Earlier this evening, a despondent enemy of Gordon Brown explained to me why the prime minister’s position is safe.
The first reason is that Labour’s situation is so bad, it has left the rebels without a cause. There was hope last summer that new leadership could revive the party’s fortunes. Now not even the most zealous critic of Brown believes Labour can win a fourth term. You can see why someone would risk rebellion to lead Labour to victory. But which senior figure will lead a mutiny for the sake of damage limitation?
This pervasive pessimism ties in with the second point: Brown has the financial interests of MPs working in his favour.
Dozens of Labour MPs are stepping down. Even more backbenchers are resigned to losing their seats, regardless of whether Brown is leader. This despair is typically seen as a reason to revolt. But do these MPs’ really have “nothing to lose”? An early election, which is bound to follow a coup, will hit their pockets. They would each have to sacrifice about seven months salary — more than £30K — just to topple Brown. With “nothing to win” politically, my source thought the case for MPs biting their tongues and drawing a salary till May 2010 was compelling.
Brown could still be undone by a thrashing at the ballot box or a fearless mutineer. But, in spite of the chaos of recent days, the odds still seem to be in his favour.