Lemmings over the electoral cliff
Posted by Fraser at 8 03 PM on Saturday, June 6
ALISTAIR Darling will wake up this morning and look around amazed. He is still Chancellor: how, he’ll think, did that happen?
On Thursday, he thought he was toast. On Wednesday, Peter Mandelson was telling everyone that he was toast. But he survived.
And why? The answer lies in the failed rebellion, which tells you everything you need to know about Labour’s slow-motion suicide.
It started when Darling began to warn Brown “no more debt” — and threatened to cut up his credit card. Brown vowed revenge.
Thus began Operation Move Over, Darling — installing the compliant Ed Balls as Chancellor with instructions to spend like mad.
When James Purnell was slyly offered Balls’s job in education he twigged what was going on. This explains his sensational resignation.
I have heard Cabinet members tell me how Balls is a liar who stitches up colleagues and nicks their ideas. No wonder Purnell quit.
And no wonder Peter Mandelson then phoned around other Cabinet members and said: Darling is staying! Please don’t go!
If other Cabinet members had followed Purnell, who quit at 10pm on Thursday, then Brown would have to go. It really was that close.
If David Miliband quit as Foreign Secretary it would have been over. But the Boy Wonder showed as much courage as he did last summer.
That is to say: none. He was easily bought off by Mandy’s promises. He stayed put, and let his friend Purnell wander alone to the wilderness.
By 1am on Friday it was over. Other Cabinet members said they’d stay, as long as Balls wasn’t going to be Chancellor.
So easily bought, a pro like Mandelson, it was child’s play: a Cabinet of wimps and careerists, hardly a leader amongst them.
In those three hours, Labour had a decision. Would it fight? Take a leap in the dark, as the Tories did when they elected David Cameron?
Or would they cave in, and pocket another year of ministerial salary before losing their jobs and (in the case of seven) their seats?
No competition. Labour is easily bullied. That’s how Brown got to No10, and that’s how he is staying there.
They all decided that a mass suicide pact is far easier. Much less effort to follow Brown like lemmings over the electoral cliff.
What a pitiful sight the ministers all made on Friday, talking about how much they like Brown — even those who despise him.
I bumped into one. “What are you doing?” I asked. “You don’t believe this. Why aren’t you joining Purnell?”
“I have been through this in my head — it’s the best for the party,” he replied. “I’ll call you later and explain.” He never did.
As a Cabinet member explained it to me: “Labour is too nice, I suppose, our instinct is to rally behind leaders in crisis.”
If these were young MPs with their careers ahead of them (like Purnell) they’d think long-term and take the decision.
Polls show that Labour members want change. But MOST Labour MPs are waiting for a payoff, or hoping for a peerage.
The party has lost the hunger for power that made it choose Tony Blair in 1994. It is exhausted from 12 years of power.
To keep Brown as Prime Minister, with every kitchen knife in Britain lodged in his back, guarantees a massive Tory victory.
And when we see the Euro election results tonight I suspect many Labour members will realise how bad things are.
Now there is more talent on Labour’s backbenches than in the Cabinet, I’d bet on a new attempt pretty soon.
But I would not bet on success. It seems as if the party is bent on committing some kind of assisted suicide.
The Labour party made its choice last week. It doesn’t want to fight. Now, it just wants to die.