Peter Hoskin

The meeting that counts?

The meeting that counts?
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What happens when tragedy has already slipped into farce, and the farce requires new material?  Gordon Brown creates another government committee, that's what.  As the Sunday Telegraph reports, the latest Committee for Rescuing Labour and Thereby Gordon's Premiership is composed of Brown himself along with seven Cabinet ministers: Peter Mandelson, Ed Balls, Alan Johnson, David Miliband, Alastair Darling, Harriet Harman and Jack Straw.  The idea is that they'll meet every Monday morning to "plot the Government's future strategy". And there's me thinking that they did that sort of thing in normal Cabinet meetings.

The papers which have covered this concentrate - rightly - on Brown's attempt to appear all inclusive, by involving potential rivals such as Miliband and Johnson, and by leaving out some of his allies, such as Nick Brown and Douglas Alexander.  But, to my mind, the question is not who is and who isn't in this particular meeting; but what other meetings are also going on in Downing Street, and how much influence they have on the Dear Leader.  In recent months, we've heard of shadowy Wednesday afternoon meetings between Brown and his real inner circle, as well as "strategy meetings" chaired by Mandelson and Balls. 

So can Brown really change, and rely less and less on his longstanding cabal?  Or are the Monday morning gatherings a charade, designed solely to appease Brown's detractors?  History suggests the latter case.