Brown must go or progressive politics will suffer. The Guardian knows it:
The tragedy for Mr Brown and his party is that his chance to change it has gone. Although he still purports to be a radical, he has adopted the caution of an establishment man. He cannot lead a revolution against his own way of doing government, and yet a revolution is necessary. Grandstanding on his claims to good intentions, the prime minister demands the right to carry on, even as the cabinet implodes around him. The home secretary, the chancellor, and perhaps even the foreign secretary may go, and Labour faces its worst defeat in its history on Thursday, but the prime minister does not recognise his direct responsibility for the mayhem.
The truth is that there is no vision from him, no plan, no argument for the future and no support. The public see it. His party sees it. The cabinet must see it too, although they are not yet bold enough to say so. The prime minister demands loyalty, but that has become too much to ask of a party, and a country, that was never given the chance to vote for him. Had there been a contest for the leadership in 2007 – and had Mr Brown called a general election – he would probably have won. He decided not to do these things. And he has largely failed since.
They’re right. As they go on to say, even if he put a referendum on the ballot in 2010 for proportional representation it would be doomed to failure because he put it there. Particularly after the departure of Jacqui Smith and the impending electoral disaster tomorrow, Brown’s authority has now gone entirely. There were signs in late 2007 that Blair’s assessment of him as inappropriate for the top job because of a character flaw was correct – now we know it’s true, and there’s little Britain hates worse than a weak leader. The G20 policing disaster, the McBride scandal, the Royal Mail sell off, and now the expenses scandal – there’s no hint of progressive leadership left in the current leadership. Brown must go and go almost immediately. Whilst Alan Johnson would likely not win what would for him have to be a General Election this year, he could at least begin the repair job on the Labour Party decimated by spin doctors, special advisors, big money, its alliance with the American neoconservatives and the ruthlessness of the parliamentary Blairite machine. Jonathan Freedland though urges caution:
such a move (crowning Johnson) would create as many problems as it would solve. There would be public revolt at the notion of a second unelected prime minister. There would have to be an early election, thereby scuppering Johnson’s chance of introducing constitutional change.
However much voters might be charmed by Johnson, they might be appalled in equal measure by the sight of a party turning in on itself, either for a coup or a drawn-out leadership election. As the Tories discovered when they toppled Margaret Thatcher, regicide builds up poison that can take years to dispel.
It’s also true that there are no guarantees. It is not certain that Labour would rally to Johnson or, if it did, that he would have the magic healing powers his admirers attribute to him. He might do, but as yet he is untested. Recent polling suggests he would not lift Labour’s numbers at all.
And this is the danger that we’re all in right now. The public is so disengaged from all politicians – even the good ones – that even the best, most positive options may not be on the table. What is clear is this – a huge body of the electorate feels forced to vote for radical alternatives because neither of the ‘big two’ parties has anything to offer them. This has been a long time coming, and is the direct result of Labour and the Tories believing that electoral success lay only in the centre ground. That ground shifted after the Iraq War in 2003, yet both parties failed to learn the lesson from the 2005 election – that it’s time for the return of principle, a return to ideology. Whilst Obama isn’t living up to his words in the US, it was a lesson he learned to get elected. Now Labour must kick out Brown and find its principle, its ideology once again. It must do so very quickly indeed, otherwise we face David Cameron repealing the Human Rights Act and allying himself with religious fundamentalist and homophobes in Europe. Want that either? No, I thought not.