Sunday, 3 August 2008

Denham calls for focus

John Denham (my former boss) has written an excellent article in the Sunday Times. In it, he says that:
a) there's a strong case for Labour which needs to be made more clearly
b) that a summer of leadership speculation will get in the way of Labour making that case

He concludes: "The triple whammy of credit, oil and food is transforming political debate beneath our feet. In Gordon Brown we’ve a prime minister who understands these issues better than anyone else in British politics."

Denham's article has made me reconsider whether we need a new Labour leader. But, on balance and despite all of the profound damage that another leadership election would cause, I still believe that a new leader can only be better that what we've got at the moment. Why?

a) Gordon Brown is unable to make a strong case for Labour. He simply can't communicate with the people who we most need to talk to
b) I don't believe that Gordon Brown understands how to address the challenges facing Britain. Even if technically his policies may work, will he create a perception that he can help Britain (important, given how little influence a single nation state can have on these global issues).

We've witnessed this with the difficulty of winnning political credit for tax credits and the debacle not only of the 10p tax rate abolition but also the way that the solution was conceived.

There's also the Martin Jol affect. Once speculation has started as to whether a leader can continue, that becomes the dominant issue, making it impossible for the leader to break through that. Denham experienced that today in a BBC interview.

I'm not gung-ho about a leadership election (I regularly dream about Labour's plight). But we've got to safeguard the medium term future. That's not to sacrifice the next two years. Rather, it's that our ability to make the Labour case will influence the policy direction of the next government, whoever is in power.

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