Harman blames economic crisis for failure to oust Brown

"Leadership crisis" in middle of "economic crisis" would have been wrong

Gordon Brown could not be forced out of office during the "coup" attempt in January because of the "grave economic situation" and his determination to stay in power, Harriet Harman has said.

In an interview to be published in tomorrow's New Statesman, Harman, the acting Labour leader, is asked why she did not tell Brown to go during a one to one meeting with him during the "coup that never was", which was led by Geoff Hoon, Patricia Hewitt and Charles Clarke and exclusively revealed first by this blog. Harman replies:

There are three overriding things there. First is that the country was still in the middle of a grave economic situation and to have a leadership crisis in the middle of government, in the middle of people worrying about whether their jobs are going to go . . .So, there's a huge economic crisis. The second thing was that, because of that, there was no general view in the party that Gordon needed to be pushed out of office. And third, Gordon was very determined to take his responsibilities as prime minister seriously and see the country through the recession.

For the full version of the wide ranging interview, see the magazine out tomorrow or Newstatesman.com in due course.

 

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.