Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What if... Brown won the 1994 Labour leadership election?

Now Gordon Brown has categorically shown that he has been a disaster for the Labour party and now he is the least popular Labour leader since... well, ever, we can all wallow in some good, old-fashioned politician slating. I've no intention of stopping bashing at Brown any time soon - Brown is a deeply unpleasant personality who deserves all the flak currently being thrown at him.

But it is tempting to look at Brown - a man who has completely compromised and shafted himself after less than a year in the role - and wonder whether it had to be this way for his time as Prime Minister. Brown had the chance to win an election at the end of last year - he didn't take it. Brown had the chance to force Blair from power a year before Blair actually stepped down - Brown didn't take it. And Brown could have run for Labour leader in 1994 - he didn't do it.

And it is the latter idea that has struck a chord with me. What would have happened if Brown had run in 1994 - and what would have happened if Brown had won the Labour leadership?

It is a conversation I had a few months back with the Moai - his verdict was this:
Brown comes to power, leads attacks on Major
BUT a few public gaffes reinforce to Labour that they still haven't got the right man
Labour lose very narrowly to Tories in '97, close to hung parliament; Brown turfed out, Blair/AN Other elected
Tories totally implode
Blair comes to power in 2001
My thoughts on what would have happened are similar - with one key difference. I think Brown would have won in 1997 - God knows, the Tories were so compromised then that even Kinnock could have taken them down. But I think Brown's majority would have been far, far smaller than Blair's - possibly between 40 and 60. Then, events like the Petrol Crisis and the Foot and Mouth outbreak - combined with the natural personality of Gordon that we have all come to know and hate - would quickly have undermined Brown's time in Number 10. Plus, the Tories (under Hague or perhaps Portillo - the result would have been far closer, meaning Michael may have been able to keep his seat) would not have been a humiliated rump of a party in Brown's parliament, and could have provided an effective opposition. And come the 2001 (or, given Brown's fear of elections, 2002), I reckon the Tories would have been back in power. And given his lacklustre performance as PM, Brown would have been retired to the backbenches...

There will be lots of these counter factuals, when Brown is finally turfed out of Number 10. Hundreds of "what if" scenarios, all playing out slightly different permutations of what might have happened if Brown had been braver, or acted differently. Some will probably be able to dream up a happy ending for Brown - how realistic that happy ending is, given Brown's natural lack of charm and ability, is open for question. But ultimately all counterfactuals are pointless, because what is happening right now is what actually happened. Brown was always going to wait for too long before becoming PM, because he is a coward. And he was always going to screw it all up when he got into power, because he is incapable.

Alternative histories be damned - the real history has spoken, and has made itself heard. Brown should never have become Prime Minsiter, and his experiences and actions in the role simply reinforce this.

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