Leadercide – not so easy

So – another coup bites the dust.

Hoon and Hewitt have egg, no – a whole omelette on their faces. So what happened? I assume that H & H had reason to believe that the six cabinet members named on the news last night had indicated that they would jump if the water looked inviting. Clearly – within an hour of their letter/text to colleagues  – the water was icy and none of them jumped. And not jumping – the lukewarm messages of support for Brown dribbled out in an untimely and limp-wristed way.

So – Brown is damaged. Labour is damaged. H &H are damaged. Well done team Labour!

But, leadercide is not easy. I first arrived in Parliament in May 2005, to a strange atmosphere in our Parliamentary Party. I didn’t really know why, as this was clearly my first experience of a Parliamentary Party, and for all I knew that might have been normal – but it felt bad.

 Of course, now, we all know from what happened that Charles Kennedy was in trouble because of his then drinking problem and there was a need for drastic action which did take place and did result in his resignation. Of course, the difference is huge in that Charles was a great leader, much loved by the Party and the country and the problem was a very human problem. Perhaps this was even more difficult – as it wasn’t his talent or ability that was the issue – and colleagues were rightly very reluctant to hurt him. However, in a situation which in a way was more difficult, actually Ed and everyone recognised that if we were to act we had to act swiftly and all together or not at all.

However, it was my induction into how important it is to know clearly in your own mind what you believe must happen and then act upon it when and if the moment arrives. I remember getting a call from Ed Davey saying that a letter was going to Charles which basically said if he didn’t resign the signatories would all resign their positions – did I want to be a signatory. I was spokesperson for Crime and Policing at the time but not a member then of our Shadow Cabinet.

I remember saying I would have a think and phone him back. I put the phone down – but within a few minutes picked it up again and called Ed back – knowing in my own mind that Charles had to go for the sake of the Party and therefore I would and should be a signatory. As I walked from my kitchen into the my lounge the moving Sky headline on the bottom of the screen said something like ‘and one of the first signatories is Lynne Featherstone’. It terrified the life out of me. I had no concept of the public aspect of the decisions you take – as a new MP.

Anyway – the point of telling this story – is to demonstrate the importance of making a decision in your own mind – so that when the moment comes those who needed to act did so. What seems to have failed so monumentally in the Hoon/Hewitt fiasco is that they were weak in their actions, that none of the cabinet were prepared to actually show leadership and put their heads above the parapet and the timing and the moment was wrong. It’s a real – he who hesitates is lost – scenario.

With no leadership, no defined successor, no specific action to be taken – even the mild and misguided aspiration that this would settle the matter once and for all – was lost.

Leadercide needs real guts ,and right timing. H & H and the cabinet apparently had neither.

Any Questions?

Off to Leek in Staffordshire for Any Questions? yesterday. What a week to be on!

You have no notice of questions for these programs – but it ain’t that hard to guess. I guessed right on Labour donors, Teddygate, Brown’s decline, Oxford Union debate – but didn’t see the question on the Diana trial.

Matthew Parris is always good value – witty and brief. Geoff Hoon (in unenviable position) defended the Labour government and Brown competently. In fact he turned the tables on Conservative MP Caroline Spelman very neatly by batting back the donor issue to asking her to defend the Midlands Industrial Council – it takes money from donors and then gives it to the Conservative Party – but by acting as a middleman, it means the donors are less open to public scrutiny than if they gave money direct to the Tories – sound familiar ?! Virtually pot and kettle.

And before any indulges in the usual nonesense about the Lib Dem donor Michael Brown – we are in the clear in terms of the Electoral Commission finding that we did all the necessary the checks correctly. And there’s never been any suggestion of him getting any favours in return for having donated to us.

Anyway – good fun discussion all round and got home at 1am!

Clause 35 and computer hacking

Police and Justice Bill – two sessions! Apart from the usual rant about Labour centralising power unto the Home Secretary, the danger of abuse to prisoners by the Government’s proposed merger of inspectorates and the appallingly unequal deal we have with America on extradition – the highlight of the day was that little Clause 35 on computer hacking.

Subsequent to my amendment which was intended to have saved innocent IT people being done for hacking – when they were simply (for example) helping people remotely or checking the security and safety of their own systems, the Government realised their error and had put forward an amendment of their own.

I didn’t think it was as good – but good enough according to the industry expert advising me. Even so, the whole episode wasn’t very satisfactory – the Government should have consulted properly on the details of the measures before putting the Bill through Parliament – as they had been advised to do so.

Rather curiously too, given that this was an IT issue and is about putting people’s liberties at risk, I’ve had very, very little lobbying on the issue. It’s not often I wish for more emails in my inbox (!) but I think the online community missed a bit of a trick on this one.

Anyway, in between the sessions the new Evening Standard politico took me off to a Press Gallery lunch. This is where the members of the press invite a guest speaker – today Geoff Hoon, Labour MP and Leader of the House – to speak and answer questions. Each press person invites one MP as their guest – but only the press are allowed to ask questions. Geoff Hoon was very dull. He sort of said he was going to be as he didn’t want to find himself or his answers in the media. So I guess he probably achieved his goal.