Alex Massie

Labour’s Toast: Or Why Gordon Brown Will Never Win An Election

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A delicious column by Rachel Sylvester in today's Telegraph. Some choice highlights:

There is a "sulphurous mood" on the Labour benches. Disillusioned Left-wingers, who campaigned for Mr Brown to become leader, are joining forces with triumphant Blairites who say: "I told you so." Even Tony Lloyd, the chairman of the PLP, warned yesterday that the Government needed to "clarify what it's there for".

Ministers are losing the habit of discipline too. Last week, Ivan Lewis, a health minister, warned that Labour was "losing touch" with hard-working families, then Gerry Sutcliffe, the licensing minister, attacked the tax rises on booze.

Behind the scenes, things are even worse. With no clear direction from above, Cabinet ministers are at each other's throats. I am reliably informed that, after one recent Cabinet meeting, Jack Straw threatened to punch Ed Balls during a row about who was responsible for youth crime. The Justice Secretary came back to his department fuming that he had never been spoken to so rudely by a colleague in public and that he was not going to put up with it.

He is not the only one with a grudge against Mr Brown's former right-hand man...

There is not a single thing that has taken a sledgehammer to party unity - as the war in Iraq did during Mr Blair's time in charge - but there are lots of small pebbles popping on to the political windscreen and no over-arching message to prevent the glass shattering.

In private, ministers who were once in awe of Mr Brown have started complaining about their boss. "It's dither, dither, dither," sighs one. An aide claims, blithely: "It's like a Shakespearean tragedy. Gordon's not up to the job."

The Civil Service is starting to despair, with senior mandarins lamenting that they have no sense of where the Government is going. As if this were not bad enough, Mr Brown's advisers at Number 10 are not only fighting like ferrets in a sack, they are also briefing details to the press. Even those loyal to the Prime Minister admit things are not going as well as they could be. "It's terrible," says one, "The truth is, Gordon's got to change or we'll lose the next general election."

Actually, it's more like a Thomas Middleton tragedy than a Shakespearian one: entertaining but second-rate* and exceedingly bloody.

All this is, of course, amusing and entirely deserved. Once a government begins to unravel it's almost impossible to recover. If it keeps going like this is won't be long until they're just be a rabble.

There was a moment, reader, when I wobbled. A difficult couple of weeks last summer when it seemed Gordon Brown might not be the disaster I'd long predicted. Happily the squall passed and the sun has since been shining upon my prejudices. It's over: Brown is Done. There's no way back. Provided, that is, the Tories play their cards correctly. This is no time to sit back and watch the tide flow in their favour. On the contrary, they should exploit Labour's disarray and unhappiness. This is a moment for playing the man and the ball to turn an advantageous situation into a rout.

Neill Harvey-Smith also chimes in with an example of Labour stupidity and Conservative opportunity here.

*Second-rate isn't terrible you know. A second-rate ship might not have been as splendid or as nimble as, say, HMS Victory, but it still carried 90 or so guns on three-decks. It was a big lump. Mind you, the second-rates did have something of a reputation for slow-sailing and sluggish maneoverability - just like Gordon Brown actually.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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