So, David Cairns has resigned as a Minister
. Hands up any of you who had heard of him before this morning (when he was identified as possibly being the minister in the departure lounge). Anyone? Didn't think so. Does that mean his resignation is irrelevant? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Siobhain McDonagh wasn't exactly a household name either, and nor are most of the other Labour rebels. Regardless of that, their actions cumulatively will make a difference, weakening Brown's already tottering authority.
What should really be worrying Labour is that although it is now increasingly seen as a divided party, and everyone knows that divided parties get a shoeing at elections, I doubt whether anyone would be sure what it is they are divided over. There is no great ideological split rending them; no totemic issue (Europe, Iraq, Trident etc) that has split them. They have been split by the simple question of how much they want Gordon Brown to continue as Prime Minister.
Labour are exhausted by office in a way that even the Tories were not. In 1997 the Conservatives were palpably unfit for office. They were split (on policy issues mainly) and they had run out of road. But they hadn't really run out of ideas. The internal market they introduced in the NHS was a policy that was working (and has, finally, been re-instated by Labour); the economy was recovering. Can you name me a substantial policy this Government has introduced? Or might introduce? What, fundamentally, is Labour for?
I think that Labour are certainly doomed at the next election. Not only has no Government recovered from this sort of level of support, but this Government has no theme - no narrative. People are starting to cavil at this - saying that what it needs are policies, not stories. But a narrative is simply a way of identifying what a party is, and why it deserves to be in power. Labour visibly doesn't know how to answer these questions. Whether it is led by Brown or not, it is that problem that will direct its downfall. After that, things will really start to get difficult.
Labels: Brown, Labour, politics