Time to go, Gordon
Update: As the Times Online reported earlier this morning, Gordon Brown has since decided to resign as leader of the Labour party. Here is the full text version of his resignation speech
What if you threw an election and nobody won?
What if everybody lost?
That is exactly what’s happened in Britain where the only absolute winners from last Thursday’s election are the UK Greens who won their first seat in Parliament.
Gordon Brown’s Labour Party certainly lost. And for all the media talk of “Cleggmania,” the Liberal Democrats went backwards. Even the Ulster Unionists, expected to bolster a minority Tory government, lost their leader.
And the frittering away of what should have been a comfortable victory for the Tories under David Cameron leaves the conservatives without any real moral authority to claim victory. All it proves is that the stench of Thatcherism still hangs so strongly over the Tory brand that they can’t even capitalise on Great Britain’s worst recession in fifty years.
It is clear that the result was a “Romeo and Juliet result ” – “a plague on both your houses” election, caused by the hangover from the MP’s expenses scandal. You can bet that as voters entered the polling booths taking revenge for duck houses, moat cleaning and porn videos was at the forefront of their minds.
And thus, the grand old home of Westminster democracy, based as it has been for centuries on the two party adversarial model, becomes just another debt ridden European country cobbling together unworkable coalitions for limited time government.
And yet, the type of electoral reform being talked about as part of the bargaining process to form a new British government will only entrench minority government. It is the very anthesis of the Westminster system of representative democracy based as it is on single member electorates. In fact, I am at a loss as to why Nick Clegg is so passionate about PR in the first place.
All it will do is concrete in place the Lib Dems role as the third force in British politics. Maybe they are happy to attempt to be the kingmaker for all time rather than ever having a shot at being king.
But, I reckon, Clegg should actually be arguing for the introduction of preferential voting: a system that given how often his party finishes second in seats held by both Labour and Liberal would actually given him a shot at winning office.
So while we all wait for the end of negotiations between the parties to end and a new PM to emerge, any Australian wanting an insight into exactly why the British people came to despise Gordon Brown and his government should pick up a copy of a superb new book on the history of the Blair and Brown governments by the Chief political reporter for The Observer Andrew Rawnsley.
Rawnsley’s “The End of The Party”, details how the New Labour vision of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown came to be traduced by one man’s continuing lust for power. The book is a fascinating expose of the nefarious arts of how politics and government is conducted behind the scenes, and in the back rooms, as Blair and Brown battled for twelve years for control of the Labour Party.
Through every page of the book Brown comes across as a bitter, vindictive hater, scheming and skulking around in the house next door to the one he really wanted.
From the moment former Labour leader John Smith died in office and Brown, his natural successor, gave way to the younger man Blair, the stage was set for a contest of epic proportions. Even as they worked together to renew the old Labour Party Brown was obsessed with getting the job he saw as rightfully his.
For twelve years Brown set out to compete with, and where possible undermine, his own Prime Minister. Whilst Blair set out to deny, delay and at the end stonewall, – hoping he could stay on forever.
Even for Australians by now well used to the sight of a covetous (and somewhat personally unpopular) Treasurer lusting after the top political job in the land against a much more popular Prime Minister this expose of Gordon Brown’s assault on Tony Blair’s premiership will have even hardened political insiders gaping.
The book resounds with anecdote after anecdote of this bitter behind the scenes war such as Brown and Blair delivering competing speeches on alternate days of the annual party conference, with Brown setting out a manifesto basically attacking his Prime Minister’s policies and Blair on the next day denouncing his own Chancellor.
Brown was the anthesis of a team player, a self indulgent, anti-social bully. There is little doubt in reading this book that Brown’s thwarted ambitions consumed him to the point of madness. Some Blairite supporters of course thought he was already mad, as in the immortal words of Frank Field telling Blair not to step down in favour of his Chancellor - “You can’t let Mrs Rochester out of the attic”.
Discovering Brown’s true personality through the pages of this magnificent work leaves one in no doubt as to why Brown’s tenure as Prime Minister was marked by political incompetence and misadventure from day one. Here was a man who had been fixated on the means of getting the top job for so long that he had no idea what to do with it once it was his.
And it’s no wonder why the British people have overwhelmingly rejected him despite the undoubted achievements of the government for which he was so long an integral part.
After Thursday, the era of New Labour is dead.
Rather than clinging desperately to the last vestiges of power, by doing deals with the Lib Dems to destroy British democracy as we know it, Brown would be better off making way for someone else.
That would allow a similar renewal of Labour to the one that he was once so much a part of. Gordon, you’ve sat there too long, now go.
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