My dear Q,
As you seem able to bear the unfortunate and desperate accounts of what is happening in British politics today, I may give you a little more.
You may recall that a few weeks ago, I reported to you that the British Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, was on a painful political free-fall, with little chance of surviving. On the heels of that free-fall, if you will remember, some really important and good friends and professional colleagues of Gordon Brown were involved in a devastating political train crash that resulted in the death of several political careers and scores bedridden, due to some dubious Parliamentarian financial transactions involving tax payer’s money.
In a situation like this, after the burial of those who suffered political death, one would have expected the seriously wounded and those with injuries to be more concerned about mending their wounds and trying to recover from their ordeals. Unfortunately, things have turned out differently; there is an attempted mutiny on board the remaining part of the train and the survivors want the head of their Captain and British Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown.
The most famous mutiny in English history took place on the Bounty, when Captain Bligh found himself forced by the mutineers into an open boat and had to sail thousands of miles before landing in Timor.
But last Wednesday and Thursday, as the mutineers made their moves to remove Gordon Brown from the leadership of the ruling Labour Party and, in so doing the Prime Minister-ship of the United Kingdom, Mr Brown turned into a feral cat; some senior Cabinet Ministers came out fighting for him, whilst others wanted him exterminated.
Faced with mutineers looking for blood, a press conference was quickly arranged to let the public know that he was going to fight on.
Abandoned by friends and colleagues, mocked by the opposition, attacked by his own generals and sinking into quicksand in the court of public opinion, the British Prime Minister entered the press conference looking very tired, anxious, but somehow determined to fight it out with the mutineers.
Well … you should not be surprised. If you remember, I told you, that the Prime Minister was provoked by the opposition sometime ago in Parliament about his temper and how objects around him tend to suddenly develop wings when he is angry. Thankfully, last Friday, there were no computers, books or files or even mobile phones for the Prime Minister to throw at journalists at 10 Downing Street, when the press conference started.
“I’m going to be totally candid, to accept my responsibility and to set out what I intend to do”, he announced at the start of the press conference.
But this was no ordinary press conference. The British Prime Minister had just reshuffled his cabinet but had been cruelly prevented from using the long knife to reshape his government and kill-off the mutineers as was widely expected in the country. Senior Cabinet Ministers the public wanted out of government because of corruption, point-blankly told the Prime-Minster that they were not going to move from their respective positions.
Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance, to you and I), Mr Alistair Darling, told the Prime Minster, “Move me and I will go to the back benches”.
Old Boy, do you know what that means, first you are in office but have no powers but more importantly, for a lame-duck leader, you are a dead man walking … The Chancellor will join the mutineers and see off the Prime Minster.
With this in mind, a colleague asked the Prime Minister, if it is true that he’d wanted to get rid of Alistair Darling as Chancellor and had been unable to do so. “No, no, no,” he said in a voice full of frustration and an astonishing lack of candour. His eyes narrowed in a look of great cunning (he thought we couldn’t see). He told us what good, personal friends they were and how he’s been praising the chancellor for his efforts to end the recession and how lacking in arrogance and complacency he was and … .
“But your aides were going round Westminster saying that’s exactly what you were going to do!”, another reporter challenged Mr Brown.
“Look,” he said. They’d worked on G20 together (ah, happy days) and he hoped the rest of the world would acknowledge this.
But his best line was: “I have faith in myself treating people fairly. This is who I am.”
George Orwell that fine English author once wrote that “political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”. This observation came to mind whilst listening to Mr Brown answering to questions last Friday, at 10 Downing Street, after an extraordinary two days of high drama when the government lost six ministers and suffered the worst elections results in living memory.
The newspaper headlines after last Friday’s reshuffle tells you how history will judge Gordon Brown… “Labour has become an ungovernable party!!!” one paper screamed; “Wipeout & Walkout Hit Brown” the Sun cries out, “Bloodied Brown vows: I will not walk away”, the Daily Telegraph warned its readers, and “The Shotgun reshuffle”, another newspaper pointed out to its readers.
But the big question doing the rounds in the country today is whether Gordon Brown will survive as Prime Minister this summer?
We will know more by this coming Thursday after the release of the European election results and the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Parliamentarian Labour Party, where he will confront the mutineers.
Mr Gordon Brown is in a similar position to Margaret Thatcher in her final year after the “stalking horse” challenge in late 1989, vulnerable to further setbacks. Another scandal or by-election defeat could destabilise his position. And Mr Brown’s list of enemies on the Labour backbenches is growing.
Any nomination to replace the leader when Labour is in government must be supported by 20 percent of the 340 MP’s in the Parliamentary Labour Part
Whether to have a contest must then be decided, on a card vote, by a conference of the party.
If the mutineers succeed in removing the Prime Minister in the coming days, it is likely that he would like Tony Blair, stay on as Prime Minister until a new leader was elected.
I will keep you posted about events in the coming days, as the Prime Minister pleads for more time to govern not realising that time is quietly killing him.
Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay Jnr