Fraser Nelson

A farce behind closed doors

A farce behind closed doors
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I'm standing outside Committee Room 14 where Brown is having this supposed make or break meeting. As soon as he swanned in, there was a cheer and the banging of desks. Had he walked into a Tory meeting by mistake? No, this was his henchmen doing their version of crowd control. And there is plenty of crowd - David Lammy is standing in front of me being told there is no room. Ronnie Campbell tried to heave his hefty carcass in the door like he was squeezing into one of those Tokyo underground tubes, but no dice. "Doesn't he want my support?" he exclaimed as he left. Another round of desk-banging and applause at 6.14pm.  

What a farce. About the entire parliamentary press corps is standing outside - as Brown's henchmen know too well. So this meeting may as well have cameras in it, for all the candour going on inside. This is the old Socialist Worker device of entering a march, raising a few banners and hoping that by drowning out the fainthearts they can change the character of the meetings. And you know how it will go: Tony Lloyd, chairing, will pick the least articulate rebel he can find. Ian Austin will come bouncing out saying "it went really well for Gordon, and there was real anger expressed at the rebels".

Lord Janner, a member of the Magic Circle, is entertaining some of the journalists with a magic trick. "At least now you've seen something worth watching" he says - and he has a point. There are about a hundred of us out here, not one expecting fireworks. Bouts of desk banging keep coming through the walls, and even from here you know it has all the sincerity of recorded sitcom laughter. Journalists can try to call MPs later to ask what really happened, but there will be nothing dramatic. This party is too exhausted to undergo the tumult of a leadership election. It has simply decided that it is now time to die.

UPDATE: Thanks to the joys of text, we're getting some updates. Charles Clarke has said Brown should stand down, hardly an unusual suspect - but credit to him for saying to Brown's face what he says to the cameras.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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