Rob Wilson MP has already done a good demolition job on the theory that flatters Brown by comparing him to John Major. This week’s Spectator leader is drawing parallels between the leadership speculation that undermined Mr Major and that which is now undermining Mr Brown:
"Labour’s behaviour now closely resembles that of the Tories before and immediately after the 1997 election. This week, all the talk has been of a potential ‘dream ticket’ bringing together David Miliband and Alan Johnson — a remarkably close echo of those in the mid-Nineties who called for a Portillo–Heseltine duumvirate. Curious alliances are proposed. Just as the Europhile Kenneth Clarke and Eurosceptic John Redwood formed an axis in 1997 in a (doomed) attempt to deny William Hague the Tory leadership, so in 2008 there is bizarre talk of an insurgent alliance of neo-Blairites and the left-wing Compass group. And, as in the Major years and their grisly aftermath, absolutely anyone can be a leadership hopeful: for Redwood in 1995 and 1997, read Harriet Harman in 2008."
There are similarities between now and that period but there are also very big differences. Major enjoyed a growing economy, for example. Brown’s economic chickens are coming home to roost. Major had his own mandate from the electorate. Brown doesn’t and is much less personally popular than Major. Redwood offered a very clear policy alternative. Miliband’s article yesterday was pretty mushy. The calibre of the potential successors to Major was also much higher. Clarke, Heseltine, Howard and Portillo, for example, could all have assumed the Tory leadership (and after serious experience of Cabinet) – although none of them uncontroversially. Only Straw has the weight of the people around Major.
We did have two bigger disadvantages then: (1) We’d be in office longer and people were more bored, (2) Blair enjoyed satisfaction ratings higher than Cameron (although Cameron still has time to change that).