Manchester Conference: Fate of Brown
Driven by agony of repeated defeats for his Labour party in polls, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is facing the political fight of his life as his Labour Party gathers for its annual 5 day conference that has just begun today the 20 Sept with several lawmakers openly calling for a new leader. Fifteen months after taking over from Tony Blair, who almost crashed to unfullfil his “new labour era” promise of governing Britain “whiter than white” and vacated the 10 Down Street, Brown’s popularity is also in tatters with poll after poll showing Labour trailing the Conservatives by some 20 points as the economy balances and teeters on the brink of its first recession in 16 years. It appears Brown could not undo what Blair had done for the English both on domestic corruption and foreign terror war. The conference, which began in Manchester, is the party’s most eagerly-awaited in years.
Obviously, all world eyes are now on his showcase speech to the “faithful”, but just as important will be the “noises off” from union barons, constituency delegates, MPs regrouping after a calamitous summer for the party, ministers and Cabinet colleagues. Since it is considered to be very important meeting, Brown and his supporters would have spent weeks, if not months, trawling for the right phrases, the right tone of voice, the right blend of rhetoric and hard policy, to try to make sure that history records this was where his renaissance truly began.
The Prime Minister’s future could depend on whether activists echo last week’s calls for a debate on his leadership on the conference floor or turn their backs on plotters and rally around him in a display of party unity. Brown will get the “labour pulse”, as his loyalists fan out across the various venues to report back to the Prime Minister’s inner circle on just how strong, or weak, his support is among Labour’s grassroots loyalists. A rousing rallying-call in contrast will at least keep the doubters at bay for a while as they wait to see whether enthusiasm in the conference hall translates into action, and a bounce in the party’s opinion ratings. A faltering performance could finally, in some measure, convince Brown that ex-Home Secretary Charles Clarke was right to say the premier should resign with honour if he cannot swiftly rebuild Labour fortunes.
A recent online poll of 788 Labour Party members showed 54 percent want another leader. Panicked about losing their seats in the next national election, expected in 2010, some Labour lawmakers have called for a leadership race and in the last week, Brown has lost four junior members of his government who were trying to oust him. Down swing for Labour party started right during the Blair’s regime, but Brown was thought to bring up the prestige of the labour. Brown’s allies say there is no question of the prime minister stepping down and he is the best person to guide the country through the global financial storm — the 57-year-old Scot was chancellor for a decade. “I’m not going to be diverted by a few people making complaints,” Brown said in an interview with Sky News broadcast on Sept 19 Brown wrote to party members on Sept 19 that he was confident “we can come through this difficult time. That’s the stuff of politics. We get on with the business of government.”
But so far no credible challengers have shown their hand and cabinet ministers have so far rallied behind the prime minister with varying degrees of support. Every minister’s speech to the annual conference in Manchester will be examined in forensic detail for any sign of disloyalty. No immediate rebellion is expected, either, but Brown will have to show he can still electrify the party with his own conference speech on Sept 23 if he is to have any hope of stopping the constant challenges to his authority. Brown is expected to focus on the economic crisis. Inflation is more than double the central bank’s target, unemployment is rising at its fastest rate in 16 years and house prices — an obsession of the middle classes — are slumping. The government was forced to nationalise Northern Rock bank earlier this year and had to broker a rescue takeover this week regarding the country’s biggest mortgage lender, HBOS. But the UK premier will also need to pull a few rabbits out of the hat if he is to give the party faithful something to cheer about and quell dissent in the ranks. He has to convince the people of righteousness and efficacy of his foreign as well as domestic polices, especially in the background of the current financial and economic crises.
UK Conservatives have made steady gains against the Labour in the polls conducted till recently and pressure is mounting upon Brown to show results. It seems the British people are not happy about the ongoing US-led terror wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and if so, Brown has to make the suitable amendments in his policy statements. Unless there is a strong anti-incumbency factor working against Labour party, Brown could still try to tide over the tight situation in favour of his party and his premiership. Will he succeed?