“…This is Slumdog Labour Leader”
There’s an excellent piece by Matthew D’Ancona in the Sunday Telegraph today in which he looks at the nascent contest to succeed Brown and argues that it is “ferocious, precisely because the outcome matters so little”. After rolling off the stream of recent leadership pretenders, he goes on:
“….This, I confidently predict, is only the beginning. Many more names will be suggested in this “potential leader speed dating”, some even more ridiculous than those already in the frame. The dying days of a regime are a happy time for political nonentities. It’s a game that anyone can play. Anyone can have a go. This is Slumdog Labour Leader…”
He compares the current speculation to the 1997 Conservative leadership contest, when “no hat was too humble to be thrown into the ring”:
“..For the first time in more than a decade, Labour is actively and energetically preparing for opposition. When a party reaches this point in the political cycle, it starts to please itself, rather than the electorate… Fatalism combines toxically with self-indulgence. It is terrible to lose power. But it is fun to be able to say what you like… Labour senses the vast expanse of powerlessness stretching ahead of it, years of irrelevance and introspection….”
I’m in broad agreement with the piece, although with one caveat. Crystal ball-gazing can be a mug’s game, but it remains my gut feel, and has been for a while, that Cameron will win at least two terms, and that whoever succeeds Brown as Labour leader (assuming it’s after the GE) won’t ever get to “kiss hands” with the monarch, whether it be Harman, Johnson, or whoever – they’ll be in the William Hague role and their job will be to try and eat into the Tory lead in 2014/5 and move the party forward (as Hague, at least in seats, failed to do).
However, these aren’t normal times by any stretch. Where there’s economic turmoil, political turmoil follows (Iceland, Greece, Latvia, Ireland? etc), and I don’t see this downturn being over quickly. So might it be that a newly-elected Cameron government actually loses support rather rapidly and the new Labour leader has a chance to win back power straightaway? It may be a bit of a longshot – but perhaps less of one than in calmer economic waters.
Elsewhere, Andrew Rawnsley asks if the Tories know what they would do with power: “David Cameron will reap the whirlwind if the Conservatives are not properly prepared to take over government… By the end of Blair’s first term, it was his greatest regret that he had expended so much energy on securing power that he had devoted far too little thought to what he wanted to do with it. Keen student that he is of New Labour, Cameron risks repeating the same mistake.” John Rentoul ploughs a similar furrow in the Independent.
Also in the papers:
- UK agents ‘colluded with torture in Pakistan’
- Smith wrong to claim second home expenses, say Labour MPs
- Brown to bar 100% mortgages