Is Gordon Brown's Labour Party Eating Itself Before Dinner?

03/18/2010 05:12 am 05:12:02 | Updated May 25, 2011

The British Labour Party is finally embracing technology.

But it may be some time before e-Surrection forms part of the range of e-Government services now available. Two prominent ex-cabinet ministers have reportedly sent texts to all Labour members of Parliament seeking a secret ballot on Gordon Brown's leadership.

One can only imagine: R U WIV GB OR WOT?

In other news, Apple Inc. (AAPL) shares have also seen sharp gains in early trading with many anticipating an announcement on a forthcoming regime change device, which begins shipping in March. The iRevolt is said to be ergonomically-designed, if a little pricey, with buyers likely to be tied in to a pre-loaded political dogma under an 18 month contract.

Leadership challenges are not all that unusual in British politics; however, this turn of events does seem to re-write the history books somewhat. Never has an incumbent British Prime Minister faced a challenge to his or her leadership in such close proximity to a general election - one that almost certainly will be held on or before June 3rd 2010. Unseating any PM is not an insignificant undertaking, least of all a British one. But most Britons would appreciate it if the leader of the opposition Conservative Party, David Cameron, actually did it - after all, that's his day job - rather than a former Blairite Labour Party Chief Whip.

Y'see Johnny Foreigner, it's just not cricket. And like baseball, if something isn't in fact cricket, we simply don't understand it.

Former Labour Chief Whip, Geoff Hoon (now 'Buff' to his mates) and, former Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt have written to their party colleagues to ascertain, apparently "once-and-for-all," whether a secret ballot should be held to gauge levels of support for Brown to lead Labour into the forthcoming general election campaign. A campaign the Labour Party is widely expected to lose. And handsomely. Rather than by just a couple of Milibands.

"There are grumblings within the Party," they told the BBC.

Yet such a move is likely to be perceived as self-indulgent and destructive to the Party by the, er..Party itself. Hewitt and Hoon claim that in calling for a secret ballot, they are providing a platform for Labour MP's to air their grievances in the run-up to an election. Supporters of the PM will look to block any such ballot. They will claim it to be a waste of the Parliamentary Party's time when they should all be getting on with the business of government during these "difficult economic times." We can then expect Hewitt and Hoon to publicly respond, asking why Brown supporters don't wish to throw their support behind the PM in a secret ballot? A delicate political maneuver we like to call "Setting The Cat Among The Pigeons" - although perhaps not so much 'Cat' as piranha and not so much 'Pigeon' as piranha.

But cannibalizing the Labour Party so close to a general election could be a stroke of genius: assuming (a) There is a suitable successor to Brown ready to take on the urbane Cameron; and (b) Cameron makes a reasonably successful attempt on the life of the Duke of Edinburgh.

But the main issue at stake for the left is their lack of up-and-coming talent. The Miliband brothers hold both Foreign Secretary and Energy Secretary cabinet posts but are the (largely interchangeable) sons of Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband, so America will just adore them. Most Famous For: One of them doesn't believe in God and one of them suggested unhelpfully, in a BBC interview, that terrorism could be "...justifiable and yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective, but it is never effective on its own". Sardonically, both faux pas are accredited to the same sibling. The most Prime Ministerial of the two.

Then there's the thoughtlessly-named Ed Balls (Ed Balls to his mates), one of Brown's key lieutenants. Balls has, ironically, yet to display any political bravery and lacks Parliamentary experience. His proximity to Brown is not, for the time being, his finest feature. Most Famous For: His name, for now.

Darker horses include former Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell who, sensing he was on the cusp of greatness, attempted to incite a mistimed coup against Brown on the eve of local elections across the country last year. Anticipating Brown's popularity was heading south, and possibly acting on the sage advice of Jerry Maguire, Purnell spectacularly resigned his cabinet post amid a flurry of publicity, only to walk the plank alone. Most Famous For: Jumping-ship while still in dry dock.

As for Hewitt and Hoon, neither can be motivated by a misguided ideal that either of them could become the next leader. Their own profiles and popularity may be considered too mediocre for any such aspiration. But their positions within the Party do make their call difficult to ignore. Both are keen and canny operators and neither would have lifted their heads above the parapet if they didn't already have some silent support to underlie such loud 'grumblings.' Obvious allies will be Charles Clarke, Tom Harris, Jane Kennedy etc. - all former ministers - but time will tell whether more rebels emerge to declare themselves.

That these former ministers have acted in this way at all may not be surprising. Politicians are often criticised for being self-serving but, on this occasion, the damage to the Labour Party's chances to win a fourth term in office may already be visible. Even if Brown can stave off his skeptics long enough to fight the general election in the coming months, deep divisions within the Party would have been exposed too close to the start of a national campaign. Conversely, if a lack of support by Parliamentary colleagues is uncovered and Wooden Brown is actually felled, a new leader will have to be briskly plucked from a shallow pool. This could even mean anointing a potentially strong candidate before he or she is ready, only to lose a one-sided election, very possibly, to the Conservatives.

Hewitt and Hoon might have served their Party best by allowing Brown to face Cameron in 2010. This could have preserved the opportunity for a worthy successor to build time in opposition to mount a return to Government in 2015. With economic indicators suggesting any incoming administration will have little choice but to raise taxes early in their tenure, the Conservatives will have to weather widespread discontent and may struggle to maintain public goodwill during a first term. Labour must save their political capital for the time being. Brown must be allowed to ease them gracefully into promising opposition otherwise they risk slipping back into the world of permanent opposition, that which is associated with the grim years of old Labour.

Meanwhile, half-way across the globe, while wafting around LA in a late model (and) open-top red Fetuccini Turbo with his Oral-B cheveux-aux-vents, that subtle media mogul Simon Cowell has formulated an answer to all our problems. Bristling with excitement, he has announced British politics requires a make-over and, fortunately, he is just the man to do it. He has told British newspapers that US Presidential-style debates should be staged in Britain. No more the door-to-door footfall of the eager politician; Gone the quick speech and sausage roll at the British Legion; Fare-thee-well to coffee mornings at the Bilge-on-Sea village hall.

Bright lights, make-up and tele-voting.

'Political Idle' anyone?