Why Labour's future is black, not Brown

No party has ever dug itself out of a hole as deep as the one Labour is in now to win an election. But will the demise of Labour also mean the demise of the union of England and Scotland?

The fall of Wendy Alexander, the leader of Scottish Labour, echoes a wider collapse in the party's fortunes and presages a "truly terrible summer" for Gordon Brown north of the border, said The Independent. The battle to succeed Alexander is likely to be "bloody and divisive" as the competing candidates are forced to revisit her controversial decision to endorse a referendum on independence, and a Glasgow by-election defeat threatens following the resignation of MP David Marshall on health grounds.

After Labour's "long death-march to Henley cemetery last week", where Labour was beaten into fifth place, it's "plain that the future isn't Brown; it's black", said Johann Hari in The Independent. "No party has ever heaved itself out of a grave this deep in just two years." It's time to sack him or back him, said Jackie Ashley in The Guardian. Brown has an "inner stoicism that repels the tempest of abuse", but his party seem "clinically depressed".

The country has noticed this fatalism. The harassment of Wendy Alexander was completely disproportionate to her offence accepting a £950 donation but the Labour Party is now so weak that ministers in any kind of trouble are picked off, "like stragglers when the wagon train is surrounded by Indians". They must either get rid of Brown by the time of the party conference or snap out of their depression and support him.

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Labour is "going down", said Iain Martin in The Sunday Telegraph. But the real concern is that, after the news from Scotland, the Union is going with it. Labour is "dying in its heartland". For those who want the UK to survive, there are serious consequences. Very true, agreed Bruce Anderson in The Independent. Brown assumed that Scottish Labour was as "immutable" as Arthur's Seat; now it is "disintegrating". Most of the Scottish Tories are "dire".

Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, "regularly makes a monkey out of the Scots Labour hierarchy", and by launching a "smoked salmon canap offensive" and talking a lot about free enterprise, has convinced a lot of natural Tories north of the border that independence might not be such a bad idea. A "messy succession battle" followed by a "dire" by-election result in Glasgow could hasten the day Salmond feels bold enough to go for a referendum, said The Independent. "Brown's enemies should not smile too broadly at his discomfort."

The lack of loyalty shown by Brown's political tribe is appalling, said Simon Jenkins in The Sunday Times. Brown has made mistakes, dithering over the election, the 10p tax-rate, anti-terrorism, Iraq and failing to be "funny or glamorous or personable". But he has behaved "wholly in character" and remains the same man they so "glowingly compared to his predecessor". And Britain will probably be run by Brown for the next few years.

The cabinet should pull itself together and the prime minister should turn his attention away from public services, towards two projects "desperate" for his personal attention and better suited to his talents namely protecting Britain from a serious world recession; also finding a way of disengaging from Iraq and Afghanistan. "Brown is a lame duck who should never have been encouraged into this political pond. But lame ducks have their uses."

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 


On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.