Thoughts on the coup: this ain’t over yet


9:30 am - January 7th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Some thoughts on yesterday’s knifing attempt by Hoon and Patricia Hewitt.

First. I’ve long said that Gordon Brown is a terrible communicator and the party should have replaced him when they realised this to salvage their chances. I made the call just before the last party conference too. Initially, I did think the H&H coup came too late. But I’ll have to break with convention and agree with John Rentoul that now is probably the right time. As I said earlier, a new leader would have to quickly declare an election anyway. So the timing probably isn’t that off.

Second. The problem is actually that neither Hewitt nor Hoon are particularly popular with any part of the party, which meant little chance of popular support (though they could have snagged a cabinet minister anyway). The mood across blogs and Twitter among Labourites and lefties was overwhelmingly of derision. See Mehdi Hasan for a good left-wing summary of the argument.

Third. At this point Alan Johnson is the only viable candidate, given he knows he’ll be leading the party into elections with approx 25% chance of winning. He’s never shown lofty ambitions so it wouldn’t be a huge blow to someone generally seen as a safe pair of hands. The problem is that to avoid looking too disloyal, he can’t be the first big beast to jump. The Milibands, Ed Balls, Harriet Harman etc are also biding their time and don’t want the disloyal tag either. So they’re afraid to jump too. All this saps away confidence.

Fourth. These coups are brilliant for two reasons: (1) they’ve flushed out and killed off the most annoying Blairites: Purnell (though he may come back under D Miliband), Hazel Blears, Charles Clarke, Hoon etc. I doubt many in the party will shed tears for them, and the stench of betrayal is all around them. (2) They make it more likely that a coup will happen still (again, have to agree with John Rentoul) and a new leader will try some semblance of making a clean break from Brown & Blair (there’s no other way) in order to make the electorate listen, very briefly, to why people should vote Labour. Brown isn’t doing a good enough job.

Fifth: The new polls do see the gap narrowing and that is to be expected as people actually read start reading Tory policy. But I doubt yesterday’s events will have any impact on the polls. It may impact the media narrative though (an entirely separate issue)

Sixth The big story of yesterday was how long it actually took the cabinet’s big beasts to come out in support of Brown. If they were all planning to keep their powder dry until the election then I think they’d sound much more supportive. Ipso facto, another coup attempt between now and the election is likely.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I think it is very naive to believe that this will not impact on the polls

The media narrative is crucial in moving opinion and such clear signs of division mean that the narrative will be damning.

Every announcement or comment will be picked over for implications as to who might be plotting and so forth.

Divided parties suffer at the hands of the electorate.

I would expect at least a 3 point drop in Labour support as a result of all this. Which would see Tory leads back in the 15% region

I would call that significant

2. Sunder Katwala

Sunny,

No, it is over. Yesterday did not make another coup attempt more likely. it finally settled the question. That is why, as Michael Crick reported, about half of those who had publicly backed a change last June or Sept were criticising this yesterday and last night.

Prediction: Charles Clarke to say so within 7 days, perhaps by tomorrow.

I don’t think there’s a cat in hell’s chance of another coup before the election. Two reasons:

1. As Jon Rentoul points out (I think you’re slightly misreading him) there is a “lack of any evidence of positive enthusiasm for either Alan Johnson or David Miliband in the opinion polls.” The latest You Gov poll for The Sun makes this plain and shows what little difference it would actually make. Any bounce would be minimal this close to an election especially in the circumstances of acrimony that would undoubtedly occur.

2. And who’s going to stand against him? Who in their right mind would want the risk of being PM for just 3 months given that a hung parliament at least is looking increasingly likely.

Will

4. David Boycott

Quite right SH. All that is needed is the uncertainty of another drawn-out coup, followed by a lurch to the Left under an untested leader – already proven indecise by their lack of action to date – and Labour is guaranteed another election victory…

As a bit of a thought experiment here, it’s been my opinion that the reason that none of the (four?) coup attempts have worked is that, although a large proportion of the Parliamentary Labour Party want Brown out, none of the obvious successors want to become leader just yet. That’s why the cabinet have been so remarkably pusillanimous so consistently.

Labour are going to lose the next election. The last remaining question is whether they can stop the Tories winning it. That’s going to be true whoever the leader is. Given that, the best result for various Milibands, Balls, Purnells and Harmans is for Gordon Brown to take as much of the flak for that defeat as possible. In this, the interests of the Labour bigwigs diverge from those of the backbenchers who think (I’m sure correctly) that a new leader would mean a better result, which would mean more of them saving their seats.

If, Sunny, you’re still clinging to the hope that a new coup might still work, here’s your only scenario – the polls stay in the 10% Tory lead territory (or get worse); Mandelson and Brown have a bigger falling-out (meaning Brown’s fire-fighter goes on strike); one of Harman, Straw or Johnson decide that their loyalty to the party outweighs their self-preservation; the others finally decide to go over the top. Possible. Still extremely unlikely though.

Here’s a prediction. Brown will lead Labour to the 2010 election but another will fight Cameron to be the next PM – probably Johnson or Purnell

Sunder and Will, you probably said the same thing last June: “this is the last coup, it’s over, Brown has a mandate, Brown will lead us to victory (defeat) in the next election”

Question for you Labour loyalists: is there a snowball’s chance in hell that Labour will win a majority of seats in the election?

If not, what do you have to lose? Hoon and Hewitt, inept as they are, are right that Brown will lead you to your doom. Had more of your MPs had any spine, not only would Brown have been challenged for the leadership he practically inherited, but some of this coups may actually have worked, and you might even be able to win the next election.

Think about it: you had a choice between keeping your heads down and backing Brown; or a historic fourth Labour term, with a new leader and a renewed vision.

Do you actually want Labour to lose? Do you think it will be good for them to be in opposition? Perhaps you think (as most people do) that there will be cuts anyway, and better to have the Tories take the fall for it.

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

8. Alisdair Cameron

a new leader will try some semblance of making a clean break from Brown & Blair

.
Who? All of the touted ‘candidates’ have been complicit in the betrayal of the grass roots: None have clean hands, all are deeply tainted. Johnson tries to come over as blokey, but look how he votes, look at the evidence-free,on-message way he acts. Miliband, D , Purnell, Harman even, or (Jesus wept) Balls: pick any of those and not only will those of the liberal or left persuasion look elsewhere, the public would send Labour even lower in the polls.

Anyone here into political betting and following the odds offered by bookmakers on the outcome of the election?

10. gastro george

+1 for Simon, Sunder and Will. The timing is disastrous considering the problems Cameron has had, and the narrowing of the polls. And you have to look at what would be achieved by deposing Brown. As Will says, who would want to lead Labour for 3 months – there is no room for new policies and the Tories will just continually throw “second unelected leader” in their face. The narrative will be Labour division and the spotlight taken off Tory policies. The idea that everything can be salvaged by a new “good communicator” is risible. The best case for all of the (supposed) candidates would have been a hung parliament, Brown stands down with good grace, Osborne tanks the economy and a new election at the end of 2010 or early 2011. Those plans will be scuppered by any continued in-fighting.

Sunny, please don’t start the ‘one more last chance’ routine so beloved of Polly Toynbee. As it stands, the plotters want brown out because he’s a loser. They don’t seem to have the numbers, the signatures to force a proper contest, a viable candidate, or a distinct policy position to offer, let alone an alternative ‘narrative’. The idea that they will all rally round Johnson (or anyone else) without a proper contest makes them look even more like the Tories of old where the leader would simply ’emerge’. I’d like them to get it over with, but the prospect of yet another re-run of ‘Night of the Rubber Knives’ even closer to an election seems unlikely – we might as well wait for Brown to fall under a bus with Charles Clarke and Toynbee lurking in the background.

The coup is over IMO.

“The justice secretary said the move by former cabinet ministers Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt had been ‘ill judged and very ill advised’.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8445464.stm

As some of us suspected, the motivation for the attempted coup was entirely due to personal malice, probably inspired by the deep conviction of Hewitt and Hoon that their ministerial talents had not been recognised by Gordon Brown. Of course, they were mistaken. Their ministerial talents, such as they are, had been fully recognised by GB, which doubtless explains why they are no longer ministers.

The question is, I suppose, why then were they appointed cabinet ministers by Blair?

There is a simple answer to that. I tend to agree with Ted Honderich:

“Honderich is also a consequentialist, which partly explains his hatred towards Tony Blair. ‘He is always asking to be judged by the morality of his intentions,’ he spits. ‘He doesn’t understand that no one cares about his fucking morality. We judge him by the consequences of his actions. In any case, his morality is so muddy and ill-considered. I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that Blair’s main problem is that he’s not very bright.'”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2005/mar/22/academicexperts.highereducationprofile

Before he retired, Honderich was Grote professor of philosophy at UCL.

13. Sunder Katwala

John@7

I stand by what I said in June, which was that this would prove the peak of Parliamentary dissent; that there would be some future rumblings but that they would have less support rather than more .. I don’t think any later Hundal-Hewitt-Hoon alliance can change that!!

After the PLP meeting: the lost plot””This is not the last we will hear of the ‘will Brown go’ question. But, after two failed coup plots already, I am suspicious of the idea that there will be an extensive appetite – in Parliament, as opposed to the media – for a third round”

So had disagreed with the view which John Rentoul argued that the Purnell resignation made a later success more, rather than less likely: didn’t think there wouldn’t be some final attempt (with less support) but that the moment had been missed.

“What seems more doubtful is his argument that James Purnell’s resignation makes this scenario more likely. Most in the PLP – on both sides of the argument – will think that Purnell has now created the ‘put up and shut up’ moment. Rentoul suggests a messy draw, without holding a penalty shoot out, is now the best the rebels can hope for. But the timing is never right. There will be a much reduced appetite for another round of plotting later ahead of the party conference. If the rebel aim this week is simply to live to fight another day, then this looks more and more like a coup which will never happen”.

@Sunder

Thanks for that. However, when I addressed Labour loyalists I had you and Mr Straw in mind, and would appreciate you answering the following questions:

– Is there a snowball’s chance in hell that Labour will win a majority of seats in the election?

– If not, what do you have to lose?

– Do you actually want Labour to lose?

– Do you think it will be good for them to be in opposition?

15. gastro george

I can’t answer for Sunder, but i would have thought that the obvious answers are:

No.

The next two elections.

No.

Partially – because they need to regain contact with the real world – even Clegg can manage to find some decent words about fairness in society. There are some low hanging policies if only they could realise it.

Bring back Michael Foot’s donkey jacket. The left do not want government they relish opposition. With government comes responsibility, opposition means unlimited salarys, expenses and a chance to talk big and blame every one else. Just look at the left in parliament, all on some kind of ego trip, one particular one promised to retire at 65 and let a younger person in, he is still there 7 years on, has his own seat at the front and if anyone should sit there as someone once did he sat on them. It’s his hobby he’s done piss all for the benefit of his working class comrades.

Too much PC in politics now, and when you implement this policy and the beneficiaries prove useless they revert to form and will damage the hand that fed them, ( how many ex failed ministers have done this ).

17. Shatterface

“Honderich is also a consequentialist, which partly explains his hatred towards Tony Blair. ‘He is always asking to be judged by the morality of his intentions,’ he spits. ‘He doesn’t understand that no one cares about his fucking morality. We judge him by the consequences of his actions. In any case, his morality is so muddy and ill-considered. I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that Blair’s main problem is that he’s not very bright.’”

Blair claimed history would judge his actions correct which makes him a consequentialist. There was no deontological argument for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

@17: “There was no deontological argument for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

There was a credible security rationale for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 IMO since Afghanistan was being used as a global HQ and training base by al-Qaida. There was a consensus among Transatlantic intelligence agencies at the time that al-Qaida was responsible for organising not only the 9-11 atrocities on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in 2001 but the terrorist bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) in 1998 and the earlier bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993. Also, GW Bush invoked the mutual defence obligations of the NATO Treaty.

Iraq was an entirely different matter. Regime change was the de facto substantive rationale for the invasion – as we now know – and that is illegal in international law absent UN sanction. The public claims made about the security threat from Iraq’s WMD were a fabrication. An estimated 100,000 Iraq civilians have been killed as the result of the invasion and subsequent conflict.

Britain’s public finances would be in better shape now but for the costs of the Iraq war and our troops in Afghanistan could be better resourced. Older and wiser Conservative ex-ministers – such as Douglas Hurd, Malcolm Rifkind, Kenneth Clarke, Edward Leigh – did not support the proposed invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

1. I have long thought it would be very difficult (though not impossible) for Labour to be returned with an overall majority in the next election. Any close look at the 2005 result and you can see why. Labour had only 35.3% of the vote and only a 3% lead over the Conservatives (on 32.3%), led by Michael Howard.

What ought to be and what remains within the party’s grasp is firstly, certainly that they ought to remain possible to deprive the Conservatives of an overall majority (which is probable if the Tories can not establish a national lead of 10-11 points, as they need something in that range to make 117 gains: a major challenge; that is why Tory resources this week were focused in seats below the majority line).

Then Labour’s next objective should be to be the largest party (which is actually likely if they were to get within 5 points) and to have a coalitionable manifesto which would make a substantive Lab-Lib reform agenda possible. (I set out a year ago in the New Statesman what I thought the policy changes needed for that are).

2. Achieving that will depend on sustaining the type of scrutiny and challenge which was actually very effective on Monday and Tuesday of this week, in that the Conservatives immediately proved rather wobbly, eg on health policy as well as marriage tax and their raft of other policies which may not be policies.

So what Labour has to lose by the idea of a further almost certainly futile round of leadership speculation is the chance to contest the election effectively.

There is very little evidence that a different leader would make these goals considerably more achievable; there is certainly a significant risk that the public would respond very badly to the scenarios of perhaps a leadership change or (what is overwhelmingly more likely) further intrigue which damages but does not remove the leader in the weeks ahead of the election.

3. No

4. No.

News update:

“The full scale of the backlash against two former cabinet ministers’ failed bid to initiate a secret ballot on Gordon Brown’s leadership started to emerge today. One MP told Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt they were ‘spiteful, disloyal, treacherous’.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/07/labourleadership-labour

I think it is very naive to believe that this will not impact on the polls

Not really. The public rarely pay attention to Westminster coup or insider stories. Remember Cameron’s stock went up a few years ago despite Westminster talk of people plotting to get rid of him. That is in fact what saved his skin.

Will – point taken. I’m still suspicious though of how late everyone was in giving their ful support to Brown.

Sunny@21 – would you take the same view of the ‘insider stories’ of the divisions during the Major years? I wouldn’t.

23. organic cheeseboard

has anyone got any sense of how this is playing out in the grass roots? The purnell/blears thing was amazingly unpopular with grass roots. Can’t see this being any different really. A bunch of egotistical posing animated exclusively by personal grudges.

This is a long-shot but is there any chance that this is a prelude to either Hoon or Hewitt jumping ship to the Tories in the next 12 months (maybe looking for a place in the Lords) and trying to scupper Labour in advance? Sounds implausible but I just can’t see how they thought a coup now would work after sitting on their hands in the summer…

In terms of back-bencher opinion on the leadership, the cynical view (leaving out altruism for colleagues) is that there are now three types of Labour MP:

a) those in safe seats, focused on the post-election picture;
b) those in marginals, wanting whatever outcome will produce a few extra votes on election day;
c) those who have given up any hope of re-election, or are standing down – possibly wanting a quiet life til May/June and fretting more about civvy street than the leadership…

Mutable categories, of course, but I suspect there are a good few dozen in c) by now…

24 – Hewitt is certainly standing down at the next election, and there are persistent rumours floating around that Hoon will too.

Sunder is right about the aims and aspirations that Labour should have, though I think you have to be careful with the concept of ‘coalitionable manifesto’ and that this is not something Labour’s right-wing defines in order to save Blairism.

In general, I think its too late to launch a coup now and the left is best away from it; let the Blairites take the rap and then suffer the consequences later after the election.

A few more responses:

Will: there is a “lack of any evidence of positive enthusiasm for either Alan Johnson or David Miliband in the opinion polls.”

True, but then there was little evidence of positive enthusiasm for Brown too when he took over. I think sometimes leaders can create the enthusiasm once they take over. Brown did initially and the narrative went along with it (until he blundered with the election that never was).

Sunder: Sunny@21 – would you take the same view of the ‘insider stories’ of the divisions during the Major years? I wouldn’t.

I think narratives take a long time to take hold. The coup started up and died so quickly that I bet by tomorrow it’ll vanish from media conciousness. Major’s govt failed to hold back on the continuous stories of sleaze that went deep into public conciousness because they were tabloid fodder too. Most people don’t even know who Hoon is.

let the Blairites take the rap and then suffer the consequences later after the election.

The Blairities aren’t going away anytime soon…

Sunny,

They may not be going away but they are spontaneously combusting and at the same time alienating the rank-and-file support. Blairism’s success was predicated on making Labour electorally successful and since that advantage is vanishing they will soon have little left. Wasnt the main attack it threw at the left that it made Labour ‘unelectable’? Now the boot is on the other foot and its the antics of H & H that are seen as damaging to Labour electorally. Put simply, the left should bide its time rather than support a anti-Brown coup now. Polling suggests that a new leader would make little different in any case so why do it?

I read even Luke Akehurst was miffed at the plot and id describe him as centre-right in Labour Party terms.

@28: “Blairism’s success was predicated on making Labour electorally successful and since that advantage is vanishing they will soon have little left.”

It was surely predictable that any Labour Party leader who went around offering his “strong leadership” would eventually go over the top.

The entrails on this were clear. When Blair launched his “Third Way” in 1998, someone in an online forum posted about that being Mussolini’s idea of fascism.

Knowing at the time little about Mussolini, I thought that was ridiculous but I should check. The second book I picked up was Martin Clark on: Modern Italy 1871-1995 (Longman, 2nd ed. 1996), which has an illuminating section (p.250) on the policies of Mussolini’s fascist government: “They seemed to offer ‘a third way’, between capitalism and Bolshevism, which looked attractive in the Depression. . .”

As Martin Clark is an academic historian at Edinburgh Uni and the 2nd edition of his book on Modern Italy was published in 1996, a year before Blair became PM, this connection had to be beyond mere coincidence. Suddenly it all began to fit with Blair’s “strong leadership” vision. Besides, his advisers would have checked on the antecedents of the Third Way, wouldn’t they? And then came Blair’s obvious appetite for playing the role of the great war leader.

There hasn’t been any real coup against Brown. It’s just media (and blogger)-generated rubbish. Anything to divert our attention from the fact that the entire country has been paralyzed (yet again) by the snow….. and the government’s failure to get us moving….

“Anything to divert our attention from the fact that the entire country has been paralyzed (yet again) by the snow”

I’ve a distinct recollection of the Conservatives boasting that they now control more than twice as many local councils as Labour – and councils are the local highway authorities.

With savings in public spending and job cuts by councils, paralysis of the transport system in severe winter conditions is the foreseeable result. With more of the public spending cuts George Osborne keeps urging upon us to reduce the fiscal deficit, presumably things will only get worse.

Conservatives can’t have it both ways.

32. Alisdair Cameron

there was little evidence of positive enthusiasm for Brown too when he took over. I think sometimes leaders can create the enthusiasm once they take over. Brown did initially and the narrative went along with it (until he blundered with the election that never was).,/blockquote>
Sunny, that’s almost wholly back to front. There was shedloads of enthusiasm fro Brown as his camp and their spinners had been pushing him as the king-in-exile as it were for years. Look at all the glowing coverage when he entered No10, the hopes and enthusiasm that he might break with the worst of Blairism (instead of compunding it with bullheadedness). Furthermore the wheels started coming off for him pretty damn quickly, and when he bottled calling an election his shine was already wearing off.

Call me Dave and his minions kept a low profile on the coup because they know their best chance at the election is for Gordon Brown to be Labour leader. They’re dead right. Gordon Brown is a liability and he’ll go down in history as solely responsible for the recession and wiping out the Labour party. If Labour want to stand any chance they have to ditch him now and call an election immediately.

34. Sunder Katwala

Darrell@26

i take that point. the language of ‘coalitionable’ might offend some too. The point that a party heading into an election where a hung Parliament would be a good outcome might want to think about red lines/veto points for its most feasible partners ought to be an obvious one.

Most of those changes would be welcomed by many Labour members and supporters too, across the spectrum of opinion of much of the party.

I thought the key issues, when writing in Jan 2009, were
– electoral reform, plus elected Lords by PR
– ditch ID cards and broader civil liberties rethink
– [Iraq inquiry]. pro-EU policy
– climate change policy to include a Heathrow runway u-turn
– agree fair tax plans: redistribute pension tax relief, tax avoidance, to shift burden at bottom. (that would also now be a spending/cuts agreement).
LDs should support child trust fund, and rethink student fees opposition

(At the time, I wanted to see a pre-election coalition, where Labour unilaterally withdraw from LD seats where the Tories were 2nd).

Were the arithmetic in place, I think both Labour and LDs could see something along these lines as substantive change agenda for the centre-left.

Try this news report just out in the Guardian:

“PM promises to run more inclusive cabinet after resentment over influence of inner circle, Whitehall source says”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/07/gordon-brown-ed-balls-cabinet

The extraordinary bit is this:

“The source said: ‘Gordon Brown really does need to lead a more balanced team than Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and Ed Miliband.'”

Brown’s inner circle are all highly educated economists, which is all very curious given a widespread recognition now that the banking sector in the lead up to the financial crisis was seriously in need of tougher regulation.

In a speech to the American Economic Association, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, has just called for “tougher regulation” of the financial system.
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a8fe3a18-f8af-11de-beb8-00144feab49a.html

How come Brown’s inner circle haven’t realised that?

@Sunder34

I am not offended by it; far from it, I support it whole-heartedly. What concerns me is that the left in both parties needs to come together beforehand to ‘own’ the coalition or shape its course at least or else the forces pulling rightwards in both parties will.

For example, I would not like to see the public services reformed along Blairite lines which is something that the likes of the LD leadership could support. Sadly, since the left in the Lib Dems is so unorganised I dont see how that will come to be.

We have had a discussion on the Child Trust Fund before on the Social Liberal Forum blog. Sadly, the SLF seems to be a bit defunct. I disagree with you about tuition fees though and think alot of LD’s would.

37. gastro george

@Sunder34

+1. But my nightmare is that, when we get a hung parliament, Clegg will (predictably) choose the wrong option and form a coalition with the Tories. After all he has already stated that he will respect the public vote – which would (almost) inevitably have the Tories with a majority vote. The only thing that might prevent this is the reaction it would have in the Lib Dem party. He might not be able to carry his MPs with him, which might lead to an earlier second election (and possibly an implosion in the Lib Dems).

Dear Sunny

First. I’ve long said that Gordon Brown is a terrible communicator

Tut, tut. For someone whom you cite as ‘a terrible communicator’, he’s earned some extraordinary plaudits from around the world for calling the banking crisis and its consequences correctly.

I could go on. But suffice it to say I’m backing Gordon to lead Labour into the net election, and beyond. There are caveats as set out here:

http://www.chartist.org.uk/articles/britpol/jan10kenyon.htm

35. Bob b.
Brown, Balls and Cooper have very little experience outside of politics. They look good because ” In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king”. Plenty of people such as Cable, Soros ,owner of Berkely Homes, Redrow Properties, Gerald Ronson of Heron and John Hunt of Foxtons knew the property market was overheated by 2005. Many of the astute property players started to sell in 2005 and most had moved out by 2007; Hunt was probably the last to exit. Cable has said that the founder of Berkley homes told him that property was a cyclic business and it was overheated in 2005. The founder of Berkely Homes had little or no education. Just shows an ounce of practice is worth a pound of theory.

Hoon and Hewitt’s skill at plotting are matched by Browns skill at running the economy.

Brown does not realise that it is not the number of regulations and regulators but the quality of their judgement which means they have the ability to ask the correct question. Asking the right question is point often made by W Buffet. After W Buffet employs very few people but he has the ability to ask the correct questions in order to assess what it costs to buy shares or a company and what they are worth.

Surely there must have been rumours in the City about the state of the Icelandic banking system ?

@39: “Plenty of people such as Cable, Soros ,owner of Berkely Homes, Redrow Properties, Gerald Ronson of Heron and John Hunt of Foxtons knew the property market was overheated by 2005.”

I’ve often posted this news report from 2002:

“CHARLES GOODHART, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee [and economics prof at the LSE], warned yesterday that the Bank is failing to take sufficient account of the house price boom in setting interest rates.

“His warning comes amid growing fears among economists that house prices, fuelled by the lowest interest rates for 38 years, are getting out of control. Yesterday, new figures showed that homeowners are borrowing record amounts against the rising value of their homes. . . ”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2002/04/06/cngood06.xml

And he wasn’t the only high profile economist to issue a warning about the house-price bubble. Roger Bootle produced a book: Money for Nothing (2003). The IMF issued a warning specifically about the UK’s house-price bubble.

Brown is not an economist but it beggars belief that those stark warnings escaped the notice of Brown’s close advisers and treasury and BoE economists as well as Prescott’s department, which had ministerial responsibility for housing.

“Surely there must have been rumours in the City about the state of the Icelandic banking system ?”

Some councils – including some high-profile Conservative councils – put millions in deposits with Icelandic banks while others were (sensibly) not tempted by the reported offer of 12% interest rate on deposits:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7660741.stm

When a bank offers much higher interest rates than its competitors in the relevant market to attract deposits, it is prudent to pause and consider why it is doing that. Some councils weren’t taken in.

Peter Kenyon: Tut, tut. For someone whom you cite as ‘a terrible communicator’, he’s earned some extraordinary plaudits from around the world for calling the banking crisis and its consequences correctly.

I don’t disagree with Brown on these policy issues and calling it correctly. That is however very different to communicating to the public what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and why they need to be on board.

Following the banking crisis, it’s the Tories who’ve won the messaging battle by convincing everyone that the debt crisis was a bigger issue than massively cutting public spending. The numbers for Brown could have been higher but he can’t communicate why he takes certain decisions. That, for me, is a huge liability.

Alisdair: Look at all the glowing coverage when he entered No10, the hopes and enthusiasm that he might break with the worst of Blairism (instead of compunding it with bullheadedness). Furthermore the wheels started coming off for him pretty damn quickly, and when he bottled calling an election his shine was already wearing off.

But that’s what I said, no? That’s my point too. How do we differ?

Darrell: Wasnt the main attack it threw at the left that it made Labour ‘unelectable’? Now the boot is on the other foot and its the antics of H & H that are seen as damaging to Labour electorally

True – but lots of the left still espouse policies that would make them unelectable. The only person who could do this is a soft-leftie like Cruddas, but in a coalition with more centrist like say either of the Milibands.

Here’s the deal, work out how you’re going to differ BEFORE you try and take over from the bad man at the top 😉 I can’t believe anyone thought it might be a good idea to spend the months leading up to an election having a public spat about direction while the other two parties talk national policy when the children fighting over who gets to sit in the front of the car finally call that election.

Here’s the deal, work out how you’re going to differ BEFORE you try and take over from the bad man at the top

It’s not entirely necessary to have a different strategy before having a coup. The Conservative Party hasn’t changed policies massively since IDS and Hague, it’s just that Cameron knew what it required to change the party’s perception, and how to present it better.

Now, I’m not saying that’s all that matters, but there are no substantive policy differences among the New Labour top-ladder (or at least I’m not aware of them, though they have their own ideas). The point is that Brown is a terrible communicator, and that’s sometimes enough reason to depose of the leader.

I agree, but the time for him to go has passed. A leadership context takes away the one bit of power Labour has left, the flexibility to call an election on it’s own terms at any point between now and June.

45. Alisdair Cameron

@ Sunny. I think we differ essentially on in terms of chronology. I think Brown’s stock was higher when he was waiting in the wings. Bals and co talked him up, and many folk chose to believe he’d take the party leftwards, and ditch the Blairtie, neo-liberal crap. Almost from the moment he enetred No 10 and was required to show leadership (have you noticed how much he keeps banging on about leadership, protesting too much,methinks:he clearly thinks it’s apositive for him, while damn near everyone else disagrees. Control-freakery and micro-management is not of itself leadership, nor is it good) he was exposed. Sure he had a brief honeymoon period, but even then his stock was falling, as he couldn’t live up to the bullshit (so ‘bright’, so intellectual, so principled:aye,right) his spinners had been pumping out while he was no 2 in the NewLab hierarchy

Oh you are joking – this ‘coup attempt’ has Mandelson written all over it in his typically devious way of firming up the leadership and using the internal disputes to draw media attention back towards Labour just as Cameron was making his winter offensive. Look – you Labourites are all talking about yourselves again rather than worrying about the opposition!

If there was going to be any change of leadership then it was going to come from the person who contested him for it in the first place – ie since nobody would, nobody will.

Basically there is nobody within Labour ranks who has the stature nous or gumption to make a realistic attempt to lead the party so they are just sitting waiting for the prize to fall into their laps while it rots before their eyes.

The whole situation is getting hilarious for Thatcher read Blair, for major read Brown. The mirror is almost perfect – two reactionary parties jumping at their own reflections!

Where was Cameron when Major’s regime died?

The fact that this is the strongest (if not the only) weapon in Labour’s armoury is a damning indictment of their intellectual and moral capacity.

This is already the longest election on record and with Mandelson now in charge it is going to be the dirtiest since the great reform act.

The two party system is dead in the water – leaders of either of the two parties are by definition failing to lead because they are subject to the law of diminishing returns. But the vested interests are still hanging on in there for dear life…

Who cares who the face is, it’s what they represent that matters, and Labour are just a puffed up bunch of stuffed shirts who’re having their strings pulled as they try to yank our chains with talk of reform.

@Sunny 41

True – but lots of the left still espouse policies that would make them unelectable. The only person who could do this is a soft-leftie like Cruddas, but in a coalition with more centrist like say either of the Milibands.

I agree but that will still be possible after the election; well with one of the Milibands in any case because my view is that this latest attempt has effectively finished David’s chances off. From what I see Ed is more likely to want such a deal in any case….


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    :: Thoughts on the coup: this ain't over yet http://bit.ly/7z0Aug





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