John Rentoul comments:
This morning's result in Glasgow is the worst possible for Gordon Brown and the best possible for the Labour Party. A margin of 365 votes is so close that it means that, if almost anybody else had been Prime Minister, Labour would have held the seat. The Labour Party may be the nice party, but it is not that nice. Previously I had given Brown up to another 365 days in No 10; this cuts that short.
I wonder if John is overestimating the party's rationality. Historically, Labour does not forgive leaders who are right.
Consider that James Callaghan and his Chancellor, Denis Healey, became figures of genuine hatred within the party in the 1980s. This was due first to the Government's accepting the need to cut public spending, at the behest of the IMF, in the sterling crisis of 1976. Callaghan allowed extensive debate within Cabinet, in which - from different starting points - Tony Benn and Tony Crosland advocated the destructive nonsense of import controls in preference to accepting the IMF's terms. Secondly, Callaghan made a brave and necessary speech in the middle of the 1983 general election campaign in which he condemned Labour's policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament.
But Labour is highly indulgent with leaders who tell the party what it wishes to hear. What explanation can there be for the reverence in which Michael Foot is held, and how he was treated at the time? It was completely obvious during Foot's leadership that he would take the party to catastrophe. Yet only two MPs, Jeff Rooker and Gerald Kaufman, told him to his face that he should go. Labour is surely the sentimental party; the Tories are the ruthless one.
John also comments, very reasonably, that he predicted that Glasgow East would be a defeat for Labour. Perhaps I might add that I was one of the 13 per cent of the PHI 100 panel that predicted an SNP victory. In fact, I was the one per cent that predicted a comfortable majority for the SNP, so I was uniquely wrong. It seemed to me, and does so even more now, that Labour is beyond any hope of recovery. Gordon Brown (quite unlike Callaghan, incidentally) is neither a capable prime minister nor one who has public respect. He is a huge electoral and political liability. Things can only get worse.