Alex Massie

Stick a Fork in Brown...

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More and more, it seems that Gordon Brown's government becomes eerily reminiscent of John Major's hapless ministry. Each day brings a fresh wave of damaging stories that sink the government further into the mire, providing material for fresh bouts of recrimination and acres of still more devastating coverage. Major, of course, was more unfortunate in having a smaller majority and a more awkward squad of unhappy, self-centred backbenchers. In fact just about the last people to realise the extent to which the Tories were doomed was the New Labour leadership itself.

Still, the parallels remain strong. Exhausted? Check. Bereft of ideas? Check. A Prime Minister who becomes a figure of fun, not to say open mockery? The parliamentary party unravelling? Check. Local election meltdown? Check. Losing by-elections in previously-safe seat? Probably. "Unhelpful" sniping from the sidelines? In spades.

Why, just today, you have John Prescott calling Brown "annoying and prickly", Lord Levy saying it's inconceivable Broon couldn't have known about Labour's dodgy "loans for Lordships" programme and Cherie Blair complaining about how Brown was always "rattling the [Downing Street] keys" at the Blairs, reminding them their time was up and it was Gordie's turn to have a go at mismanaging the country.

But worse, much worse than this, is Andrew Rawnsley's devastating analysis of a 5,000 strong PoliticsHome tracking poll which demonstrates the extent to which Brown is toast:

The findings expose a level of contempt among the voters for the Prime Minister that must ring alarm bells in the head of every sentient Labour MP.

Respect for Gordon Brown has dropped so calamitously that only one in five voters now reckons the Prime Minister is doing a good job while three-quarters of them think he is doing a bad one...

It is not just the depth of this collapse that is stunning. It is the sheer width of it, the comprehensive shattering of his reputation in all the areas that matter to the public. On every leadership quality that is important, the Prime Minister is now regarded less favourably than David Cameron...

David Cameron is now seen as more competent, more decisive and stronger than Gordon Brown. Voters really can be pitiless when they turn against a leader. They also rate Mr Cameron as more intelligent, an especially wounding finding for a Prime Minister who has always liked to be thought of as clever.

In one of the harshest findings of this survey, fewer than one in 10 voters is willing to call him 'caring'. Fewer than one in 10 will even call him 'fair'. He is beaten in both those categories not just by David Cameron, but also by Nick Clegg, the leader of the Lib Dems.

Rawnsley's conclusion is especially notable, coming as it does from such an astute - and broadly sympathetic - commentator:

The brutal but inescapable truth revealed by this survey is that the voters do not want to change anything about Gordon Brown. They want to change absolutely everything.

Look, it's over. There is something tragic about this but, it's important to remember that, like Othello's or Macbeth's, Brown's downfall is deserved. It's a failure rooted in his own flawed character and grotesque ambition that have trumped his intelligence and "wizardry". He is hoist by his own petard.

Barring a miracle, Brown won't win the next election. But it's hard to see how Labour MPs can get rid of their Velcro Prime Minister and, frankly, perhaps pointless too since it's hard to see how the party could win the election that would, I suspect, have to follow the elevation of a second unelected Prime Minister.

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.

Topics in this articlePolitics