Friday, 5 June 2009

Crunch days for Brown

Don't say that Tony Blair didn't warn us. Gordon Brown was never cut out to be Prime Minister and anyone with an ounce of sense could have spotted the warning signs years ago.

Now, even those people who don't have an ounce of sense realise that the game is up. Our Prime Minister is on his way out. The only question is whether his demise will be long and agonising - mirroring the death-throes of that terrible Tory non-entity, John Major - or whether it will ultimately be quick and brutal a la Margaret Thatcher.

Many commentators have been quick to point out that the Labour Party simply doesn't get rid of its leaders. Fair comment. But it's not through lack of trying. There were campaigns to oust Wilson, Callaghan and - perhaps most notoriously - Tony Blair. In the latter case, the plotters weren't nearly as capable as the man they sought to bring down. But, then, of course the plotters were led by Gordon Brown.

I watched the PM's press conference yesterday afternoon with a growing sense of disbelief. By the time Brown was asked about the abrupt departure of Caroline Flint (a Minister who less than 24 hours before was supposed to have rallied to his defence), his responses were becoming almost comical. He'd offered Flint the chance to attend Cabinet, but she 'hadn't seen it that way'.

Sorry? Hadn't seen what that way? I was wondering whether we'd get a more coherent explanation if we wheeled John Prescott out of retirement.

We were told not to worry about Flint's departure. In the next few minutes, Brown revealed, the troublesome MP would be replaced by Glenys Kinnock, a Member of the European Parliament whose introduction to the government necessitated immediate elevation to the House of Lords.

This announcement really took the political biscuit. First of all, someone Gordon yesterday believed to be a loyal friend had stabbed him in the back. He was choosing to replace her with the wife of the man who led Labour to defeat in the 1987 and 1992 general elections. Great associations. And to cap it all - at a time when the public is crying out for more democracy - the whole process is facilitated by decree and patronage.

Enough. I'm afraid your time is up, Mr Brown, and your political credit stands at zero. The claim to be 'getting the job done' and not shirking from your responsibility is sanctimonious and disingenuous claptrap. No one actually wants you to be doing the job any more or shouldering the burden of saving the world.

My prediction is that Brown will live or die by the European election results on Monday. I think that if Labour drops below 20% of the vote or falls behind UKIP, the men in grey suits will be heading for No 10. If not, the men in white coats need to go and collect the men in grey suits.

And if the results are better? Brown may just cling on. But there will never have been a lamer duck. And there may not be another Labour government for a generation.