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Real rebellion is a team game

I’d love to have been the waiter serving up lunch to Baroness Thatcher and Gordon Brown yesterday, just to eavesdrop.

“My party bumped me off in just a few days,” The Lady might have been saying. “I see with you, it’s slower. More agonising.”

Indeed, nobody seems able to put the PM out of his misery. And each time they try, it makes things worse.

The Cabinet’s actions so far have been pathetic. Moaning, but no action. All cloak and no dagger.

As Maggie once said: if you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.

So Siobhan McDonagh MP has just done what no Cabinet member has dared: call for a Labour leadership election. Her argument is powerful. Everyone is waiting for someone else to act, she says. So she will.

This is what our Spock-like Mr Miliband failed to realise when he made his half-cocked attempt a couple of months back. He was baffled when no one followed him. “Most illogical,” he thought. But logic has nothing to do with leadership battles.

You need to build up (and psyche up) a tribe. Lead from the front. You can’t start a rebellion by dropping hints.

“You’re right, but this is the wrong time,” ministers told him. So the Millipede decided to give up, and keep quiet.

At least Mrs McDonagh sacrificed her job as a party whip to try a bottom-up revolt. She acted on her beliefs. Labour MPs, she said, “are not here to earn lots of money at the end of the month. We’re here to bring about progress.”

The problem is so many of her terrified fellow MPs disagree. They have adopted a ‘heads down, expenses up’ strategy. The fight has already left them. They’re frozen in the headlights of what they see as an incoming Tory government.

Joan Ryan, another girl-power rebel MP, is not so fatalistic. “I’m a loyalist,” she says. “This is the most responsible thing I can do”.

Certainly, there’s nothing David Cameron wants more than to be up against Gordon Brown in a delayed 2010 election.

To wipe a smile off a Tory’s face (I’ve tried this experiment a lot) just talk about “Prime Minister Jack Straw” or Alan Johnson. Almost anyone else takes the sting out of the anti-Labour vote. The Tories badly need Brown to stay.

 

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