Roll up for a Manchester massacre

FANS of the cult slasher movies Saw and Hostel are in for a treat next week - the claws and knives of Labour MPs and trade union leaders are out to disfigure and emasculate Gordon Brown at the Labour Party conference.

Graham Dines

FANS of the cult slasher movies Saw and Hostel are in for a treat next week - the claws and knives of Labour MPs and trade union leaders are out to disfigure and emasculate Gordon Brown at the Labour Party conference.

Delegates today began arriving in Manchester and it's a fitting venue for the rebellion - the Manchester Central complex is just yards away from the site of the Peterloo massacre of August 16 1819 when troopers were deployed to break up a gathering of 60,000 folk protesting against taxation without representation.

It is believed that about 650 people were seriously injured (480 male and 170 female), of whom 18 died. The vast majority of the injuries were caused by sabre, or by being trampled by cavalry.

You may also want to watch:

Fast forward 189 years to Manchester today. As delegates prepare to pay up to £5 for a pint of beer in the five-star hotels which are included in the conference secure zone, there'll be only one topic of conversation.

Whatever the most loyal and optimistic of Labour activists may think, Gordon Brown's days look numbered. The country has turned against Labour, blaming the Prime Minister for the economic downturn, rising unemployment, rocketing fuel and food prices, the high cost of petrol, the 10p tax fiasco, the panic over inheritance tax, the planned rise in vehicle excise duty, the continual loss of confidential data transferred to computer discs, and slinking into Portugal to sign the Treaty of Lisbon after reneging on a promise to hold a referendum on the European Constitution.

Most Read

It's quite a catalogue of failure, cock-up, policy about-turns, and directionless government. And with the Tories on 52% in the opinion polls, many figures in the Labour movement think its time for the man who craved the top job for 11 years to call it a day.

This is not media froth, as Tony Blair liked to say. It's not the newspapers going out of their way to seek out and egg on ministers and backbench MPs to speculate on Brown's future, it's the other way around.

Gordon Brown's claim for 10 years that his policies were so robust that there would be no return to Tory days of boom and bust lies shattered on the floors of the City of London as the UK heads for the economic rocks.

Recession is just around the corner. If Brown uses his speech to hark back to his track record of bringing economic stability to the UK, outperforming the other states of the EU, he'll be laughed at all the way from Manchester.

If Tuesday's speech turns out to be a lifeless catalogue of Labour's achievement and the oft repeated Brownisms “I feel your pain” and “I'm working hard on Britain's behalf,” then the game really will be up.

Combine this with a defeat in the upcoming Glenrothes by-election and it will be just a matter of time before the men in grey suits knock on Downing Street's door for a “time to go” chat

But would he? Unless Cabinet ministers start to hand in their seals of office, the Prime Minister is likely to try to ride out the storm.

But don't underestimate the impact of the resignation of Scotland Office minister David Cairns - for a Scot to publicly decry Brown's leadership is about as bad as it gets.

Gordon Brown is a proud man. He won't want to go down in history having been hounded out of office like Margaret Thatcher. He would prefer to scrap John Major style than admit defeat.

One school of thought doing the rounds of Westminster is the possibility of an early election. If Labour strategists are convinced that the party will be defeated with or without Gordon Brown, why delay until 2010?

Go now, get defeat out of the way, regroup under a new leader and watch David Cameron flounder under the parlous state of the economy.


THE world's leading news magazine Time this week featured Conservative leader David Cameron on its front cover, signalling that international opinion and support is shifting away from Gordon Brown. It hit the newsstands just as Ipsos MORI was conducting an opinion poll survey which put the Conservatives on 52%, up four points from last months, with Labour unchanged on 24% and the Liberal Democrats down four to 12%.

The Ipsos MORI monthly Political Monitor, taken over the opening weekend of the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth, was bad news for leader Nick Clegg, suggesting that his party is being squeezed out by the Government's unpopularity and growing enthusiasm for the Tories.

David Cameron's party was rated ahead of Labour on a range of key characteristics, with respondents saying the Tories have the best team of leaders (38% to Labour's 20%) and best understand the economic problems facing Britain (36% to Labour's 27%). Labour was thought more likely than the Tories to promise anything to win votes, by a margin of 40% to 36%. And 54% of those questioned agreed that Mr Cameron's party was ready to form the next Government - up 19 points since last month.

Some 63% of respondents agreed with Mr Cameron's description of British society as “broken” - a claim which has come under assault from Labour in recent weeks - and 49% said that the Tory leader was representative of modern Britain, against 36% who said he was not.


LIBERAL Democrats left Bournemouth in chipper spirits, knowing that their conference exuded confidence and togetherness, in contrast to what's going to happening in the next few days in Manchester when Labour's brethren and sisters gather to pass judgement on Gordon Brown.

Colchester MP Bob Russell was especially pleased with the way Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg spoke and the reception he received at his close of conference speech.

“We're upbeat and ready for an election whenever it comes,” says Mr Russell, who achieved the remarkable feat at the last two elections of increasing his majority on both occasions. He now has a majority of 6,277 with the Tories needing a swing of 7% for victory in a seat where Labour finished a very poor third.

Mr Russell did his bit during the week in Bournemouth to further the campaign of Baroness Scott of Needham Market to become party president when MP Simon Hughes stands down in November.

“Another factor in making our conference a success was the decision to choose a seaside venue. I'm something of a traditionalist and think party conferences should be held in resorts,” said Mr Russell. “Labour and the Tories are going to Manchester and Birmingham, but they don't have the same atmosphere.”

In which case, doubtless the Colchester MP will demure if Lib Dem organisers want to return to Glasgow or Harrogate, where their conferences have been held in recent years.


AFTER nine years in the European Parliament, Lib Dem MEP Andrew Duff finally has been able to move into the flat he bought in Brussels.

The builders went bankrupt and it has taken all this time for the Belgian judicial system to make a judgement ensuring the flat was fitted out.

“I have not cooked a meal in Brussels in nine years - I've had to eat out in restaurants rather than having super at home,” says Mr Duff. “I'm quite looking forward to home cooking for a change.”


WHEN Linda Jack put her name forward for the Liberal Democrat nomination to be a Euro candidate in the East of England, she expected to be way down the list of candidates in the system of proportional representation used for European elections.

Instead, she ended up second behind Mr Duff and has a real chance of being elected to Brussels, given the current state of the Labour Party.

“It will be tough, but we can beat Labour to be second behind the Tories and get that second seat.”

Mrs Jack's outspokenness didn't stop Lib Dem members in the East of England from backing her candidacy. Last year, at the height of the unease over the leadership of Sir Menzies Campbell, she went on national radio to proclaim: “I think Ming was a brilliant shadow foreign secretary, but in terms of his leadership style he hasn't captured the imagination of the party or the country.

“Unfortunately it's the case where he has perhaps been over promoted. Someone can be a brilliant man and have incredible intellectual powers and all the rest of it but if that doesn't translate in to leadership skills then whoever your leader is you've got a problem with them.”

Perhaps Gordon Brown could learn from Liberal Democrat tolerance. The faintest whiff of dissent in the Labour Party against the Prime Minister and Red Gordon screams: “Off with their heads.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus