Guardian nail in Brown’s coffin
The Mole: As the paper urges Labour to ‘cut him loose’, the meltdown cannot last much longer, says our Westminster insider
Could things get any worse for Gordon Brown? Ministers are jumping ship left, right and centre, the polls suggest Labour is heading for election humiliation tomorrow, and now he has even lost the support of the left-leaning Guardian newspaper.
In a lengthy editorial, it takes Brown's leadership apart piece by piece, declaring: "The truth is that there is no vision from him, no plan, no argument for the future and no support. The public see it. His party sees it. The Cabinet must see it too."
It concludes: "Labour has a year left before an election; its current leader would waste it. It is time to cut him loose."
At the same time, his allies, led by the likes of former deputy Labour leader Roy Hattersley, are making it pretty clear Brown has only a few days to get a grip on his apparently rudderless and chaotic party, or get thrown out.
It is still possible to find loyalists who believe Brown will still be their leader at the time of the next general election. But they are a dwindling band and their primary argument is that the current difficulties are not the things voters will concentrate on when that election comes. It will be the economy, schools, the health service and so on that will persuade them which way to cast their votes.
"Gordon needs to know his goal, know where he is going and exactly how he is going to get there. This stuff will pass," said one.
There was a time when that might have been a sustainable argument, but not now. The crisis in the Government is clearly coming to a head and there is a growing feeling that things are indeed about to get dramatically worse for the PM.
He is making no secret of the fact that he is planning a major cabinet reshuffle in the wake of what are expected to be truly disastrous local and European elections. But one question now being asked on the Labour benches is whether he has the authority left to pull it off. What, for example, if he attempts to move or demote a big beast who then simply turns round and says "No, Prime Minister"?
Could Brown survive such a direct and powerful challenge to his leadership? May he therefore decide not to slash and burn his way through the Cabinet for fear of just such a moment? If it is the latter, he will be portrayed as weak, indecisive and a spent force. A leadership coup and even an early general election would them seem inevitable.
What many on the Labour benches want is an orderly transition from Gordon Brown to Health Secretary Alan Johnson, followed by an autumn general election to capitalise on the move. The Guardian even suggests there would be time to have a full-blown leadership contest before an election.
It is impossible to predict exactly how this will all play out - largely because there is no plan, either from the Government or those considering ousting Brown. It is unlikely the situation will last much beyond this weekend. ·
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