Gordon Brown, addresses Scottish Labour activists at St Josephs on March 10, 2014 in Glasgow. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Gordon Brown has "no plans" to stand down as an MP

In response to NS story, spokesman for the former PM says "He is, and will remain, Member of Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath". 

In this week's NS, Kevin Maguire reports what many in Westminster have long suspected: that Gordon Brown will stand down as an MP at next year's general election.

He writes: "Gordon Brown, whispered one of his friends, is to step down as an MP at the 2015 general election. The announcement, when it comes, will be as unexpected as the Sun backing the Tories, but Brown’s departure will still excite headlines. The former PM will have clocked up 32 years in parliament, including three as prime minister and five since he left Downing Street. Thatcher and Major both quit as MPs at the next general election. Heath stayed for the longest sulk in history. I’ve come to the conclusion that Blair made the right call by disappearing immediately. Ex-premiers get in the way. Accused of back-seat driving if they utter a single word out of place in the Commons, they’re also called lazy if they avoid making speeches."

But Brown's spokesman has just issued a response stating that the former PM has "no plans" to announce his departure from parliament. Here it is in full: 

So many people have tried to write this story on so many occasions with no facts.

Mr Brown has just announced he is playing an active role in the referendum for United with Labour. He is giving a major speech next Tuesday and will be delivering a series of lectures on Scotland's future, the dates of which will be announced shortly.

He is, and will remain, Member of Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and he has no plans to make any announcement to the contrary.

That, as you'll note, falls some way short of a categorical denial. Until Brown formally commits to standing in 2015, speculation over his intentions will continue. 

But with the Scottish independence race narrowing, it's good news that Brown is planning to step up his involvement in the campaign (including the publication in June of a book on Scotland and the Union). Here's my recent post on why the former PM remains a threat to the nationalists. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump's healthcare failure could be to his advantage

The appearance of weakness is less electorally damaging than actually removing healthcare from millions of people.

Good morning. Is it all over for Donald Trump? His approval ratings have cratered to below 40%. Now his attempt to dismantle Barack Obama's healthcare reforms have hit serious resistance from within the Republican Party, adding to the failures and retreats of his early days in office.

The problem for the GOP is that their opposition to Obamacare had more to do with the word "Obama" than the word "care". The previous President opted for a right-wing solution to the problem of the uninsured in a doomed attempt to secure bipartisan support for his healthcare reform. The politician with the biggest impact on the structures of the Affordable Care Act is Mitt Romney.

But now that the Republicans control all three branches of government they are left in a situation where they have no alternative to Obamacare that wouldn't either a) shred conservative orthodoxies on healthcare or b) create numerous and angry losers in their constituencies. The difficulties for Trump's proposal is that it does a bit of both.

Now the man who ran on his ability to cut a deal has been forced to make a take it or leave plea to Republicans in the House of Representatives: vote for this plan or say goodbye to any chance of repealing Obamacare.

But that's probably good news for Trump. The appearance of weakness and failure is less electorally damaging than actually succeeding in removing healthcare from millions of people, including people who voted for Trump.

Trump won his first term because his own negatives as a candidate weren't quite enough to drag him down on a night when he underperformed Republican candidates across the country. The historical trends all make it hard for a first-term incumbent to lose. So far, Trump's administration is largely being frustrated by the Republican establishment though he is succeeding in leveraging the Presidency for the benefit of his business empire.

But it may be that in the failure to get anything done he succeeds in once again riding Republican coattails to victory in 2020.

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