By all accounts, Pa Broon was in uncharacteristically good form at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today, but most of the attendant hacks were not paying as much attention to the banter between him, Young Dave and Corporal Clegg as they were to the news, first broached by the Guardian at 1157 hours, that there had been a call for a Labour leadership ballot.
What? Here we are, in a General Election year, with the campaign effectively under way – whatever the denials from any of the main parties – and the party of Government becomes embroiled in what will potentially turn off large numbers of voters. Who on earth wants that, apart from anyone who is not in the Labour Party?
Ah well. We need look no further than one of the instigators of the ballot call: step forward Geoff “Buff” Hoon, disaffected former minister, passed over for European Commissioner, and leaving the Commons at the General Election. He is supported by The Usual Suspects: Patricia Hewitt (also failed to get a Euro-berth, and also standing down next time), Charles Clarke, Frank Field, and Barry Sheerman (the Austen Chamberlain of the Labour back benches).
Thus far, anyone else being quoted is backing Brown: Baron Mandelson of Indeterminate Guacamole has cautioned against media overreaction, Hoon has been characterised as “Sideshow Bob”, and Brown confidante “Auguste” Balls has pointed out that Labour has actually had a moderately good week. But still absent from the chorus (1620 hours) are both Milibroons, Jack Straw, Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson, Hilary Benn and of course Alistair Darling. And the Mandelson intervention came not from the good Lord himself, but his spokesman.
But who wants the top job right now? Johnson doesn’t, Straw couldn’t cut it, and I doubt Darling would want to move next door. Hilary Benn, on the other hand, might just: after all, it would put one over on his Dad.
Just a thought.