Is the Cabinet revolting?
The Times thinks that they are though not in the way my pithy headline suggests. Incidentally, the first trite comment in reply to this wins nothing. It says that there is a widespread dissatisfaction over Gordon Brown’s desire to make electoral reform a centrepiece of the next Labour manifesto;
It is understood that five senior figures spoke out against Brown’s proposal to hold a referendum on changing the way MPs are elected.
Those who expressed doubts included Ed Balls, the schools secretary, Andy Burnham, the health secretary, and Jim Murphy, the Scottish secretary.
Coffee House joins in saying this represents a dilemma for Brown. Tellingly, it says that if the rebels succeed in changing Brown’s focus it says the Conservatives will be relieved. It’s logic, that following the expenses scandal constitutional reform could capture the imagination and no politician would want to be caught defending the ‘status-quo’ is as impeccable as the logic of the doubters is flawed.
Electoral reform is something that Labour should have done a long time ago and it shows a radicalism that moves beyond economics and makes changing the state form the issue. In other words, it should have been something that the Labour Party, especially its left-wing, should have been pushing for consistently. However, it has been hide-bound by its view that radicalism and redistributive radicalism should be confined to economics.
One way that Labour could redefine itself is as a party of constitutional radicalism; something that as Coffee House rightly notes has been made a big issue by the expenses scandal. This would give it a clear point of demarcation with the Conservatives and cause us our own problems. The Cabinet ‘rebels’ are unlikely to push a point too far with the polls looking occasionally better for Labour so Brown, in theory can call their bluff. My expectation is that he will but if he does then he should be prepared to dealiver…..I doubt the electorate would take Labour breaking a promise on electoral reform promise as lightly as they did last time this time around.