeed but the same MPs were perfectly happy to ride on her success. Its a quaint notion I know but I would rather be loyal to the leader and possibly go down on principle than act like a whimp only to go out a couple of years down the line. Governments come and go. Politicians jobs are rarely secure and I think the majority are aware of this. I can of course understand people being worried for their jobs but then perhaps politics wasnt the wisest career path for them as job security is never guarenteed.

    Cameron himself has said many times, even before he became leader, he would have backed thatcher to the bitter end not because it was easy but because it was the right thing to do. Now of course youre going to say ‘of course he’d say that hes the leader now’ but he is renowned for being pro Thatcher long before he planned any leadership bid. I do not doubt that Thatcher became heavy handed at the end but Daniel she had been heavy handed all the way through her premiership and the same people that objected to it at the end had no problem being ‘bullied’ by her in the early years.

    The fact is the people that conspired to topple her most likely never wanted her in the first place. She fought tooth and nail against some bigoted members of the tory establishment and their treatment of her shaped her ‘bully’ tactics as it was the only thing certain people responded to. Either way Thatcher is gone and you can make an ‘informed assesment’ as muuch as you like b ut for every argument their is a counter argument, for every academic who says she couldn’t win there is another who says she could. I think she could and I’d bet im not alone.

    Back to topic, I repeat: Labour should not kick brown out.

  17. There are a number of things wrong with your sweeping analysis:

    1. I’m not sure what point your making by bringing Cameron into this. How he may or may not have voted is irrelevant, he didn’t have a vote.

    2. She had not been as heavy-handed throughout at all. Due to her precarious position in the first 8 years of her leadership, she kept in regular contact with her backbenchers. This became less and less the case.

    3. Many who had been bullied by her in the past, Heath, Gilmour, Heseltine etc.. had one by one returned to the backbenches. These opponents were a by-product of her divisive ‘dry and wet’ strategy. They combined with other backbenchers who had never been offered cabinet or ministerial roles due to her suspicion that they were ‘wets’.

    4. The party’s deteriorating poll position from 1988/9 onwards, worried a swathe of middle-of-the-road MPs, who she didn’t have much personal contact with. They were worried for their seats, their careers, their jobs and livelihoods. These MPs in particular, more so than those mentioned in point 3, were the ones she required in order to win the second ballot.

    5. Almost all her closest supporters and confidents did the figures and concluded that she would probably lose. She in turn calculated that she would probably lose.

    6. Finally, for every academic who argues she couldn’t win there is *not* another who argues she could. Almost all political historians of the period take my informed assessment, or rather, I take theirs’. Indeed, you are yet to put forward a credible argument that she could have won.

  18. Daniel, whether she would have won or not is irrelevant. The fact remains in 1990 we made a HUGE mistake one Labour risk repeating. Even Tony Blair could work out how valuable Thatcher was when he played the mastercard and adopted much of her policy, never hiding his admiration for her.

    Even as early as 1995 he said ‘She was a thoroughly determined person and that is an admirable quality, one I hope to replicate’ It was the Iron Lady, not his Labour predecessor, Jim Callaghan, whom he invited to No. 10 in his first days as Prime Minister. He postured, and postured is the word, as her true successor: a great domestic reformer and global statesman.

    Only now is the Conservative party emerging from the wretched depths into which it was plunged by Thatcher’s fall. It has taken 16 years to repair the damage wreaked by her departure, and even now not all the scars have healed. Those wounds were not inflicted by thatcher but by the treacherous behaviour of our own party.

    By 1990 Thatcher had transformed the country, she inherited an economic basket-case and bequeathed a robustly competitive nation. She had tamed the unions, denationalised the utilities, extended home ownership, slashed taxes, and collaborated with Ronald Reagan to bring the Cold War to an end. How did we repay her? We kicked her out in the most wretched and undignified way just to score a petty victory in the 92 election.

    Thatcher brought us up and she needed to be the one to bring us down. Instead we scored a petty and pointless victory that was to lead us in to the poltical wilderness for 12 years. So academics might say she would have lost the second ballot… but if they think that is a good thing… they will be sorely mistaken.

  19. A few things:

    “Whether she would have won or not is irrelevant.” – Dan, you brought it up.

    “Even Tony Blair could work out how valuable Thatcher was”. – This is true, and of course Thatcher was an important figure to Tony Blair. Not only did he have to accept her trade union reforms, tax reforms, privatisation etc, his public admiration for the lady was a calculated symbol of Labour’s move towards the centre-ground. It re-assured moderate voters in southern constituencies.

    “Only now is the Conservative party emerging.” – This, I wouldn’t disagree with.

    “Those wounds were not inflicted by Thatcher but by the behaviour of our own party.” – This is a remarkably one-sided account taken straight out of the Thatcher publicity book. And it’s wrong.

    “By 1990 Thatcher had transformed the country…” – I don’t disagree with this too much, she achieved a lot.

    “We kicked her out in the most wretched and undignified way.” – Conservative MPs did, yes. Maybe she should have thought about this a bit earlier (?)

    “Thatcher brought ‘us’ up”. “She needed to be the one to bring ‘us’ down”. “Instead ‘we’ scored a petty victory.” – Dan, this is misplaced guilt. You shouldn’t blame yourself. Let’s concentrate on those who actually voted.

    “… pointless victory that was to lead us into the political wilderness for 12 years.” – I agree, but again, she has to share the blame.

    “.. academics might say she would have lost the second ballot… but if they think that is a good thing… they will be sorely mistaken.” – Political historians who are concerned with the period say that she would have probably lost the second round. However, it is not there job to comment on whether those who voted were mistaken.

  20. Sorry, I got my very last sentence wrong. I meant to say that it isn’t really the historian’s job to comment on whether Thatcher’s absence from the second ballot was ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

  21. At least we agree on a few things. I take your point that most people do not agree that Thatcher could have won, I am not one of these people. Academics once predicted we wouldnt have a female prime minister because all the indicators suggested we wouldnt. They got that wrong. They may well have got the second ballot wrong we will never know. The point of this post was to express my belief that Labour would be all but destroyed if they ditched brown and some how we got on to thatcher lol.

    Removing Thatcher wasnt the new beginning many hoped it would be. Many people, even those who hated thatcher were glad she was gone but believed it was a treacherous act that conspired to bring us down. We have lived in the shadow of her downfall for 18 years, only now are we moving out of it. It was a dark chapter in our history one I hope Labour will take heed of. I want the conservatives to win on merit and not just on the back of Labours inadequacy and back stabbing antics.

  22. I think I agree with you on Brown. It is probably best for his MPs to keep quiet. But, as was the case with Thatcher, if things carry on as they are, his MPs will break ranks and precipitate a leadership contest which he would lose. The success or not of the Conservative party post Thatcher’s resignation is highly speculative, so too is Labour’s potential success if Brown is forced to resign in a similar way. It all depends on those middle-of-the-road MPs and how threatened they feel.

    LOL I doubt any political historians wrote that there would not be a female prime minister. Predicting the future is not in the remit of any historian. However, studying Thatcher’s downfall is in their remit as it happened in the past.

    I stand by the fact that if you were to ask any historian of modern political history ‘Why did Thatcher not continue to the second ballot in November 1990?’, they would reply, ‘because she thought she’d lose’. If you choose to believe otherwise feel free to do so.

  23. I would take a wholy different view daniel. I think that Thatcher was convinced she could win, this is confirmed by the fact that straight after the result of the first ballot she confirmed she would fight on and win. What changed was her closet confidants pressured her in to giving in because there was a risk she would lose. It wasnt a certainty but it was a possiblity.

    The deciding factor I feel was that thatcher in her typically shrewed approach decided to be pragmatic and drop out not neccessarily because she wouldnt win but to make sure hestletine wouldn’t. By throwing the towel in far more cabinet ministers would have thrown their hats in to the ring meaning Hestletine would have a big fight on his hands.

    As it turns out she was right and hestletine lost out to arguably the more Thatcherite Major. I believe her attitude was if she was to be suceeded it would be by ‘one of us’ and not the treacherous Hestletine. Thatcher may, and I emphasise may, have lost. Many indicators did point to that however thatcher had faced many tough odds before and defied predicitons so she may well have done the same again. Instead what she did was very clever, she went down and she took hestletine with her. One final victory.

  24. A few things:

    1. Of course, it is not certain she would have lost. But almost all her cabinet colleagues and her personal advisors told her she would. She accepted this. Losing was not just a possibility but a probability.

    2. “…her typically shrewed approach decided to be pragmatic and drop out not neccessarily because she wouldn’t win but to make sure Heseltine wouldn’t.” – This is a contradiction. She had accepted she would probably lose and so was forced to resign to prevent Heseltine from taking the leadership. This was the choice she was left with.

    3. “Thatcher ‘may’ have lost.” – This isn’t accurate. We can reasonably assert that she would have probably lost.

    4. “..Thatcher had faced many tough odds before and defied predictions.” This is true, but she herself accepted that these odds were too great. Historical assessment back her decision.

    5. “‘Instead what she did was clever, she went down and took Heseltine with her.” – This is exactly what she did, but then she was left with little option.

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