Peter Hoskin

Brown’s troubles are returning at just the right time for Cameron & Co.

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First she loved him.  Then she hated him.  Then she seemed lukewarm towards him.  And, today, she's gone back to hating him more than ever.  Yes, Polly Toynbee's latest column is another marker stone in her oscillating relationship with Gordon Brown, and it doesn't contain any minced words:

"Cancel new year, put back the clocks and forget the fireworks. There is nothing to celebrate in the dismal year ahead. The Labour party is sledging down a black run, eyes tight shut, the only certainty the electoral wall at the bottom of the hill. In five months David Cameron will be prime minister and Gordon Brown will be toast. Remember him? The man who crashed his party. Remember them? The death-wish brigade that let him do it."

This matters because of Toynbee's influence in leftist circles.  Not enough influence to directly inspire a leadership challenge, perhaps.  But enough to defalte the optimism that some Labour MPs have been feeling in recent weeks.  All of a sudden, the general narrative seems to be turning, once again, against Brown - something he'll hardly relish in the run-up to the election.

The timing couldn't be better for the Tories, as David Cameron kicks off their January policy blitz with a speech in Oxfordshire today.  Although I have my qualms about this concentrated approach, Brown's inability to set out a coherent message in either the Queen's Speech or the Pre-Budget Report has certainly given the Tories a great deal of space to fill on domestic policy.