James Forsyth

It won’t be leadership speculation that hurts Brown but leadership positioning

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One poll already puts Labour below 30 percent but there’s almost no chance that Labour will replace Brown as leader. Collectively the party seems to know that it made its decision when it chose during conference to stick with Brown.

But what will undermine Brown, as James Kirkup argues, is ministers jostling for the best position post-defeat:

One minister sighs that there are "at least four of my Cabinet colleagues who think about nothing else but how they are positioned to succeed Gordon" after Labour loses the next election.   Their names are no surprise, but some MPs say that Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband are doing the best job of wooing backbenchers and Labour activists in the country.  By contrast, shares in David Miliband have fallen so low he may soon need a Government bailout.  Perhaps the Foreign Secretary thought his late conversion to Bush-bashing would win him some friends on the left; he would do well to learn from his brother, whose Heathrow runway rebellion was a much defter bit of politicking.

As long as Labour people think the party is continuing the slide towards the abyss, these tensions are only going to grow.  Expect ever more obvious appeals to the party faithful by would-be left-wing ministers (How long before a convenient leak details a demands in Cabinet to bail out steelworkers or other union favourites?) and, possibly, ever more obvious retaliation from No 10 trying to enforce some discipline.  Make no mistake: all is not well in the Labour Party.   By the time this is over, there will be tears, and maybe blood too.’

The more openly people start to lay out their stalls, the more Brown’s authority will be undermined. Already, the actions of the Cabinet are beginning to be seen through this prism.

Written byJames Forsyth

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

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