I suppose in some ways I’m overjoyed to hear about the Peter Andre/ Jordon break-up, it does mean that the break-up of the Labour Party could be only the second most important this year. Although let us get one thing clear, though David Miliband has been accused before (and, to be sure, after Tim Shipman’s article for the (sick) Daily Mail today will be accused again) he will not be fronting a rebellion. Absolutely not. He realises that if his eyes are on the prize (which, okay, they obviously are) then a pre-2010 rebellion, let alone a post 4 June rebellion, would hurt his chances. Those likely to support Miliband’s leadership will most likely be the ones who call for unity.
One commentator who may well support an eventual Miliband leadership, but who will certainly moan and create a fuss (if she hasn’t, in anticipation done so already) about an Alan Johnson leadership is Anne Perkins, leader writer for the Guardian. In her article today, pouring scorn on Polly Toynbee’s call for a Labour plot, she notes that “[s]acking the prime minister with no sensible way of replacing him …would not rescue the party or the government” for the reason that “[w]hat this government needs to do is go home and prepare for opposition.”
Surely Perkins doesn’t mean prepare for an opposition victory. But I will say that if we don’t take heed of what Toynbee has said, prepare for an opposition government is what we shall have to do. Has Perkins seen the popularity polls? But change should not be just about polls, Brown’s inability to render a truly leftwards shift is as good a reason as any.
And Perkins’ wholesale dismissal of Alan Johnson on the basis that, in her words, “he has been in government for a long time, with … a record of studious loyalty” is not a good enough reason to ignore a prosperous Johnson leadership in the future.
My eggs are in no basket of realistic leader challengers yet, I hasten to add. But we will definitely need another leader to inform the public of the 2.5 million unemployed this summer, provided that Brendan Barber, General Secretary of TUC, has predicted this figure correctly. Moreover, we will surely need another leader to tell the public that something will be done about it, not just the offering of hypothetical tory-led outcomes.
The long awaited presence of policy by Brown has come, as the Times has rightly noted, a little too late for voters.
The tories of course have one up over Labour on the expenses front, with Cameron calling for serious punishments if his party don’t pay them back (although Harriet Harman has said she has something in the pipeline).
In addition to Cameron himself paying back the £680 he had claimed to have wisteria and vines removed from the chimney of his constituency home, he has said that;
• Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, would repay £7,000 he claimed for furnishing a London property in 2006 before “flipping” the second home designation to a new one in his Surrey Heath constituency.
• Oliver Letwin, who is in charge of the Tories’ general election manifesto, would repay the £2,000 he claimed to replace a leaking pipe under a tennis court.
• Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, would repay £2,600 for home improvements.
• George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, would repay the £440.62 paid to a chauffeur company to drive him from Cheshire to London.
• Alan Duncan, the shadow leader of the Commons, would repay almost £5,000 for gardening expenses.
• Kenneth Clarke, the shadow business secretary, would stop claiming a single person’s discount on one of his council tax bills.
• Francis Maude, Chris Grayling and Theresa Villiers would stop claiming for their second homes in London.
• David Willetts would repay £115 charged for electrical services.
Busy David Cameron also gave the Chingford Skinhead a right telling off today, warning him that with his comments on not voting for the main 3 in the european elections, he is treading a very careful path, and that if he slips off that path he could find himself an independent. That is until he joins the party of independence.
Of course, Nigel Farage, leader of the Ukippers welcomed Tebbit’s intervention, and frankly I welcomed this, its going to make backtracking far more difficult for Tebbit.
But an apology for inciting the far-right from him is about as likely as House of Commons speaker Michael Martin’s apology to Kate Hoey, for the “pearls of wisdom” comment.
On the subject of Tebbit, Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham, writing for the telegraph today asked us if we could ever imagine Tony Benn urging supporters and members not to vote Labour over nuclear disarmament or Nato. Though Benn, he added, “was hostile to Labour leaders and policies, he never called upon party members to desert their own party.” A lesson we might still cling on to, desparately, in these times of turmoil.