Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Back Him Or Sack Him

Beleaguered Brown's leadership is on the line with two ex-cabinet ministers calling on their MPs to back him or sack him. But will a secret ballot sort out the struggling Supreme Leader "once and for all"?

The leadership plot blows out of the water last ditch bids to shore up Liability Brown's paltry position.

The coup bid timing was amazing. Blair's old health secretary Hewitt and defence secretary Hoon texted New Labour MPs urging a ballot while Bunkered Brown was still on his feet at PMQs.

The first couple of weeks in January were always the most dangerous time for the struggling Supreme Leader. No cabinet minister or crony has the guts to call for the PM's head, so it's down to the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Labour loyalist, Barry Sheerman, delivered a Christmas cracker over the break, summing up the mood of the Party and repeating his call for Bunkered Brown to quit.

Time is tight but with an election still officially months away, plotters could install a Blair prop and still fight the election to the carefully planned timetable grid.

With Mandy pulling the strings, Banana Boy Miliband or the Tories worst nightmare of 'Turnabout' Johnson could even pick up a few postal votes.

Cash-strapped New Labour goes into the campaign with the lead weight of Billy-no-mates Brown around their necks dragging them down, with only cabinet couple Balls and Cooper for comfort.

Rumours had been swirling around Westminster on Tuesday that a cabinet minister was on the brink of quitting. Fingered Jowell was forced out of the woodwork to dismiss rumours as "utter rubbish".

As always, Mandy holds the key to Brown's future. Did the H&H letter have Pussycat Peter's pawprints on it?

Significantly Mandy came out of hiding on the very day the leadership rumours started, after spending the Christmas break sulking, dismissing talk of a plot as "pure journalistic invention". So it must have been true then.

Now will Mandy stamp hard on the plotters and try to rally the waiverers like he did last year, wield the knife or simply sit back and watch the coup bid unfold?

The leadership letter, unheard of so close to a general election, fell to bitter Blairites Hewitt and Hoon. Both have Brown axes to grind. Hewitt was Blair's health secretary and left after Brown's successful plot to boot out Blair. Hoon was Blair's defence secretary, passed over for a top EU job by Brown.

There is already speculation that Hoon and Hewitt wacked off the letter as part of a plan to force big beasts like Darling, Mandelson or Straw to force out Brown.

But so far calls for a secret ballot has been backed by only the usual suspects of former education secretary Clarke and former welfare minister Field - neither of them the PM's bosom buddies.

Forget the small fry. Which cabinet ministers will rally to Brown's side, how long will they dither and who will be noticeable by their absence?

The H&H letter contains a glaring admission of a Party in disarray: "As we move towards a General Election it remains the case that the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply divided over the question of the leadership ... The continued speculation and uncertainty is allowing our opponents to portray us as dispirited and disunited."

Battered Brown looks set to weather the storm and cling on until the bitter end. But a failed coup bid leaves a wretched Party deeply divided with a PM hostage to his own cabinet.

Downing Street will be busy hatching cunning plans to come out fighting with a 'united' front.

But an unelected leader who cannot command the unswerving support of all his parliamentary MPs and ministers in the run up to a general election confirms what voters already know. A Party 'dispirited and disunited' with a lame duck prime minister of a fag-end government.

As the Tories sit back and watch the New Labour sport of tearing itself apart, Cameron's campaign slogan springs to mind: We can't go on like this.

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