After days of talking to a wide range of ministers, Labour backbenchers and veteran party figures, my first conclusion is that, yes, this is very bad indeed. It is not just a few rabidly anti-Gordon Brown columnists getting in a lather. It's more than a passing, soon-to-be-forgotten lurch in the opinion polls. Though there has been no great national disaster of the Black Wednesday kind, the past fortnight has been a big enough government crisis to sink Brown and Labour at the next election, even in 18 months' time.
For the past few days there has been an air of drift and desperation. The prime minister seems hurt and surprised rather than roused and up for it. Once utterly loyal Brownite backbenchers, senior ones, tell me they don't expect him to fight the next election. Blairites who kept their mouths zipped through the first months are plotting again to replace him.” Ashley goes on to argue that if Gordon would just have the courage to be the leader he could be, the one who was so popular over the summer, then all would be well again. Whether that’s correct is debatable, but one thing that Ashley is definitely right about is that the Tories have not yet moved into an unassailable lead. Brown is battered but not yet beaten.