David Blackburn

Rawnsley’s indictment of the entire Brown government is lost amid a smokescreen about bullying

Rawnsley’s indictment of the entire Brown government is lost amid a smokescreen about bullying
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Ministers are a fickle bunch. It is striking how many have come out in support of Gordon Brown today; they were much more bashful on the afternoon of the Snow Plot. The government has been galvanised and today is a rare glimpse of what a truly united government might resemble. Cynics would intimate that this sudden cohesion validates Rawnsley’s observations, not only about Brown’s swivelled-eyed rages but also his government’s immediate descent into faction after the election that never was.

I’m with the cynics. Rawnsley’s more sensational exposes have masked the narrative of disintegration. It is this – as much as the fact that Labour installed unopposed into office an alleged bully, prone to anxious delusions and indecision - which the government wants to smother.

Ministers have besieged the media with avowals of Brown’s meekness. These thin aperitifs preceded mind-befuddling chasers: outraged denials of allegations that Rawnsley never made, such as the denial that staff demanded an investigation into Brown’s behaviour. All the while, Downing Street has been careful neither to deny nor admit to any of Rawnsley’s assertions, notably Gus O’Donnell’s dressing down of Brown.*

Nick Robinson describes this ad-libbed subterfuge as a re-run of Jennifer’s Ear, with Mandelson once more making asides about ‘political odour’. This distracts from the issue of Brown’s behaviour, and also from Rawnsley’s long-term assessment of the government and the spineless plotters who sustain Brown even now. Opposition parties can let the bullying story wreak its own havoc, whilst making light of Rawnsley’s wider points.    

* Although they have now done so, but this is the only assertion to be re-buffed so far. It will be interesting to see how many of Rawnsley's allegation do stand up - he has form...