Polly Toynbee urges Labour MPs to sack Gordon Brown
He made the rich richer and the poor poorer and if Labour cannot claim fairness and social justice, what is the point, asks the Guardian columnist
One of Britain's most prominent pro-Labour newspaper columnists, Polly Toynbee of the Guardian, has called on Labour Party members to demand the sacking of Gordon Brown on the morning after the June 4 European and local elections, which are expected to be disastrous for the governing party.
In a devastating attack on the Prime Minister, she says that "a majority deputation from the Cabinet, bearing a long list of MPs' names, should knock on the door of No 10 to tell him his number's up. Plot it now, do it fast... There is nothing to lose."
Toynbee wants Brown replaced - without an election - by Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary. "Orphan boy, genial postman, self-made, clever but modest, he has the grace and charm to match his perfect back story," she writes. "Good to work with, good in public, he inspires considerable admiration."
Having enthused about Gordon Brown's entry into Number Ten two years ago, she was not giving another hostage to fortune. "This time I will not say I know he would be a good leader that's unknowable until too late. I doubt that he can win for Labour. But, goodness knows, [David] Cameron is still there for the taking."
She might have added that Johnson is one of the few Labour ministers untainted by the expenses scandal. But that issue is not what concerns Toynbee now - though she questions how MPs "caught pilfering from the public purse" can denounce benefit fraud, or rant convincingly at City greed - it is the economy and Brown's handling of it, first as Chancellor, now as PM.
"Labour made the rich richer and the poor poorer: growth for the few, not the many," she says. "That is a failure so fundamental to Labour's purpose that the party can't go into the next election led by the man responsible. His other failings as leader pale beside this one monumental fact. While he is there, Labour cannot claim 'fairness' or 'social justice', so what is left to say?"
As a leader, Brown has been tested and found wanting in every department, says Toynbee, who has been a Guardian columnist throughout the New Labour years. "That he was no great public orator or warm telegenic talker would never have mattered had he gained a reputation as a gruff, unspun man of honour, vision and purpose. I thought it an asset after Blair's glibness and Cameron's suavity. It wasn't the medium that did for him, but the message.
There wasn't one."
Toynbee concludes her call to arms like this: "The only question now is whether Labour ministers and MPs are so shell-shocked by the last year and so shamed by their expenses that they lack the will to live. Ordinary party members, you valiant few, get up and tell your MPs that Gordon Brown must go."
Postscript: For any of her followers shocked by today's barnstorming column, here is another paragraph of vintage Toynbee:
"It's not just Gordon Brown who looks like a dead man walking, Labour now looks like a party of zombies. Bad news is only replaced by worse every week that passes. It's hard to know if the living dead walking towards their doom are in denial or have already decided nothing can save them."
Sounds familiar? She wrote that in June 2008. ·
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