How long will Gordon Brown be PM?

Media vans are parked in different parts of Westminster as politicians rush about to pursue talks.   There is pressure from the markets to get a government in place as soon as possible.  There are political imperatives to form a government but these are somewhat less intense.  The markets would like to see a government settled by Monday; whether the politicians can deliver that is another matter. 

While discussions continue, Gordon Brown continues as Prime Minister.  How long will he remain the occupant of No. 10?  There are various possibilities.  

1. David Cameron and Nick Clegg reach an agreement that both can sell to their parties.  At this point, it becomes clear that Gordon Brown cannot command the confidence of the House of Commons and heads for the Palace.  David Cameron becomes PM.

2. The Liberal Democrats fail to reach an agreement with David Cameron and instead indicate they can work with the Labour Party, but not under Gordon Brown.  Brown resigns (as Labour leader?) and Labour selects a new leader who is then called to the Palace.

3. No agreement is reached between any of the parties.  Brown realises he is unlikely to command the confidence of the Commons and resigns.  David Cameron becomes head of a minority Conservative government.

4. Brown offers the Liberal Democrats a deal but subject to his remaining as PM.  The Liberal Democrats accept and a minority coalition government is formed.  Brown continues as PM unless and until defeated in the Queen’s Speech or a later vote of confidence.

5. Brown simply struggles on as PM as head of a (very) minority government and defies the other parties to vote down the Government on the Queen’s Speech.  They vote it down.   Brown resigns and David Cameron is summoned to the Palace.

I include the last scenario for the sake of completeness.  Are there any other options – or at least vaguely realistic options?  Of the foregoing options, which is the most likely to be realised?   Can or rather will Gordon Brown survive as Prime Minister more than a few days?


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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25 Responses to How long will Gordon Brown be PM?

  1. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton.

    In practical terms it may not matter but Labour and Lib Dems are not a majority. So really, one of the tiny (mostly national) parties has to join in. If DUP alone it is enough I think but if SNP, PC or someone else (haven’t checked for SF) it might take more than one of these tiny parties. Whereas any CP and LDP pact can stand on its own. I think that argues for the latter to emerge. The world waits. But I think a realm deserves a little time to get this right.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Frank W. Summers III: Sinn Fein figure in the calculations only for the purpose of subtracting their number from the total number of voting MPs, as Sinn Fein MPs do not take their seats.

  2. Carl.H says:

    “How long will Gordon Brown be PM?”

    About as long as it takes my wife to eat the box of chocs that arrived from the Lords this morning. Thank you very much TNS and especially Lizzie.

    I can`t see the Lib dems making a deal with Brown, Nick Clegg seemed adamant the party with the most votes should rule. It would rather go against Lib dem ethic to allow GB to go on.

    How long a Con/Lib Dem Gov or a minority rule Con could go on for is another question and I think the whips will have their work cut out now.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Carl.H: Clearly the crucial question is how long does your wife normally take to eat a box of chocolates?

    • Carl.H says:

      Well obviously Lords members not being paid and all that means the actual box of choccies is quite small, anything bigger would be too expensive for them. 😉

      They`re still there at the moment but I suspect there will be very few left in the morning, oooh and Lizzie the wife said she`d appreciate a bottle of Baileys to wash them down with next time, thanks.

      I expect to see GB out by Monday, I think the talks will be short and to the point.

  3. James Walker says:

    A Lab-Con deal?

    • Frank W. Summers III says:

      That might make some feel they had less reason for the exercise than they would like. However it would please many. Perhaps something really creative like having the senior SF MP seated and leave it to he and the Queen to figure out what kind of government he could form, cabinet in seniority of SF, PC, SNP and DUP first with all bills read in English, Welsh and Gaelic would be a way to have a sort of placeholder government that would do little harm. A new election of record suddenness and who knows?
      I think if one accepts the adversarial element as inevitable then voters want Cons to lead and Labour out for now even if Labour is much more supported than the allies the Cons will have.
      By the way I might like the hyper-eclectic Britain I described in my little joke here. But that has lots to do with why my ancestors who were Brits stopped being Brits.

    • James Walker says:

      Sorry I was a bit tongue in cheek there!

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        The foreigner in me will out once in a while. I did not catch it beyond the improbability factor. I think that it probably come from having all the most rancorous stuff screened out by ditance. The stuff we do get is so damned polite compared to our bloodlettings that it seemed a serious proposal. However, even if they are more polite I am sure Labor and the Conservatives are far from tying the knot.

  4. I cannot see Gordon Brown remaining in Downing Street long, but at present I think it’s a difficult time for him to leave the helm even should he wish to do so. I think his position’s very difficult, but I‘m sure he feels it his duty to remain unless and until the situation becomes clearer.

    How many times must he have regretted his decision not to hold a General Election in November 2007? But it’s easy with 20-20 hindsight, as it was to criticise Jim Callaghan‘s decision not to call an election before the Winter of Discontent.

    Should the Lib-Dem/Con talks fail, and we move on to the so-called “Rainbow Alliance” option, the question becomes whether Gordon Brown’s presence will be seen as a barrier to progress.

    My betting’s on a Labour leadership election being declared at or before its next conference.

  5. ladytizzy says:

    Polling Day: Newsnight reports what Taiwan *might* have made of it

  6. ladytizzy says:

    It has been said that Mr Clegg is in for the long game, not such a unique qualifier for politicians or Daleks. Ensuring his position as party leader must be a personal priority, more so given his apparent closeness to Mr Cameron and that Mr Huhne was denied the leadership because of a postal strike.

    I will be surprised if the outcome of the LibDem/Tory discussions results in a formal coalition. Regardless, I can’t see how Mr Cameron or the Tories loses their long games; the ostensible ditching of Lord Ashcroft followed by the non-endorsement of Mr Cameron by Lord Tebbit can only have helped the cause.

    • Frank W. Summers III says:

      Lady Tizzy,
      It has been too long for me to be sure but is that the first Dr. Who reference here?

      • ladytizzy says:

        Here, yes. LotB, I believe not. Difficult to pinpoint due to the poor search facility on LotB but I have a vague memory of some reference to a time lord.

      • Croft says:

        No, When ‘Dr Who’ announced a new guest character called Lady D’Souza I did post here asking everyone’s favourite leader of the XBs if this was some form of parliamentary outreach 🙂 Of course there may be someone before that

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Thanks LT & C for setting the record straight…

  7. Jana says:

    Is there any chance the Conservatives could come to some kind of agreement (presumably confidence & supply based agreement) with Labour, and leave Clegg out in the cold?

    • Croft says:

      Jana: cold is the right word. Hell would have the freeze over before Lab would support the Tories even for C&S.

  8. Gareth Howell says:

    Another three weeks.

    • Frank W. Summers III says:

      GB has resigned in the early evening your time and is off to the palace to have the Queen accept it and recommend “the leader of the Opposition” be asked to form a government. I am writing this partly to have a record on this blog post if it is one of those which keeps going for ages.

  9. Frank W. Summers III says:

    All over US media that GB will quit the office of Labour leader by September at the latest whether he is PM meanwhile or not.

    • ladytizzy says:

      This has now been confirmed! Can you ask your fellow citizens who will be our PM, and when the nect election will be, please? I think Her Majesty would be keen to know.

  10. Dave H says:

    I’ve got a couple more constitutional questions.

    My father is interested in whether the Royal Dukes are entitled to sit in the Lords even though they may deem it inappropriate. He’s never really gotten to grips with computers and the internet and is amazed when I come up with answers.

    For an hour or so today, we had no elected government, between the time when Brown met the Queen and when Cameron accepted her invitation to form a new one. What would happen if something really bad happened during that hour, who gets to call the shots? Or is there some agreement with the rest of the world that they don’t attack us or do other bad things during that short period?

  11. Dave H – Excellent question! When the Prime Minister resigns, does/can he resign on behalf of all ministers? If not, logically the responsibility would seem to have temporarily resided with Harriet Harman as Deputy PM until such time as the new PM is appointed?

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