Sunday, September 14, 2008

Brown: Down, But Not Necessarily Out

As the weekend has gone on, there have been more developments in Britain, on the effort by some in the Labor Party to oust their leader, Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Another Brown opponent has been sacked from her job, Party Vice Chair Joan Ryan. This has the feel of something that could produce a snowball effect that could eventually defeat Brown.

However, Nick Robinson, a senior BBC political reporter, writes in his blog about the difficult procedural hurdles Brown's opponents would need to surmount. Apparently, 70 Labor members of Parliament (MPs) would have to nominate a specific candidate to oppose the prime minister.

It's not, yet at least, clear that the rebels have that many MPs in their camp. Also, there is no indication that they are united behind a single alternative candidate. One possible such candidate, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, has publicly reaffirmed his support for Brown.

If necessary, Brown could resort to a tactic used by a former Conservative leader, John Major. During Major's time as prime minister in the 1990s, he faced similar opposition from MPs in his party who, correctly as it turned out, feared that he would lead them to defeat in the 1997 general election.

In 1995, Major resigned as leader, with the announced intent of running in the leadership election that was triggered by that resignation. In other words, "put up or shut up". Major defeated his rival, John Redwood, by a large margin. Major was thus able to hold on as party leader. But he did eventually resign for real, after his party's 1997 landslide defeat.

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