So Hoon and Hewitt have broken cover, texting the Labour MPs as to whether they want a secret ballot about Gordon Brown's future. Guido has a transcript of a letter (I hope Geoff and Pat didn't put all of that letter into several text messages - I for one would have RSI by the end of that lot). I've added a new poll at the right hand side where you can vote for the person you think would perform best as Brown's replacement - NB put party loyalty aside, no voting for who you think would be the worst Leader!
The ballot raises the following obvious questions to my mind:
- Will the ballot happen, and if so will the MPs oust Brown? How many rebels would be needed before his position becomes untenable? 20? 30? 50? 100?
- Who would succeed him? No outstanding or even unifying candidates I would venture, and would any of the least worst options want such a poisoned chalice? I recall some opinion polls last year that put Mr T Blair as the Labour leader who would perform best should Brown be replaced!! The Milibands, Straws and Harmans of this world didn't seem to find any more favour than Brown did with those polled.
- Would a change of PM make any difference to voting intentions? Would the passive lack of enthusiasm for any successor be mitigated by the absence of active disapproval of Brown?
- How would it play in the Labour heartlands if a Blairite contender emerges triumphant? In particular, what would be the effect in Scotland if the so-called "Scottish mafia" loses control at Westminster? Furthermore, will there ever be another Scottish (or Welsh) leader of any of the UK parties in these days of devolution?
- Would the public stand for a second unelected PM? Would the election have to be brought forward? And if so...
Could we have the UKGE at the same time as the Scottish election? (remember the confusion last time over multiple ballot papers!) Could any of the UK parties afford two election campaigns in short succession? If not would that clear the way for the SNP to significantly outspend their rivals? If Brown is ousted and the public do demand a UKGE, would the rest of the UK be happy to hang around waiting for Scotland to finish a Holyrood election first? Would any of these considerations come into play when the opposition MSPs consider the Scottish budget in the first place? (I can just imagine Mandy on the phone to Murphy who then spells it out for Gray in words of one syllable that Labour can't afford to block the SNP budget!)
Perhaps the above scenario won't come to pass this year, but at some point we're going to see the UK and Scottish electoral cycles moving into conflict with each other. Has anyone thought about the implications of this yet?
Lots of questions there, any takers?
PS Happy New Year to you all!