Peter Hoskin

Brown faces the Rawnsley revelations, while the Tories face the polls

Brown faces the Rawnsley revelations, while the Tories face the polls
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The question tonight is: which piece of bad news will make the biggest impact?  The bad news for the Tories, or the bad news for Labour?

Let's take the second one first.  I'm referring, of course, to the first installment in Andrew Rawnsley's revelations about Gordon Brown.  ConHome have already published some snippets – click here – and they give you plenty of juice for your buck.  Not only are there the expected allegations about Brown hitting his staff (much of which seems to have been covered in the Mail on Sunday a couple of weeks ago), but Rawsley also reveals that the Cabinet Secretary, Gus O'Donnell, investigated and reprimanded the PM for his behaviour.  Here's a taster:

"Sir Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary, became so alarmed by the prime minister’s behaviour that he launched his own investigations when he received reports of Brown’s bullying of staff. O’Donnell then gave the prime minister a stern 'pep talk' and ordered him to change his behaviour. 'This is no way to get things done,' he told Brown. The revelation that the prime minister’s behaviour was so extreme that it triggered a warning from Whitehall’s most powerful official will shock the political world and is bound to lead to claims from his opponents that he is not fit for another five years in office as a general election draws near."

This is, plain and simple, a difficult development for Downing St.  On the day when Labour effectively launched their election campaign, they could well do without their boss's bullying being front-page news.  It should, by all rights, be yet another nail in the coffin of Gordon Brown's premiership.

And yet, and yet ... there's some bad news for the Tories too.  The latest YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has the gap between them and Labour down to only 6 points.  That's the smallest gap in a YouGov poll since the back end of 2008.  Or, to put it in starker terms – courtesy of Mike Smithson – it implies that Labour have shed just one-in-twelve voters since 2005.  There are rumblings that another poll tomorrow will have the Tories with a 10 point lead.  But throw in Michael Heseltine's claim that the Tories cannot win the election outright, and there'll still be more than a few jitters and murmurs in CCHQ this weekend.

Both sides will be left hoping that the limelight shines more brightly on their opponents tonight.  But, with Fraser's earlier post in mind, I suspect that Labour may take more heart from today than the Tories.  As an ancient Chinese proverbialist might have put it: we live in interesting times.

UPDATE: The Mail has more here.