Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cairns deserts the sinking ship

So, global markets are in turmoil. AIG looks to be following Lehmann into the graveyard of financial institutions. Millions of innocent people are suffering real financial hardship and there's more to come as a result of inanely stupid and irresponsible management practices by banks over many years.

If you ask me, the very last thing we need right now is the markets going even more nuts than they are already 'cos they're panicking at the thought of political instability. A leadership election in the Labour Party now is a luxury that as a country we couldn't afford. If they change leader again, the pressure for a General Election will probably insurmountable. Constitutionally there is no need to have one - the Prime Minister is not directly elected and is instead the leader of the Party who can command a majority in the House of Commons. However perception is everything and people will want the chance to have their say.

Frankly, I want the minds of Ministers to be concentrated on guiding as steady a course as possible through the economic mire and not on internal Labour party score-settling and, well, bickering seems to be too mild a word.

If they all got a grip of themselves, got their heads down and were seen to be doing something positive and practical to help, then there's a chance that they might avoid complete meltdown at the next general election, whenever it might be. If they carry on the way they are going, they will not be forgiven. They will have presided over two catastrophic failures of Government in 30 years and will not be trusted easily again.

David Cairns' resignation today because he effectively has no faith in Gordon Brown may be honest but it's irresponsible. As a senior Labour Party person in Scotland he must have been heavily involved in the Glenrothes by-election plans. Maybe he wanted to avoid blame for a defeat which, by resigning, he has made more rather than less likely.

Gordon Brown needs to find someone he can trust, who has more interpersonal skills than he has, who wouldn't be stupid enough to turn a Cabinet meeting into a lecture on loyalty, to try to build bridges for him in the Party and to quell the voices baying for his blood.

That person needs to have more sense than to think leaking the names of the rebels to the press is a good idea. It's divisive and shows that Number 10 is on a war footing. It looks like Brown has given up the chance of a peaceful solution and is just blustering his way through it.

The global economic crisis isn't all Labour's fault - but their histrionics could make it worse.

I certainly don't think people are convinced that David Cameron and George Osborne could get us out of this mess, either. They haven't shown a huge amount of understanding of the issues or demonstrated any competence at dealing with them.

There are times that you just wish Vince was Chancellor - he has the experience and the judgment to deal with this and we would be as safe as we could possibly be with him in charge.

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