Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Consequences of Hazel Blears

A few weeks ago I warned that the Prime Minister might soon experience the wrath of a wounded chipmunk. I could never have predicted that Hazel Blears would resign from the Cabinet the day before an important set of elections. Her departure is entirely understandable, as she has experienced weeks of briefings against her. Over the last 12 hours Downing Street have been briefing the media that it was Blears who leaked the fact that Jacqui Smith would be leaving. Her patience snapped, and she told Brown that she'd had enough. Her resignation statement was notable for its lack of a single mention of Gordon Brown or the "achievements" of his government, which is the normal thing in these matters.

Readers know that I have a lot of time for Hazel Blears. I do think that she has been one of the more talented Cabinet Ministers, not that she has had a lot of competition for that accolade. But the most important thing is that many of her colleagues underestimate her.

I suspect that she may well make a resignation speech in the Commons next week. Could she really turn out to be Geoffrey Howe reincarnated? Analogies with the events of November 1990 can be overdone, but there's another one too - remember how Margaret Thatcher went to France in the middle of her troubles? Guess who's off to France at the weekend. John Biffen said her departure was like standing in front of a Paris underground map and watching all the lights go on.

I had a text from a Labour MP this morning which said: "Right, that's it. Enough". There are two things which will determine Gordon Brown's future: whether there are any more resignations, and the results of the County Council and European elections. I gather there is a letter of no confidence doing the rounds of Labour MPs today. The rumour is that 40 MPs have signed up to it already. It needs 72 before events take on a momentum of their own.

Let's scroll forward. If Brown goes - and I now think that is possible, if not probable - would the British public (and more importantly the media) stomach a second unelected Prime Minister in a row? Constitutionally, there is no reason the government is forced to hold an election in these circumstances, but politically it might be unavoidable. I don't think a new prime minister could get away with simply saying that the election will be in May 2010.

76 comments:

backbenchwarrior said...

If Brown comes third in the Euro Election, I reckon he'll stay. If he comes fourth, he's finished.

Blears may very well have signalled the beginning of the end. Whether that is for Brown or for new labour altogether, well that remains to be seen.

Will S said...

There's only one Labour MP whom I know of who would have your text number. Is Tom Harris revolting???

Kate. said...

Alan Johnstons name is being floated about to go up against Brown.

Not a sheep said...

Until today I didn't really believe that the Labour party would have the cojones to properly challenge Gordon Brown. Following Hazel Blears' resignation and with two bad election results on the way along with a reshuffle that could make Ed Balls, one of the few Cabinet Ministers more loathed than Gordon Brown, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer; I now think next week could well see Gordon Brown forced to call a general election or issue a "put up or shut up" type challenge.

Tony said...

Well what a surprise. Hazel can now spend more time with her GB-hating Tory mates. Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

Hazel Blears for leader of the McLabour Paty......in permanent opposition (at best).

Mark M said...

We can only hope. Given his allergy to democracy it would be fitting that he shouldn't ever lead the Labour party in a general election.

"The only PM to be kicked out before he ever got a chance to lead in an election" - it's all Brown's legacy deserves to be.

javelin said...

I reckon Brown will jump this weekend to spend time with his family. He will not say sorry and go out the back door of number ten blaming everybody but himself.

Anonymous said...

Does 40 Lab MPs plus Tories plus Lib Dems equal a Commons majority?

Carl Gardner said...

I think an apology for the things Labour has got wrong, plus a promise to sort out expenses and give a couple of months for parties to get untainted candidates in place could buy just enough time - till November, say? - to put together a new Labour manifesto.

Obsidian said...

I may be wrong, but I can't see Brown going - he's going to hang on like grim death.

You know that episode of Father Ted where Ted ends up gripped to an aircraft wheel? That's going to be Brown and his desk at Number 10.

I actually feel something akin to sorrow for Brown, he's obvisously not firing on all cylinders and an attempt to oust him may actually end up in one of the more embarrassing moments in political history. I want him gone, but not in a scene reminscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

Anonymous said...

Not another 'Blair Babe' you have a lot of time for, Iain.

Spliff and the Chipmunk are useless, absolutely and utterly useless.

Could you seriously see either of these women running anything in the private world. Like a whelk stall?

No, neither could I.

Plato said...

Oh dear me - Hazel's closet is rattling with CGT

ukipwebmaster said...

Stay Kalm, it's only another endorsement dear:

http://order-order.com/2009/06/03/kalms-i-am-considering-lending-my-vote-to-ukip/

dearieme said...

The Telegraph reports that Blears had avoided Capital Gains Tax on a third home. Extraordinary that No. 10 would leak that on the day before the elections - they must reckon that Brown is in such peril that leaking it on Friday would be too late.

Tally ho!

Jonathan Cook said...

The thought of someone like Alan Johnson taking over from Brown and limping onwards in order to try and save as many Labour seats as possible is truly depressing.

We need a government that is going to rip up the budget and get finances under control immediately and one that is going to drive major unprecedented reform through Britain NOW!!!!

JuliaM said...

"If Brown goes - and I now think that is possible, if not probable..."

Surely 'inevitable' is the word you're looking for?

Anonymous said...

I feel no sympathy for the Labour party. They elected this moron as leader, unopposed, when Blair went off to spend more time with his money. They deserve him.

It's the country I am so sorry for. We do not deserve Brown, any more than Germany deserved Hitler.

SHB said...

I think your analysis is pretty much bang on the numbers, more resignations and a meltdown in the elections will surely do for Brown.

In my opinion any new Labour leader would have to call an election. There may be no constitutional requirement to do this but I think it would happen because:

1) Labour are going to loose the next election anyway, so as a new leader you might as well go to the polls now, loose, keep your job and have some say in the re-building process. The alternative would be call an election next year after 11 months in the job, loose and then loose your job as the new leader.

2) I don't believe the people would accept it. We are a reasonably docile bunch, but I can't remember a time when the public was so angry about politicians and parliament. I wouldn't rule out mass protests.

Can the Queen dissolve parliament without the PM asking? - now that would be awesome - the Queen summons GB to Buck Pal and delivers the line - 'You're fired'

Anonymous said...

"We do not deserve Brown, any more than Germany deserved Hitler."

Brilliant quote, anon. One for the scrap book!

Just remember this - even Hitler went through ONE democratic election!

Frugal Dougal said...

Blears' departure is good for her but bad for the country, further destabilising Labour the day before an election in which it has done everythiong a party could do to drive people to the BNP.

Paul Halsall said...

Iain,

What have you heard of the Burnham and Flint rumours?

Chris Paul said...

This is chipmunk-partisan drivel Iain. I have a lot of time for Hazey too, though not for her Blearism, but only you could think to mention her being briefed against without mentioning her tax choices which - fairly or unfairly - were unpopular in the metro elite MSM.

Not so much in the NW we'll find.

As you well know Iain Hazel is one for secret briefings, not always correct, and some of which have been far more vexatious and momentous than merely telling us that Smith will be going soon.

I think Brown may well survive and surprise.

norfolkandchance said...

Hazel Blears was caught with her hands in the till. Electorally she was finished anyway. This story ought to be about how GB dithered on firing her so long as to give her the, undeserved, chance to quit.

Chris Paul said...

PS "one of the more talented cabinet ministers"??? DCLG has given a lot of scope to test this theory ...

Paul Halsall said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5435583/Hazel-Blears-resignation-triggered-by-capital-gains-tax-on-another-property-MPs-expenses.html

Looks like Ed Balls has been chatting to Will Lewis.

acadman said...

@MarkM - wasn't Eden kicked out without facing an election?

@To all: Whoever is in charge, Labour will definitely hang on past October, because that is when the Irish will vote on Lisbon. This has a number of advantages for them:

1) Low politics. If Lisbon is ratified, and CMD doesn't call a referendum (which he won't) the issue has every chance of torpedoing an incoming Tory administration.

2) Moreover, a UK bound into a social democratic Europe allows socialism to be installed by other means and would frustrate a Tory legislative program.

3) Labour are now totally reliant on the unions for funding, particularly for an election campaign they simply haven't got the money to finance. From the days of the TUC singing 'Frere Jacques' to Jacques Delors, the unions have recognised that binding Britain into the EU is as useful, if not more so, to them than a Labour government. The unions won't release funds for a election campaign prior to Lisbon being ratified.

4) The publics rage at the expenses scandal may have started to cool off by then.

Anonymous said...

Iain has Blears Goggles on again....

Anonymous said...

what's happening to Flinty?

mouth said...

"Is Tom Harris revolting???"

I'd say he's pretty repulsive, yes.

You didn't say what the text was in response to, Iain - I'm guessing you'd messaged asking him what he had on. Right now. ;-)

hatfield girl said...

It isn't just the electorate that will not be satisfied with the apology for 'things Labour has got wrong' suggested by Carl Gardner

First, it isn't Labour that got things wrong. The Labour movement has spent the last 12 years opposing what the New Labour regime has been steam rollering into place - from the obscenities of the Iraq war, the reintroduction of judicial torture and its product used in court, the abolition of the rule of law, the destruction of civil liberties, the rendering of over a third of the school population of the New Labour years functionally illiterate and innumerate - this paragraph could go for miles.

It is to the hundreds of thousands of committed people who worked to place Brown, and before him Blair's, administration in power who have been utterly betrayed and evicted from their own Party - no voice, no means of influencing the PLP and most of all the Executive wholly ring-fenced from those who though they were their representatives.

As Brown will not leave the Leadership then the Movement must leave Brown. This has begun. Some have begun to acknowledge they were supporting cuckoos.

But talk of apologies and of 'things got wrong' is to pretend that evil was perpetrated in error.

Anonymous said...

@ Will S - " Is Tom Harris revolting???" Shurely that depends on your point of view.

talwin said...

Anon @ 1.27

"we do not deserve Brown, any more than Germany deserved Hitler"

Take your point, anon, but you're only partly right. I'd suggest we're worse of than the Germans of the early 30s. As anon II points out, Hitler did, at least, win a democratic election.

And the reality is that at that time the Germans were falling over themselves to 'sieg heil' their nutter. They loved the idea of him re-occupying the Rhineland, pissing off the Versailles treaty and re-arming. The 'anschluss' was, for a lot of them, a splendid wheeze. And so on; jews, Sudetendland, Czechoslovakia, Poland - the full monty. Plenty of Germans loved what their crack-pot was doing.

We, instead, didn't elect our own nutter. Everything he has touched has turned to shit. Not only the public but his party hate him and want him to go.

No, anon. The Germans got what they largely wanted and deserved (until it all went tits-up at Stalingrad).

We, on the other hand, did not get what we asked for: and most definitely not what we deserved.

Hogarth said...

It is now obvious that Gordon Brown is going. The poisoned chipmunk has played her hand very well.

The BBC just reported that the Brown 'must go letter' has received the support of approximately Labour 80 MPs. Whether they will make their names public is another matter.

Harry said...

"Is Tom Harris revolting???"

He's a Labour MP; of course he's revolting!

David said...

Noone has resigned for nearly 2 hours. Has the Government got a new found stability?

Paul Linford said...

"Chipmunk-partisan drivel" is putting it a bit strongly, but I really can't understand your admiration Iain for a minister who has (1) fiddled her expenses, and (2) been blatantly disloyal to her party's leader in the run-up to a vital set of elections. If she was a Tory MP you would be calling for her to thrown out of the party.

Newmania said...

That Mr. Dale is why I come here . Great stuff confirming to me what I thought I knew and then adding just a bit more ....Its exciting really why are more people not commenting I wonder

Timothy Belmont said...

The Labour Government is simply biding its time now, clinging on to Power desperately; since the writing is already on the political wall and they know that their time is up.

Gordon Brown must now hold an election forthwith; it's the honourable thing to do under the circumstances.

boulay said...

it amuses me that the only people with balls in the labour party are those without balls.

betterpolitics said...

www.betterpol.com - looks like Michael Fabricant has heard something

True Tory said...

Brown ought to have sacked Blears, and indeed Smith and any others with questions to answer.

This pair of troffers are no loss to public life in the same way as all those other troffers who've exited stage left have provided the only public service of their miserable lives.

It's amusing though the way you have a lot of time for female troffers.

I just hope your own personal fag haggery is not a sign of Conservatism to come.

We now need men of principle to reform and inject some democracy into public life.

Your own rather louche approach is part of what got us into this mess in the first place.

Brown disappears in a puff of logic said...

If Brown reckons the Tories indeed have no policies then surely by calling a snap General Election Brown would win? So Brown fails again by being so clever that he does not see the banana skin in his own argument!

I shall 'lend' my vote to UKIP tomorrow - the prospect of Labour in 4th position is a chance not worth missing.

Magic_2010 said...

Only 2 and a half weeks until a new Speaker is chosen. Will Gorbals outlast McClown? Bets please..

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Constantly Furious has described Hazel Blears' resignation as “falling on her toothpick.” Brilliant!

http://constantlyfurious.blogspot.com/2009/06/and-another-bites-dust.html

Jim Baxter said...

Wasn't Eden kicked out without facing an election?

Eden called an election very soon after Churchill retired and increased the Conservative majority.

Lola said...

A few points. One, I have been betting on a July election for some time. In fact I am not going to arrantge a holiday just in case.

Second, although I agree with you that Blears is attractive, personable, even to the point of fanciability, and possibly the least untalented member of the cabinet, she is as deluded as the rest of them. The verbal gymnastics she uses to continue to try and justify the New Labour 'project' and its whole ghastly philosophy are unforgiveable. I've listened to her and she has no clue at all as to how the real world works. She is a fully paid up member of the class that believes that man is inherently evil and that she and her class hold the monopoloy on the ideas and manner in which this natural wrongness can be 'corrected'. This is just plain bonkers. It flies in the face of all the eveidence to the contrary that leftyism, wherever and whenever it has been tried always but always ends up in epic failure.

On top of this she persists in sticking to the the two most offensive thought management propanda mantras spouted by the whole boiling lot of them that one, their economic policies have been undermined by 'market failure' and that their politics have been undermined by 'democaratic failure'. The obverse is true. The markets (that is me and you) have succeeded and passed accurate judgement on New Labour's flawed fiscal and economic policy and now democracy has successfully passed judgement on their flawed - and epically deceitful - politics.

So, IMHO Blears is just another NL apparatchik who deserves all she gets. Which if I had anything to do with it would be a severe spanking (well a chap can dream). That is all she is good for.

Lola said...

Talwin said - "No, anon. The Germans got what they largely wanted and deserved (until it all went tits-up at Stalingrad)." And Alamein and Midway (for the whole Axis that is). Late 42/early 43 was a Good Time to be an Ally.

Stephen Gash said...

I wonder if her last words as she left Broon's office were "take that you wee shite"?

VotR said...

I could envision an election soonish, especially if the Labour MP campaigning a leadership bid promises one in his / her(?) selection phase.

I've read elsewhere that there could be a July election, but I don't see that as feasible or even possible. Maybe October, in the timetable of things, that could be very possible.

Brown's Nazi-like smearing against his own cabinet to create scape goats must be brought into account and he must be held responsible for what has transpired today, as well as those who have stood by and helped him with these shadowy practices (that includes you, Harman) in assassinating political opponents. Blair, Blears, even his Darling.

How long does Brown expect to get away with this kind of nasty undemocratic and childish behaviour?

trevorsden said...

After burning the resichstag Hitler and his blackand brownshirts did get 43% in the Feb(?) '33 election.
But he was still only a minority party, the largest but not with a majority. So whether Hitler ever 'won' an election is a moot point.

Boris is said to have claimed £16 for a wreath. He says it was a mistake. I tend to agree and also would say that the claim for £5 donation and some other the other absurd Labour claims were careless as well.

Boris will just have to explain himself.

Stephen Gash said...

That other Blair babe, David Miliband, will be next.

When he gets back from pissing off whatever foreign government he's pissing off presently.

sunonmars said...

Problem is for Labour, Alan Johnson is not going to solve anything, total lightweight thats going to get torn up, he has only been in cabinet since 2004 and not held any of the big beast PM making departments. He has not run any of the big beast depts like Home, Foreign or treasury and has had 4 cabinet positions in 5 years.

Hardly a good recommnedation for running the country.

Mr Eugenides said...

Iain,

Your magnanimity to Blears is to your credit. But can you name me a single thing that she's, y'know, done?

Anonymous said...

"Over the last 12 hours Downing Street have been briefing the media that it was Blears who leaked the fact that Jacqui Smith would be leaving."

Is that from the same source who told you that Tom Watson saw the McBride emails?

Just asking - since your sources haven't been too reliable recently.

Geoffrey G Brooking said...

Iain.

Got to log off to go campaigning but just heard a rumour that Caroline Flint is resigning as I write.

Do investigate.

Old Stubbs of Knaresboro said...

The point must surely be approaching,when the Opposition should think about tabling a motion of no confidence. I assume the arithmetic is still overwhelmingly in Brown's favour but I think it would be a bruising and embarrassing experience for any MP voting for him. And in these circumstances it would be a legitimate test of where parliament and MPs stand.

Anonymous said...

Blears was a pitiful spectacle in her continuous 'class wars'. She represented pure and simple hatred and has done NOTHING but harm in her made up job.
Good riddance.

Martin said...

Blears is useless, just like all the other useless female Labour politicians. Over promoted and under talented, they are dropping like flies in a Kebab shop.

Stephen Gash said...

Tony Benn was on TV and said that out of this will come constitutional reform and matters need talking about such as an English Parliament.

Blears could ingratiate herself once more with the electorate by backing one.

Gromit said...

http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/223/hazelblearsandfeathers.jpg

Siberian Tory said...

Does anyone think this could be a 1922 moment for the Labour party when the liberal party split?

Tartwatch said...

Hillary Benn,Party Unity PM.

Anonymous said...

Gladstone did it for three years; Brown should appoint himself Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Bardirect said...

According to Sky news Brown is already reshuffling!

Nigel said...

>>But can you name me a single thing that she's, y'know, done?<<

Talked for unfeasible lengths of time, apparently without drawing breath.

Gordon said...

Blears as Geoffrey Howe reincarnated? Is anyone good at photoshop??

Rt Hon Ed Balls mp said...

SKY News....Reshuffle under way.

Brown has lost it.

And, I have won.

DespairingLiberal said...

I had a conversation with her on a train once (first class, naturally!) - she was returning from Hull to London from inspecting flood damage. Her civil servants were the usual mix of bright young oxbridge know-nothings and middle of the road older types. She struck me as intense but basically dim - a distinctly middling sort of careerist with no real grasp of ideas.

I think this shows in her latest actions - they are those of a petulant junior school teacher going off in a huff with the head after a barney about something someone said in the staff room.

Sad evidence that the general run of Labour MPs are very poor that she was ever a cabinet minister, at least, of the ones trusted by Blair/Brown. There are plenty of heavier-duty individual MPs but many of them are rejected by the modern machine politics as "too independent" or "too bright". We see that in cases like Frank Field, Ken Livingstone and Rhodri Morgan. In their own different ways, they were all rejected by NuLab.

This is all to do with their unwillingness or otherwise to go along with the corporatised agenda.

There has been good stuff in this discussion today about the release or otherwise of union money and what it depends on. Blair could get it by giving in to the unions on certain small issues whilst maintaining his right-wing, big corporate agenda. Brown has been too incompetent to be as popular as Blair, whilst pursuing the same pro-City policies, so has nothing left to offer.

Note that this will all be basically the same under a Cameron administration - small shifts in emphasis but the interests of bankers, hedge fund managers and foreign oligopolists will still dominate.

Peter Mandlesohn will get a job in the new Cameron government.

David Lindsay said...

Forced out is a woman who came up through local community activism via local government, seems rather unlikely to be mistaken for a member of any Primrose Hill set, and recently made a very John Smith-like speech defending a nurse who had offered to pray for a patient while denouncing those councils which refused to fly the Union Flag.

But kept in is a man who went to public school and Oxford before persecuting the poor, sick and disabled while charging the taxpayer four hundred pounds per month for food, since apparently neither his ministerial nor his parliamentary salary is paid in order to feed him.

Funny, that.

Anonymous said...

"If Brown goes [...] would the British public (and more importantly the media)..."

That phrase is in itself a damning indictment of the state of play in Britain, isn't it? Why should the media's voice be more important than that of the public? The media should be reflecting our voice, not setting the terms of the debate for itself.

"I don't think a new prime minister could get away with simply saying that the election will be in May 2010"

Why not? They've got away with far worse since the last election ("Sorry, we lied - you're not having that Lisbon referendum after all! Fooled you, suckers!") so why should Labour start listening now?

Delphius1 said...

A few people I know said back in December I was daft to predict a vote of no confidence in Gordon Brown this summer and a late summer/early autumn general election.

I said then that if Brown was ousted, the public wouldn't stomach another change of leadership without an election. The public mood has worsened and their political awareness has been raised to such an extent that if Labour put a new leader in place and don't give us an election, there will be riots in the streets.

However, once we have the election and the new leaders are in power, once they see the state of the economy and the scale of the defecit, they will have to go public. I don't rule out riots then and Gordon Brown had better be in some far flung land lest the lynch mobs find him.

teresa said...

Blears and Jacqui in 24hrs? it's not snowing... but apparently it's xmas.

DespairingLiberal said...

Dream on Delphius - he will have a peerage and a large estate in Scotland courtesy of some of his banker chums.

You may well be right though about the riots once Cameron/Osborne try to impose mass-cuts on behalf of their tax-dodging sponsors in the havens and hedge funds. I think their agenda will be clear.

Sad really when you think of all the patriotically-minded people feeling that the Tories are their party, when in fact they essentially now serve some very, very wealthy foreign business interests of a dubious sort.

SATony said...

One thing no-one has mentioned yet is can labour and, to a lesser extent, the tories afford a general election. It would cost them each 25-30 million. I don't think either of them can afford it now and with the recession and public anger getting the donations in quick time would be impossible!

Paul Halsall said...

"One thing no-one has mentioned yet is can labour and, to a lesser extent, the tories afford a general election. It would cost them each 25-30 million."

Does no-one else think that this is a wonderful thing, compared to the over 1 Billion cost of just the US Presidential election, never mind the cost of the countless smaller US state and local elections.