Fraser Nelson

Gangs of New Labour

Gangs of New Labour
Text settings

The game is up for Brown. Cameron's lead has doubled to 13 points, and that's even before he's got back in his stride.  It's fairly obvious what's going to happen next: Brown will cling on, fight, lose then quit. Perhaps he'll lose by a little, perhaps by a lot, but he's toast. Then Labour's fighting really begins. For my News of the World column I look at the jostling that's already taking place inside Labour. It has a long and proud history of tearing itself apart after losing power - and already you can see MPs getting into groups.

Harriet Harman is playing the class war card, and I suspect that Brown didn't know or authorise that daft class-based idea of hers. It was designed to big her up on Labour's left, Polly Toynbee declaring it Labour's biggest idea for 11 years. You may laugh at Harman, but Labour's wonky leadership rules made her deputy leader because she hoovered up the third preference votes. This may take her to the top.

Next the Milibenns - Ed Miliband and Hilary Benn who are now positioning

themselves as green .formed an alliance over Heathrow's third runway. If the Tories force a vote on the issue, which they could by calling an Opposition Day debate, then there will be a parliamentary band of rebels for them to command. Ed's stock has risen while David Miliband's has fallen - and yesterday, at the Fabian Conference, Ed was giving it the full come-on, claiming the dawn of a new era of state power now the forces of the open society have taken a knock.

Next group I call the Orphaned Blairites. Basically, my favourite people: John

Hutton, James Purnell and Alan Milburn. Hutton's bashing the Europeans for freeloading under America's NATO umbrella, Purnell has outflanked the Tories on welfare reform, and Milburn wants to cut the civil service by a quarter to transfer power away from government by force. What's not to like? Plenty, if you're a Labour leftie, but these three remind us why New Labour won so many ex-Tory votes.

Ed Balls has pretty much given up. His plan was to be see as the real genius behind Brown's economic miracle - now he's left looking more like the navigator on HMS Titanic. Yvette Cooper's stock has risen within Labour ranks meanwhile, so his best hope may well be as her deputy.

Other players include John Denham, a dark horse who may yet stand as a unity candidate. Peter Hain sees himself as Labour's conscience, is against Purnell's welfare reform, green, pro-union, anti-privatisation. And, hilariously, John Prescott. We may see him as a priapic oaf but he remains curiously influential in Labour circles and his mission is to stop what he sees as the Harman/Toynbee axis.

It's likely that Mandelson will play a kingmaking role here, not because his endorsement is influential but because he's a Class 1 powerbroker. I suspect he believes his role is to "save" the party his grandfather did so much to build, and this means keeping the inevitable civil war to a minimum level of violence. Good luck to him, because there is very little to unite the above tribes.

Labour in Opposition may prove to be as divided as it was after Callaghan - and then, it split. Brown's errors will deliver Cameron's first term. The fight between the Gangs of New Labour may well deliver his second.

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.

Topics in this articlePolitics