Peter Hoskin

Is Brown preparing a purge of the Labour backbenches?

Is Brown preparing a purge of the Labour backbenches?
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Hm.  Whom to believe?  In one corner, we have a source telling the Sunday Mail that the chief whip and Downing Street enforcer, Nick Brown, has drawn up a hit-list of "lazy" (aka rebellious) Labour MPs, who could well be whacked (aka deselected) ahead of the next election.  Allegedly on that list are eight of the Gurkha rebels, including Diane Abbot, Kate Hoey and Bob Marshall-Andrews.  In the other corner, there's a "spokesman for Nick Brown," who denies that any such list exists.

Given the way Gordon Brown's gang of bruisers and nutcases operates, the hit-list story doesn't sound implausible.  But, either way, both sides should take it as a warning.  For Downing Street, it's another sign of Brown's waning authority - after Smeargate, the papers have a new appetite for tales of our Prime Minister's more paranoid and dictatorial methods, and there's a whole host of Labour folk who are willing to oblige them with good copy.  While, for those currently operating against Brown, it's a reminder that he remains one of the toughest streetfighters in politics.  He'll come back at them, and come back hard.  Expect a bloody summer.