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Saturday, 6 June 2009

Going, Going ... Not Gone?

To once again use the word “febrile” to describe the political mood yesterday would be verging on understatement. There were resignations, rumours, allegations and a clearly fraught Prime Ministerial press conference. But after the fog of yet another battle cleared, Pa Broon was still there, though Labour had a grim day of local election results. So many keep on that he’s going, but he doesn’t go. Will the next few days be any different?

The resignation of Photo Edit Man James Purnell, which I considered yesterday, was going to be the “tipping point”: from that moment, other ministers would troop into the Brown study, rather in the manner of the final days of Margaret Thatcher, to tell him the game was up. It didn’t happen. More, the Cabinet has given the impression that its members are not for changing leader. Well, not just yet.

Because the local elections weren’t the only ones being held. The European poll was on the same day; the count will not be until tomorrow, putting us in line with the rest of the EU. What will be revealed when the votes are totted up is now the subject of yet more speculation. It is likely to be bad for Labour, and this may set off another attempt to force a change of leader, as the Guardian has considered.

For any challenge to have a chance of success, there would need to be more than seventy MPs willing to subscribe to it. If the Euro-poll is as bad as feared, that number may be comfortably exceeded. But what would happen next? Well, if Brown was then persuaded to step down, there would have to be either a successor ready to take over, or a number of potential replacements would then face off in a leadership election.

The winner would then become leader of the party and Prime Minister. So far, so straightforward. But then would come the cry from Young Dave and Corporal Clegg for a General Election – and rather louder than of late. They will argue that the new leader must submit him or herself to the electorate. What grounds they have for such claims I’ll consider soon. In the meantime, the question is still whether Brown will be on his way come next week.

Let’s wait and see what the Euro-poll throws up. A real stinker for Labour will increase the momentum towards a change of leader. By late on Monday, if the results are so bad, we will know the answer.

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