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.