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Mick Temple's Blog

BROWN AND OUT?

17-05-2008

Mick Temple casts an eye on Thursday's Crewe and Nantwhich by-election, and predicts the beginning of the end for the Brown premiership.

Now, I know that the readers of 'The Stirrer' generally care not a day-old oatcake for political events outside of the Birmingham conurbation. But, just for a moment, raise your eyes above the second city's skyline and turn them towards the North-West.

Next Thursday could see a key moment in British political history. Gordon Brown is fighting to keep his premiership alive in Crewe & Nantwich. If recent polls are accurate, then the Conservative candidate Edward Timpson will be a 'shoe-in' (my apologies for the dreadful pun).

There is apparently widespread local distaste at the parachuting in of Tamsin Dunwoody. Labour clearly hope the Dunwoody name and voter sentiment towards her Mum will be enough for them to hold on to the seat. But a majority of 7,000 has never looked so vulnerable.

If Tamsin loses, Gordon Brown will feel the full force of backbench anger and calls for a change of leadership. Brown might survive that - Labour's rules make a leadership challenge difficult and there is an absence of credible alternatives. Jack Straw for leader, anyone? Jack Duckworth would probably do a better job.

However, Gordon's unimpressive performances at the despatch box and in the media give the impression of a dead man walking. His inability to admit that he made mistakes, especially over the abolition of the 10p tax rate, and the cynical way that decision was rectified, have contributed further to voter distaste for both him and his government.

To put it crudely, taxpayers are having to fund £2.7 billion of borrowing to try and ensure Labour holds on to Crewe & Nantwich and Gordon Brown holds on to his job.

Ever since Labour's October conference, when Brown bottled out of an election he would surely have won, his authority has ebbed away like Villa's challenge for the UEFA Cup. A series of blunders and U-turns have left him a wounded bear, blindly lashing out at every opponent.

Political journalists scent blood and have made sure that every error, every muttering from the backbenches and every criticism from former colleagues with a book to sell, has received maximum exposure. Those of us who have been around a long time are scenting something else beside Brown's blood.

Change is in the air. That most dangerous mantra of all for long-term governments is beginning to be murmured - 'it's time for a change'.

The Crewe & Nantwich by-election could turn out to be the moment the mantra becomes more than a murmur.

If not Brown, then who? Join the discussion on The Stirrer Forum.

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