James Forsyth

Can Gordon recover?

Can Gordon recover?
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With Labour down to 31% in the polls, talk has already started about whether the Brown premiership is salvageable or not. It is premature, if tempting, to declare that it is game over for Brown. This morning’s poll shows the Tories have yet to take advantage of the government’s plight and Labour are still a fairly united party unlike the post Black Wednesday Tories. As Martin Kettle writes, “Labour is united, albeit united at the moment in its misery. There is no equivalent of the self-destructive mood of the past.”

There is, though, a feeling that Brown isn’t quite good enough. Maybe, we have all been spoiled by Tony Blair—who was, whatever you thought of him, an extremely able politician—but Brown has shown himself unable to recover momentum once lost. Matthew Parris notes in his column today how the Prime Minister seems to attract trouble while Blair repelled it. 

Parris makes a case for writing Brown off now. He ponders how the end game might begin:

"I think somebody is going to resign. Maybe somebody quite big. Sooner or later a figure important to Mr Brown's credibility or authority will decide they've had enough and quit. This is as likely to be in a fit of pique as a mood of calculation. 

Admiral Lord West, the PM's new big-tent security adviser, must have been tempted to walk out when carpeted and humiliated by Mr Brown last week. Mr Miliband must have had his red-mist moment when his speech was unspoken before he had spoken it. Lords Malloch-Brown and (Digby) Jones cannot surely stay the course for ever. The Governor of the Bank of England must have known private rage recently, as Brownite dweebs tried to undermine him. 

This has all been within a few weeks. Can the PM get away with sheer bad manners indefinitely - especially if his stock falls farther, his inner circle narrows and the resources of the protection racket he runs begin to fail? So I'll nail my colours to the mast. Mr Brown could become the Steve McClaren of British politics. Something is going to happen, something quite nasty.” Only time will tell if Parris is right but it does seems inconceivable that things can go on as they are without someone confronting the Prime Minister. One warning sign for Labour is that there is now arguably more talent on the back benches—think John Reid, Charles Clarke, Alan Milburn, Stephen Byers, Jon Cruddas, David Blunkett—than in the cabinet. 

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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