UK politics Where is Mr Brown?

27 May 2009

There are more revelations about MPs’ expenses today. More, it seems, is yet to be made public. The scandal has claimed a few victims: most importantly, the Speaker of the House of Commons will step down.

The current crisis has opened up a window of opportunity to amend the British constitution. Many politicians are floating ideas — the next parliament may go down in history as one of the most important in British politics and constitution. It may be a clean break, rather than the slow process of change, almost unnoticed, that is usually the case with parliamentary development.

Mr Cameron is seizing the moment. He has suggested a number of reforms. Once he is in power, he may not push through them, but it is giving him a lot of (good) publicity. He is framing the debate. The Tory leader looks very confident, serious, and very much a prime minister in waiting.

Somewhat curiously, the prime minister is nowhere to be seen or heard at the moment. Compared to the coverage given to Mr Cameron, Mr Brown is receiving much less attention. It is strange, since Mr Brown still has a big stable majority in the Commons and he can actually do things now. If Labour were to limit the scale of the defeat in the next general election (I doubt anyone seriously thinks that Labour can win a majority next time), Mr Brown needs to regain the initiative, and change things radically.

Time is running out for Labour and Mr Brown. There will be many discussions and debates in the future on when the tide turned and Labour’s and Mr Brown’s fate was sealed. It may already have happened: for many people, there will be that one moment which made Labour and Mr Brown unsupportable. But then there will be a collective moment, a neat historical date, which everyone remembers as the turning point: perhaps we are witnessing such days now.