By Mike Ion
Self-indulgent, damaging and foolish. This is how I would characterise James Purnell’s decision to leave the Cabinet. If the Labour party does lose the next general election it will not simply be Gordon Brown’s fault – it will be because of a collective failure on all parts of the party to show purpose and exercise discipline.
The election does not have to be called for another twelve months and it is clear that the electorate is not convinced that Mr Cameron and his party offer any solutions to the nation’s problems – indeed on the big issues of the day he has singularly failed offer any credible solutions. The truth is that the Tories are riding high in the opinion polls because they are not Labour – many people voted in yesterday’s elections in order to express what they are against and not what they are for.
Gordon Brown needs to use the opportunity of a major reshuffle to articulate what his government stands for. He must make it clear that he is focused on the challenges facing modern Britain and he must steer the Labour party towards representing the higher instincts of the British people. As a leader Mr Brown must become less concerned with wrong-footing his political opponents and more committed to setting out the vision for a fairer, safer and more prosperous Britain.
Can Labour recover and win? Of course it can. In order to do so we must rearticulate our purpose as a movement and we must remain disciplined. We must also make the most of the fact that today’s Tory party stands for nothing and its leader is more interested in presentation than in policy. The real threat to a fourth term Labour government comes not from a resurgent Tory party but from the defeatists, pessimists and cynics (and plotters) that exist within the party itself. This is not the time for the Labour party to look inward and if we continue to do so the country will not forgive us.