Polly Toynbee says what few on the left want to admit:
It’s all over for Brown and Labour. The abyss awaits. As long as he remains leader, there is nothing that wretched Labour candidates can plausibly say on the doorstep at next month’s European elections. They are struck dumb. Why should people vote for them? The horse manure bought on expenses is garnish for a decomposing government. The heart of the matter is the economy, and Brown’s responsibility for the bubble years. He personally is to blame for Labour’s failure to ensure that ordinary people on median incomes and poor people at the bottom received a bigger share in national growth: it turns out that they fell back and only the wealthy prospered. Labour made the rich richer and the poor poorer: growth for the few, not the many.
She then claims:
The one person around whom the party could gather speedily would be Alan Johnson. It’s nonsense that another unopposed leadership would mean disaster: a general election is coming soon enough. Orphan boy, genial postman, self-made, clever but modest, he has the grace and charm to match his perfect backstory. He was always the one the Cameroons feared. His political talents turned the NHS from a danger with closures and denials of drugs into an asset for Labour. Good to work with, good in public, he inspires considerable admiration. This time I will not say I know he would be a good leader – that’s unknowable until too late. I doubt that he can win for Labour. But, goodness knows, Cameron is still there for the taking.
Off the cuff I’m in the odd position of wanting to agree. Cameron is winning in the polls by default. Blair in 1997 had Major over a barrel (despite turning out to be a fraud himself) – Cameron isn’t winning on his own merits – it’s Brown who’s losing because he has none. His government has allowed the police to behave like a quasi-autonomous militia, has presided over the near-destruction of the economy, has created the biggest divide between rich and poor since Victorian times and played with very basic civil liberties like toys. Their record on the environment too is a joke, still beholden to big business as they are at all costs. The question though remains: what would Johnson bring to the leadership which Brown hasn’t already? And this is where the argument falls flat – Johnson is New Labour through and through. ID cards? Check. Foundation hospitals? Check. Iraq War? Check. The list goes on. They really shouldn’t replace Brown – they’re toast either way.