Is raising nuclear deterrent issue the sure way to Number 10?
Lots of analysis in the Sunday papers this morning on the reasons behind Gordon Brown’s decision to raise the British nuclear deterrent issue in his Mansion House speech.
Given that opposition to an independent deterrent was only dropped from Labour’s policy portfolio after a bitter and long battle that ended 1989 the general view is that Gordon wants to provoke a left-wing challenge in the coming leadership contest which should see him safely home.
It would be just like Labour’s campaign against the Lib Dems in 2005 except it would be the left that was presented as the great danger rather than the Tories. Why risk voting for anybody else but Gordon, the Brownites would argue, when putting your cross by Milburn, Reid or Johnson could let an in ultra-leftie?
So they would not have to argue for the strengths of their man – just that he’d be the best at stopping something awful. As a strategy it worked with three General Elections – so why not with the Labour leadership election?
Melinda Kite in the Sunday Telegraph notes: “A contest rather than a coronation was made more likely by the Chancellor’s announcement, last week, that he would go ahead with a replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, a declaration that has infuriated the Left and sparked renewed vigour in its search for an alternative.”.
In a long analysis in the Observer Andrew Rawnsley goes into Brown’s political thinking behind raising what is still a very sensitive issue in the party.
He notes: “It was unashamedly designed – Mr Brown’s acolytes make no pretence otherwise – to try to make the Chancellor a more appealing figure to Middle England.The Chancellor has never enjoyed parting with money for the armed forces when he would rather be spending the cash on tax credits or public services…he assumes that the bulk of voters want to retain a bomb with a Union Jack painted on its nose, even if there is presently no one obvious to point it at. He evidently believes that Middle England won’t willingly give up its weapons of mass destruction…..Nye Bevan upset his left-wing admirers when he argued that Britain had to have nukes because she could not be sent ‘naked into the conference chamber’. Gordon Brown thinks that he must say he will retain nukes if he is not to be sent naked into the next general election.”
As for the chances of Brown becoming leader John Rentoul in the Indy on Sunday refers to the discussion on PB.C earlier in the week.
Rentoul writes: “On the politicalbetting.com website last week, someone asked if they should bet their Â£10,000 pension lump sum on Brown for a “nearly certain” 38 per cent return. The consensus among the gamblers was “No”, because politics is simply too uncertain. Politics is much worse than that, of course. It is unkind and unfair. Brown has taken the decisions about this country’s nuclear future that the voters want, and yet I fear that they will not reward him.
I maintain my view that Brown is far from a certainty for the job and that Alan Johnson is his biggest threat. The Brown price is now 0.39/1 while Johnson has tightened a touch to 8.6/1.