It must surely be all over for Gordon Brown. Events over the past few weeks feel like the dying days of the Conservative government in the mid-1990s. Who can forget that era, when every week brought a new tale of scandal and sleaze, always committed by a Conservative minister?
And now the smell of sleaze has returned to haunt the government, though this time it haunts the Labour party. But this time is quite different and more orchestrated.
This system of government expenses has existed in its current form since the 1980s – the expenses system has not been recently introduced – yet it has taken subterfuge and Freedom of Information to finally figure out that many politicians take far more than they need to subsidise a constituency home. It’s unfortunate that some hard-working and honest MPs have been hounded from office when they have not even broken the rules. How can it be that a member who follows the rules to the letter can be so hounded by the press that they indicate they will not stand for office again? In the current environment, several have done so – along with those who clearly made claims that stretched credulity.
I really thought that the government was going to be able to ride out this expenses scandal. The Tories were just as guilty of making dodgy claims, and though the Telegraph initially aimed their ammunition at Labour MPs, they eventually started detailing examples of Tories who were also abusing the system.
Surely, a cross-party committee aimed at a reform of the way MPs work within Westminster could have stopped the daily tirade of abuse from the press? Something radical, something akin to constitutional reform. Something that would have rekindled what the Labour party started back in 1997 when they attempted to reform the bicameral system itself. Why didn’t Gordon Brown start this process and just stamp on the political editors who were undermining his authority weeks ago?
Instead it looks like his premiership is going to limp to a close mired in sleaze.
And the Labour party is now suffering voter apathy. They have had 12 years of power, in which they have genuinely made some great achievements. Surely the private healthcare business in the UK should be scared of people waking up to the fact that the NHS has improved so much? Crime has reduced. Schools are better. These are real quantifiable achievements that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown brought about, yet the voters are seeking alternatives because everyone gets bored of a single party leading the nation after a decade or so.
But even if they change leader now, within a year of a certain general election, will the public just vote for change anyway?
The new generation Labour party has some great talent; James Purnell, David Miliband, his brother Ed, Ed Balls… the list goes on. But if there is going to be regicide in the party then they need to get the PM to stand aside soon, so they have time to regroup with a new leader, in time to create a credible general election campaign. My money is on Alan Johnson being the kind of person who could pull it off as leader.
If the pressure is on for an immediate election, then I guess we are in for a Tory future. However, it may well be that any new leader of the Labour party would secretly prefer a spell in opposition because who would want to lead the country through this economic mess anyway?