Birmingham Labour MP slams Gordon Brown's year in power
Sep 15 2008 By Jonathan Walker, Political Editor
A Birmingham MP has written a devastating critique of Gordon Brown’s last year in power, to be distributed to delegates attending Labour’s annual conference.
Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) said Labour under Mr Brown had failed to come up with fresh ideas and had forgotten how to communicate with voters.
She criticised Government policies on dealing with terrorism and the European Union, as well as Mr Brown’s decision to invite former CBI chief Digby Jones, who is not a member of the Labour Party, to become a Minister.
Ms Stuart also claimed that a “steady trickle” of Labour MPs was simply giving up and leaving politics for other careers.
She made the comments in an article for a special edition of The House Magazine, which will be distributed to delegates at the party’s annual conference in Manchester next week.
The event is set to be dominated by questions about the Prime Minister’s future, after around 12 Labour MPs called on party officials to issue leadership nomination forms, the first step in holding a leadership contest.
If 71 MPs were to nominate a rival candidate, it could lead to a leadership contest in which Mr Brown was removed from Downing Street.
No Midland MPs have emerged as part of the call for nomination papers, which appears to be centred on cliques of politicians from Lancashire and London.
But Ms Stuart, who was a staunch supporter of Tony Blair and is not friendly with current Prime Minister, pointedly warned that the failure to hold a proper leadership election when Mr Brown took the helm last year had robbed the party of the chance to discuss new ideas.
She said: “Not only was there no election, the mere suggestion of mounting a challenge was interpreted as a sign of disloyalty. So the deputy leadership campaign became the proxy playing ground for thrashing out ideas.”
When Mr Brown came to power, Labour MPs were humming “Things Can Only Get Better”, the theme song used for the party’s triumphant election campaign in 1997, she said.
She added: “Today it’s more likely to mean ‘surely it can’t get much worse’.”
Ms Stuart said: “It became clear that not only had we failed to renew ourselves with fresh ideas – we also seemed to have lost the knack to tell a good story.”
She went on to criticise the Prime Minister’s decision to bring in people such as Digby Jones, Lord Jones of Birmingham, who are not Labour members, in what is known as a Government of All The Talents or GOATS.
The MP said: “The performance of the Goats has been patchy . . . Lord Jones, who started by refusing to join the Labour Party and has now publicly stated that he intends to step down as a Minister before the next general election. But we can expect him to keep his life peerage - courtesy of a Labour government.”
“Bringing outsiders into the tent to be inclusive is one thing, but those brought in to divide the opposition have a tendency to be troublesome.”
The same edition of the magazines will also include an article by Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary, who suggested earlier this month that the Prime Minister should “stand down with honour” if his performance did not improve.
In his article for the party conference, Mr Clarke accused the Prime Minister of “indecision and indiscipline” in the face of the economic crisis.
He focuses on the difficulties faced by Labour following its devastating 1983 election defeat - and warns that this time, the party must hold a debate about its future before the General Election, not afterwards.
Mr Clarke said: “We will do it firstly by persevering with our successes. The most politically important of these before 2007 was our strong economic leadership, based on the commitment to long-term monetary stability, fairness and fiscal sustainability. The past year’s indecision and indiscipline must stop.
“And we also have to do it by facing up to our failures and tackling our weaknesses before we lose a General Election and not some years afterwards.”