Peter Hoskin

This week’s Cabinet row

This week's Cabinet row
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O to be a fly on the wall of the Brown Bunker, and watch the grim soap-opera unfold in real time. After the infamous Cabinet meeting over bankers' bonuses - which triggered much of the Harriet Harman speculation - the Daily Mail's reporting yet another angry meeting between Brown and his ministers, this time over the Government's plans for Royal Mail.  Harman was again a dissenting voice:  

"It emerged last night that a blistering row broke out at a Cabinet meeting yesterday, with ministers arguing over whether the plans should be rammed through Parliament before the summer.

Lord Mandelson, who is championing the legislation, found himself facing fierce opposition from Commons Leader Harriet Harman and Chief Whip Nick Brown."

Sure, all Prime Ministers face internal opposition.  But the frequency and depth of current Labour division is still pretty striking, and testifies to the Prime Minister's severely diminished authority.  Worse still, for Brown, there's every chance that it may all translate to embarrassing losses in the Commons.  A survey in today's Independent finds that only 28 percent of Labour MPs support the Royal Mail proposals.  And, even when the levels of Tory and Lib Dem support are factored in, the survey suggests that the Government would be defeated by around 47 percent to 39 percent in a Commons vote.

The main worry for Team Brown is that this just represents the start.  The last thing the PM needs is for rebellion to become a matter of course, particularly around Budget time.