Woman’s hour on BBC Radio 4 interviewed Gordon Brown this morning. It was a nice piece. Nothing earth-shattering, no huge policy announcements, or anything I found even mildly surprising. But nice sedate coverage along the lines of what you expect from Radio 4. I’m slightly disappointed but not at all surprised to see the amount of coverage the press are giving to the Prime Minister’s answer to one particular question. The interviewer asked Brown if he would quit if he didn’t win the election. Brown replied
I’ll keep going. I will keep going because we want a majority.
Later in the half hour segment, he was asked whether he owed it to the Labour Party to stand aside if he did not secure a majority. The Prime Minister elaborated on his earlier answer by saying
I think I owe it to people to continue and complete the work that we’ve started of taking this country out of the most difficult global financial recession. And to be honest, going around the country, I feel there’s more to do to improve the health service, more to do to give people better opportunities, more to do for women on maternity pay and equal pay, more to do on the discriminations that still exist.
I have a couple of problems with this reaction. Stop and have a think about it for a second. What would you expect him to say? This is weeks before a general election. He’s not going to talk about quitting now. That would invite ridicule and comments of having given up already. Secondly, in the event of a hung Parliament, should he step down? Even if the Conservatives do win a hypothetical majority, it will be a narrow one. Which, history tells us, is likely to mean a second general election within months and not years. Would that be the time for Gordon Brown to step aside and leave a messy leadership battle behind him, Labour fighting among themselves while the Tories do what they want? Of course not. Even assuming the Conservatives win a large majority, would it be helpful for Gordon Brown to resign on May 7 or would it be more sensible for him to say he is resigning in 12 months and have an orderly transition?
Whatever the case, this certainly doesn’t deserve to be one of the day’s big stories.