It’s odd to have endured a week of newspaper gossip (aka political punditry) on the TV and in the papers about GB (Gordon Brown’s fateful initials). Polly Toynbee (met once, very rude, not interested as was not famous) and Jackie Ashley are both saying he should pack it in, because that way everyone (including Jack Straw) would do better, i.e come close to avoiding a Labour defeat at the next election. In the case of Alan Johnson, ‘a poll’ suggests that a hung parliament would be in order. I would like to ask, seriously, if there has ever been a period before a general election, including the Blair and Thatcher landslides, when this has not actively been debated.
The answer, which you knew because it was a rhetorical question not even dignified by a question mark, is No. We always talk about hung parliaments, because they would be a political twist. There was one in 1923, when Macdonald chose to govern alone, and one in the first 1974 election, when Wilson did ditto, and yes, there was the vague Lib-Lab pact at the end of the Callaghan government in 1978. But otherwise, no sniff of one.
I have thought about all this stuff. I have a fair amount of poached egg on my face for having suggested Hazel Blears was okay. I cannot be trusted as a pundit. But why – he says, recklessly trampling into the mire – is the idea of replacing Gordon Brown so attractive? He may not be a great communicator, and he may go a bit weepy about being imperfect, and he may have palled up with Mandelson, but does anything about his dismissal really suggest that there would be a change? All you would have is a vaguely new crew with the same policies, most of which I support. For the first time (maybe the second), I think that Tony Benn is right: we are too obsessed with personalities. Alan Johnson may be a very nice man; he may have been a postman (a major plus); he may be soft-spoken; but what difference would it make if he were in charge, other than one of perception?
So we are supposed to change a party leader/ prime minister on the basis of probable perception? It is rubbish. Rubbish politics, rubbish journalism. It may even be a rubbish idea for Labour supporters (Gordon goes, huge sea-change in fortune, it’s a complete illusion).
I would rather cut the melodrama, and wait for a general election.