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"Maybe, just maybe"

Betsan Powys | 10:50 UK time, Wednesday, 17 September 2008

A young colleague from Scotland isn't sure what to say next.

He told his audience that Gordon Brown would be out if Labour lost Glasgow East to the SNP. They did of course. John Mason MP was in Aberystwyth last week, offering cups of coffee to those who turned up to campaign for him and sharing with Plaid what they could learn from the SNP's focus and by-election machinery.

But Gordon Brown is still there. "What do I tell them when it comes to Glenrothes? That he's .. um ... absolutely gone this time?"

Then David Cairns struck his blow giving Scottish reporters - and British Prime Ministers -more to worry about. I've no idea what the reporter told his audience then, nor this morning when the news on HBOS hit the headlines. But he'll find nothing but sympathy amongst those Welsh Labour politicians who'll admit to having no idea where this ends either.

"It's as bad as you can imagine", "There's a debilitation that happens and it's hard to see how it'll pan out", "Labour are in it up to their necks", "Don't think I haven't woken up on some mornings and thought, where the hell is this going?" But all of those who picked up the the phone (and some didn't) were clear on one thing: things should not be going in the direction David Cairns and others have been pushing them.

The theory?

That the country won't thank Labour for "faffing" around at a time when the government has got to be seen to be getting on with it, 'it' being saving jobs, keeping the markets as calm as possible, persuading people like my very reasonable friends - who texted first thing this morning to say they were off to the Halifax there and then to withdraw all of their money - that they should not be panicking.

That it'll take six months to have the ideological battles Labour are due and now is not the time to have them. Last Spring? Maybe ... but not now. Re-energise the party? Pull the other one.

That there is no real alternative to Gordon Brown and that if he shows some mettle during the party conference in Manchester next week, if he sets out clearly why he should be allowed to carry on, if he acknowledges all the concerns about his leadership, organisation at Number 10, presentation of policies and proves he's keeping his head, then, goes the theory, "maybe, just maybe", Labour can pull through.

Do they really believe that? I think they do. At the very least they genuinely believe there is no consensus that he should go, in other words that the majority of the PLP hold the same view and the branches they've visited at home agree that despite being up a creek with fewer paddles by the day, now is not the time to get rid of the leader.

Do they really believe Labour can win another General Election? Some do, partly because the worse it gets, the wilder the headlines around the economic downturn, the more the leap into the arms of David Cameron or Nick Clegg becomes a leap of faith.

Then again "Gordon might be out in a few weeks".

And if Labour politicians really did venture to bet on the fortunes of their own party, there may well be a betting shop somewhere in Wales that's just taken money on there being a new leader by Christmas, followed by a short, sharp campaign and a General Election in the Spring.


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