Leading article: The PM and the curse of his disloyal courtiers

Labour MPs fanning the flames of regicide should be ashamed

Share
Related Topics

The start of the holiday season announced itself with cheerful pictures of the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, strolling with their respective spouses beside the sea. In Gordon Brown's case, the contrast between the pictures and the words, however, could not have been greater. While the pictures conveyed the image of a national leader taking a well-deserved summer break, the words were a clamour of calls for him to recognise that his days in power were numbered and that he should do the decent thing and quit. The majority of them came, directly or indirectly, from among his own MPs.

Few, of course, were prepared to put their names to their individual and collective votes of no confidence. Gordon Prentice, MP for Pendle, was an honourable exception. Paul Kenny, leader of the GMB union, was another who dared to put his head above the parapet. For the most part, though, this was a whispering campaign of anonymous briefings and rumour, given new impetus by the disaster of Labour's defeat at Glasgow East.

Largely anonymous it might have been, but it was – and remains – seditious. So much was clear from the heavy guns belatedly mobilised by the party hierarchy in Mr Brown's defence. The Justice Secretary Jack Straw was among the most significant, for the simple reason that he had been named among rumoured plotters. But the Cabinet minister Ed Miliband also manned the barricades, along with the Schools Secretary Ed Balls, noted Brownites both. And John Prescott – from whom we have not heard for a while – added his sonorous tones to the mix.

By yesterday, the party seemed to have cobbled together an authorised line, as articulated by the deputy leader Harriet Harman. Having worked with him for 25 years, she said, "I can recognise that I don't think the British people have seen the best of him yet as Prime Minister ... But the reason I so strongly support him is because the big problems people are facing in this country at this moment are the economy, the cost of fuel and food prices ... He is the solution, not the problem."

The top job

Now it is possible to take issue with Ms Harman's praise for Mr Brown and her judgement that he is the solution not the problem. His decade at the Treasury already looks substantially less impressive than it did even a year ago. And even if he was just as distinguished a Chancellor as his admirers believed him to be, this did not mean he would necessarily be cut out for the top job. The qualities required of a prime minister are different from those required to run the nation's finances.

The fact remains, though, that it is less than 14 months since the Labour hierarchy, in its wisdom, agreed to pass up the chance of a leadership election and speed Gordon Brown, unopposed, into Number 10. After the years of divisive Blair-Brown rivalry, the party settled for a smooth transition and a show of party unity above the messy business of a contest. And for three months they felt vindicated, as Mr Brown's approval ratings soared – largely, it is now clear, due to a string of good luck that has since evaded him. Hubris spawned the infamous non-election, and since then it has been downhill – all the way to Glasgow East.

It is all very well now for MPs to rue the lack of a contest for the leadership and wish they had someone else at the helm; someone more charismatic, more attuned to the public mood, and more effective as a crisis-manager. But they, of all people, should have known Mr Brown's weaknesses, and he is the same person now as he was then. At very least, they have a duty – to the party and, above all, to an increasingly dispirited country – to help address the anxieties of ordinary people.

You do not hear much about solidarity these days. But those who have been fanning the flames of regicide should be ashamed. If ever Labour ministers and MPs should be showing some good old-fashioned loyalty, it is now. The problems facing Britain today are bigger than Mr Brown and they are bigger than Glasgow East. They demand unity of purpose before all else. Even then, the Prime Minister may not succeed, but this is least of all a time when his own side should be setting him up to fail.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...