The BBC reports on Labour's woes: 'Former home secretary David Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that unlike the Conservatives, Labour was not a "hatchet job" party which would ditch a leader at the "drop of a hat".'
I do think this is right. Labour does not dispense with leaders as readily as the Tories do. Unlike Blunkett, and writing as a Labour supporter, I do not consider this is anything to be proud of. So extended was the Tory death wish after the 1992 election that it's been easy to overlook the Conservative Party's distinctive historical characteristic. It is an astonishingly efficient vehicle for attaining public office by constant adaptation. This is what's happening now. The most repellent aspects of modern Conservatism - plainly racist rhetoric from MPs; hostility to single parents and homosexuals; distrust of foreigners - have not been eradicated but they have been confronted.
Labour, by contrast, operates by mythology rather than electoral logic. Prime Ministers, Chancellors and Foreign Secretaries who deal with the world as it is - with external threats that need to be deterred, and financial markets whose trust needs to be won - rather than with the world as party activists would like it to be become hate figures. Leaders who are plainly not up to the job but whose hearts are judged to be in the right place are indulged. This no way to run a mollusc franchise, let alone a government.
On Labour's strategy, I recommend today's main leader in The Times (not written by me). There will be a temptation for the Government now to abandon the principles of effective governance, and pursue a populist strategy in the hope of holding on as long as possible. It would be a terrible political legacy for the party and the country if this happened:
It was Harold Wilson's ambition to make Labour the natural party of government. Under the leadership of Tony Blair, this ambition came close to becoming a reality. There was a good reason why it did so. Mr Blair's combination of moderation, free markets, social justice and Atlanticism is electorally potent and a good governing philosophy.
For Gordon Brown, the challenge of staying alive and hoping for the best may tempt him to squander that mandate in acts of politcal expediency. The task of tomorrow's Labour leaders is to protect the competence of the Government. Not just in the interests of the country, but their own.
Incidentally, a measure of how useless the Parliamentary Labour Party is comes from the quoted views of one Glasgow Labour MP, according to the BBC report I've linked to: "Mohammad Sarwar, Labour MP for Glasgow Central, said he was 100% behind the prime minister, and blamed the world economy for the government's unpopularity."