Peter Hoskin

Memo to Brown: before boldness comes unity

Memo to Brown: before boldness comes unity
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Stop sniggering at the back.  I mean, all I asked was whether Gordon Brown can be bold and radical.  The way things are looking, he certainly needs to be – and, according to Philip Webster's insightful account of yesterday's three-hour Cabinet meeting, the PM has called on his colleagues to think up as many "eye-catching" proposals as possible for Labour's manifesto.  One "senior source" says that the party "should have the most radical manifesto yet put to the electorate."

Which is, of course, much easier said than done – a fact highlighted by another passage in Webster's report, which reveals:

"Mr Brown said there must be no repeat of last week’s botched coup. The campaign must be not 'about us and the Labour Party' but about the public’s priorities. Sources said that the words amounted to an instruction."

It hardly needs adding that a Prime Minister who, five months out from an election, is still instructing the Cabinet to back his leadership is not best-placed to sell a bold vision to the country.

But, as Danny Finkelstein suggests in his Times column, the most worrying divide for Labour, right now, is over spending cuts rather than Brown's leadership.  Alistair Darling may have injected a bit more honesty into the debate, after last week's attempted coup – but there are still signs that Ed Balls is resisting this novel approach, not least in his evasive interview with Channel 4 the other day.

The debt mountain looms catastrophic over every policy decision that the parties have to make.  If the government can't agree on how to tackle it – or even, really, on the need to tackle it – then they'll struggle to write a coherent manifesto, let alone a radical one.