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John Rentoul: Madness is sanity

Posted by Eagle Eye
  • Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 10:48 am

The Labour Party is in a Catch-22 world where madness is the proof of sanity. My esteemed colleague Steve Richards writes in The Independent today:

Labour has acted madly many times since the last election. The attempt to dump Gordon Brown now is the maddest act of them all.

Whereas I wrote the day before that trying to dump Brown is plainly the most rational course for a party that wants to do whatever it takes to deny David Cameron a majority at the election.

Let us clarify where we agree and disagree. Richards accepts that Labour would do better at the election if it were led by someone other than Brown. That view is widely shared, if unacknowledged, among Labour MPs including the Cabinet. The contentious issue is how to get from here to there. If we could wake up tomorrow to find that Alan Johnson is prime minister and Gordon Brown was working on his memoirs in Cape Cod, most Labour people would breathe a sigh of relief and the sunlit uplands, aka a hung parliament, would shine in the near distance.

But there has to be coup and a leadership election first. As Richards says:

If Brown is removed there is no guarantee that there will be a smooth coronation, and nor should there be. The party has already staged one leadership contest with a single candidate. It could not hold another without looking like it is paying tribute to elections in the old Soviet Union. Yet a genuine contest with a range of candidates would highlight divisions at a phase in the political cycle when a façade of unity is essential.

This is where we disagree. The act of regicide might make Labour look divided, although, if successful, it would also look like a party coming to its senses. And a leadership election would be fun, interesting and a healing process. Not like in 1981, when the deputy leadership election nearly healed the Labour Party to death: there are no ideological divisions of that depth today.

Success changes everything. What was reprehensible about yesterday's coup was that it failed. But what was hopeful about it was that it very nearly succeeded. Those six unlikely Cabinet names having been outed, it is not quite over yet.


Gordon Brown
quietzapple wrote:
Monday, 11 January 2010 at 01:36 pm (UTC)
is the best political leader Great Britain has had for many a year.

Prickliness and moodiness not withstanding.

Getting important decisions right is the main requirement, usually forgotten.

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