Edclaymation, Edclaymation, Edclaymation may soon prove too much for Labour to bear. Without fixed-term Parliaments, this would’ve been a perfect Snap-Election year for Camerlot.
With the mood in Camerlot swinging against Nick Clegg – following his increasingly voluble support for a failing EU – there are grumbles among Anti-Dave Tory backbenchers that the Prime Minister’s secession of control over elections to the LibDems was a major error. They argue – or to be more precise, witter on to any hack prepared to listen – about how Olympics Year plus the popularity of Cameron’s veto-that-never-was plus Clegg’s unpopular support for the EU would’ve been a golden opportunity to dump Slick Nick and catch Labour on the hop. And a pointlessly hopping Opposition is seen by the Right as the best chance to get a full-blown Conservative Government.
For Ed Miliband, this has been another week, another relaunch, and another PMQs wasted on I say/You say. The riddle of why Labour so often elects leaders with special needs remains one to which, as a whole, nobody really has the answer. In Ed Miliband’s case, it was straightforward enough: the Unite Union packed the vote in order to have the Harman-Dromey puppet doing their bidding. However, looking at Harriet Harman as she sat behind the Opposition Leader yesterday, it was hard not to conclude that she too thinks her man is beyond hopeless. There is no enthusiasm for the junior Miliband on Labour’s benches any more, none at all: the drones literally do drone “hear-hear”. One looks at Ed and wants to say “there, there”.
‘Flashman’ Cameron may transfer some sympathy to a bullied Edclaymation, but Miliband’s risible performance thus far makes it highly unlikely that the Opposition Leader could turn that into votes. However, the PM is devious – and weak on the detail at times. Before now, for example, he has insisted at PMQs and elsewhere that there would be no more money from us for the IMF to use in Euroland. But this morning’s Torygraph confirmed that in fact Draper Osborne will have to ask the Commons for more: and Camerlot would face tough opposition from the Tory Right about giving more dosh to the IMF – especially if much of it went straight to Europe without even passing Go.
Yesterday, Dave was playing with fire again, slipping in a jibe along the lines of “our exports to China have doubled”. At the time this struck me as likely to be far worse than anyone else’s performance in the West….and so it has proved. Shortly afterwards, Andrew Goodwin of Ernst & Young confirmed that “the U.K.’s penetration of emerging markets still lags well behind other developed economies, such as Germany, meaning it’s going to be a long, hard slog for Britain to become competitive in these markets”. But as I’ve been saying for nearly two years, this is precisely the mountain we must climb….and the Tories look not just clueless in the face of it, but scared at the base of it. The longer he is in office with a troublesome Coalition partner alongside a crashing economy, the more vulnerable the PM is going to look.
There is no direct danger in pulling economic sleights of hand as long as he with the feet of clay and the brain of sawdust sits opposite him on the Labour side of the House: for the Ed Miller Band has no credible alternative policy. But as long as Head Boy Dave continues to make Miliband minor look like the poor lad who came bottom of the debating society league, the chances increase that the Boys from Blair will make their continual offstage back-stabbing count sooner rather than later. This in turn will force the Left to start grooming its own candidate; and in this regard, there is a lot of smart money on Ed Balls’ wife Yvette Cooper. Now she just might be a far more formidable opponent for Dave to face.
What better (the old 1922 Committee lags insist) than letting Labour get into a messy leadership election….and then calling a General one before Yvette gets in place?
“That could only destroy the Prime Minister’s credibility following his promise of a Five-Year Parliament,” intoned the Daily Telegraph the other day, perhaps forgetting for a second that the only reason Dave isn’t entirely out of his depth is that he has none. And anyway, the Torygraph forgets that there is more than one way to end a Parliament.
On paper, it would be both politically and legally tricky for Mr Cameron to use Section 2 of the new Act, and get a two-thirds majority of all MPs (in total, not just those present) to vote in favour of an early dissolution. But it would be relatively easy to make the positions of Clegg and Cable untenable, thus forcing the LibDems to desert the Government. The danger in this case is that Nick could wander over towards Ed (or Yvette, or whoever) and form a very wobbly Coalition with Labour. Did not Ed Balls say only three weeks ago that he would “welcome the LibDems with open arms”?
My own view, however, is that Clegg would find this a very hard thing to arrange, and that – looking carefully at the bribeable minority numbers here – a Tory Opposition could probably defeat such a marriage of convenience with embarrassing regularity. There are also some machiavellian enough in the Labour Party to vote for a dissolution in order (a) to get rid of Ed after the subsequent electoral drubbing and (b) leave the Tories holding the baby while trying to remain upright in an econo-fiscal whirlwind.
All or most of this, I’m told, was considered by a Number Ten team during and after Clegg’s recent epi about things European. But the chances of it coming to pass are slim. Cameron made a mistake ceding the fixed Parliaments concession to his Deputy in May 2010, and he will almost certainly have to live with that.
But that in turn makes things look very black indeed for Ed Miliband. For Labour can rest fairly assured that, were it to dump him now, a brand new 5-speed Cooper Cabinet with increased woman-appeal could well leave Camerlot’s plodding horses well behind. The Labour Party has never, it its entire history, dumped a Leader. But there’s a first time for everything.
Related: Labour in-fighting in the Guardian.