I don’t understand the (failed) attempt by Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon to inspire a leadership challenge in the Labour Party here in the UK. Any serious contender for the job (i.e. Milliband) would surely recognise that the chance of a Labour victory in this year’s general election is miniscule, no matter who leads the party, and to lose an election three or four months into your leadership would hardly make for a sterling start.
If one takes a Tory victory as given, it would be far better to let Brown take the full hit for the loss. Keep him on as a figurehead to take all the bile, spit, rage and blame for the state of the country as a whole and the state of the government’s finances and the electoral loss in particular. Let the voting public gorge themselves in a cathartic spasm of kicking the Blair/Brown pairing and then shuffle Brown off, declare that there will be no return to Old Labour and start observing loudly at every opportunity that now it’s the Tories that are all about spin.
Brown’s job at this point is not so much to put out the fire — that can no longer be done — but to save the furniture. So why did Hewitt and Hoon do this? It was never going to work and it only serves to further lessen the probability of Labour retaining some of their seats.
The obvious answer is that they don’t consider a Tory victory to be a foregone conclusion and somehow think that simply getting rid of Brown will help the broader party separate itself from the Blair/Brown brand. The first part of that sentence may indeed be true (afterall, the Tories need an average swing of 7% to win), but the second is utterly false. Labour will not escape the Blair/Brown brand until they’ve spent some time in opposition for the simple reason that the public needs to kill it before they will forget about it.