Today is make it or break it for Gordon Brown, the embattled U.K. Prime Minister and leader of the Labour government. A rapidly evolving series of scandals is shaping the future of his party, and Brown is increasingly short of places to duck and cover.
Cabinet resignations, financial scandals, losses at local polls and expected losses in the E.U. Parliamentary elections have isolated Brown while members of his party are calling for his resignation.
Several Labour MPs began the push yesterday for Brown’s resignation after the Hotmail conspiracy, in which an anonymous email calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation circulated to different Labour MPs, went public. Labour rebels now say they have 75 supporters, four more than the requisite 71 to make an official challenge.
“Dear Gordon,” begins the letter, “Over the last 12 years in government, and before, you have made an enormous contribution to this country and to the Labour Party, and this is widely acknowledged. However we are writing now because we believe that in the current political situation, you can best serve the Labour Party and the country by stepping down as party leader and Prime Minister.”
The electronic medium was chosen over a formal letter as many MPs were scattered across the country for last-minute campaigning in local elections. Polls closed last night, and with several counties tallied, Labour is predicted to lose seats.
There is widespread doubt over Brown’s ability to compete against Conservative party leader David Camron in the next general election slated for May 2010. Here was Brown at the latest Prime Minister’s Questions:
Months of bad news is piling up as are cabinet-level resignations, the first two resulting from a financial scandal in which ministers were discovered to be cheating the tax man, writing off expenses for everything from pornography films to capital gains earnings. The latest two have been direct affronts to Brown’s leadership.
Labour’s Works and Pensions Secretary James Purnell resigned yesterday calling on Brown “to stand aside to give Labour a fighting chance of winning the next election.”
This morning, Defense Minister John Hutton quit just as Brown was reshuffling cabinet positions in a move designed to save face given such widespread criticism of his leadership.
The Guardian, Britain’s left-leaning daily reports that “one more cabinet level resignation would be the final straw for Brown.”
Local election results will perhaps be the truest gauge of how much esteem Labour MPs are willing to muster for their embattled leader. Follow the ballot count at The Guardian.