Can the leadership be challenged without Labour paying a price?
Aside from the dramatic rise in street violence the issue that’s dominating the political scene is the growing threat of a revolt within the wider Labour movement over GB’s decision not to have a referendum on the EU treaty. There’s a report this morning that at least 40 Labour MPs are calling for talks on the EU plan to be re-opened and a number of unions are gathering forces ahead of next month’s TUC conference.
According to the Guardian Brown “looks set to face an embarrassing defeat…with three unions in favour of an active “no” campaign to urge the public to throw out the proposed changes altogether.” A key factor in union thinking is that “…Tony Blair secured an opt-out from the new charter of fundamental rights, which increased union rights to industrial action in the other 26 EU countries.”
What is striking is the willingness of parts of the movement to join the Tories in opposing the GB line so soon after he became leader. Have some been seduced by the polls into believing that victory at the next election is now a near certainty?
There’s little doubt that union and party activists have an extra spring in their stride at the moment compared with the dark days only six months ago when some polls were reporting double digit leads for the Tories. Labour has got through the potentially tricky period of the succession unscathed and Brown is proving to be so much more popular than anyone could have imagined.
The problems facing the Tories and the Lib Dems (remember them?) only add to the mood of confidence. Labour feels invulnerable.
A big factor, I believe, is that the firm showing the biggest Labour lead is YouGov which has traditionally been seen by the movement as pro-Tory. “If the internet pollster has us so far ahead,” I’ve heard Labour people saying, “...then it must be true.” Anybody who observes that none of the other firms have found margins anything like YouGov’s 10% is dismissed as a killjoy.
And it is against this background that the party attack on Brown’s EU policy is gathering force. Dangerous stuff.