Move on, quickly

That’s what the Cabinet are trying to do, it’s what Downing Street will try and do, and it’s what Labour activists desperately want their party to do.

Yet undoubtedly there will be the desire to pick through what happened yesterday. Was Nick Robinson right by saying that six Cabinet ministers pledged to give Gordon the boot, was Eric Joyce right suggesting it was two, or were they all behind the PM as Lord Mandelson suggested (it didn’t appear that way)?

And what did Darling say in his one-on-one meeting with Brown, did he really ask him to go? Iain Martin of the Wall Street Journal says yes, Sky News’ Niall Paterson quotes an aide telling him it is “categorically, unequivocally not true”.

Every journalist in Whitehall will be digging, and probably many MPs will be too. Without any other big news story, this will dominate this week and coverage could continue into next week up to a demoralising PMQs. It’s not the initial story that causes damage to the party but how long it runs. The Cabinet took too long to try to kill it and even then didn’t really so it will be very tough to “get on with the job” for a while.

The Tories will want to keep the pressure on this and will probably steer clear of any big announcements of their own. The Liberal Democrats struggle to gain coverage anyhow, and given that yesterday Nick Clegg’s Mumsnet grilling was booted into touch, I can’t see how they could distract from this story even if they wanted to.

Now that tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting has been snowed off too, it’ll be next week before they’re all together. So each will stew and pick over the events of the last 24 hours. Two weeks of an election campaign and Jack Straw says that there are only, in his guess, fourteen more weeks to go. Will Cabinet colleagues now be able to work closely together or will this issue be lurking in the back of their minds throughout that campaign – each instead concentrating on their own campaigns to be Labour leader after the election?

The coup is over, but the recriminations aren’t. Meanwhile, Labour activists will be holding their heads in the hands as their party has needlessly thrown away a strong start to the general election campaign.

PS. Not only did a YouGov poll for today’s Sun find that gap between Labour and the Tories narrowing, it concluded that the majority of voters did not think a change of leader would change their vote. And Andrew Neil today points out news that indicates that the UK has climbed out of recession. This could have been a good week for Labour, will the Cabinet now be able to cope with the bad ones?


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