Should he stay or should he go?

24May08

One can almost feel sorry for Gordon Brown. He waited ten years to be Prime Minister, but his first year in power has been dogged by bad decisions, bad publicity, and bad elections results. Today the Guardian reports that key Labour figures are murmuring that he needs to go. None will yet identify themselves, but it may be only a matter of time.

Brown inherited an electorate disillusioned with New Labour. He may well have hoped that it was Blair, not Labour, who was the problem, and that a change of leadership would rejuvenate the party and bolster its chances of winning another election. He seems to have been proved wrong.

First the loss of data discs back in November, which prompted more revelations of just how carefully people’s personal data was being looked after. It was the mistake of a junior official, but would not have happened had proper data protection rules been followed. It did not make the government look good.

The abolition of the ten percent tax band, the sudden realisation that some people would end up worse off, and the hastily-cobbled-together “solution” (which benefits some who didn’t suffer, while not helping some who did) have not either. People who are poorer will blame Brown for that. People who watched the sorry saga unfold will blame him for that, too.

The local election results at the start of May which saw a large number of councils turn blue and the first Conservative London Mayor, and the by-election in Crewe and Nantwich, have all pointed towards a swing in the country’s mood. Some traditional Tory voters may have supported Labour for a few years in the absence of a credible Conservative leader. Now, it seems, they have one, and as Labour struggles, they too may lose voters to Cameron.

Of course, by-election results are notably bad indicators of the country at large. But the local elections do seem to be signs of a swing in the country’s perceptions of Brown and Labour. Labour leaders face a dilemma. Replace Brown with someone more appealing? But there seem to be no such candidates. Or keep him, and hope that somehow by this time next year the Labour government has managed to make some good decisions? In the upcoming debate on whether to extend detention of terrorism suspects, Brown supports 42 days. It’s not a popular position, and one I personally would like to see defeated. Brown’s handling of it, and the final result, may ultimately play a part in deciding his fate.

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