'Brown Was Put on Earth to Remind People How Good Tony Blair Was'; Devastating Attack: Tony Blair Was a Completely Confident Leader - Gordon Is a Worrier," Says Labour Economist Lord Desai

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Byline: ANNE McELVOY

A LEADING Labour peer today issued a devastating attack on the electoralchances of Gordon Brown.

Lord Desai claimed that the combination of an economic downturn and the PrimeMinister's presentational weaknesses now made it "very difficult" for Labour towin the next election.

He also confirmed that many senior figures in the party were turning theirminds to who would succeed him as leader.

The peer told the Standard: "Gordon Brown was put on earth to remind people howgood Tony Blair was. It is a bit like William Hague who is a far better shadowforeign secretary than he was a leader of the Conservative party." He addedthat the PM had recently appeared "indecisive" and "weak" and that the Labourparty was "down in the dumps: there have been talks on all levels about what doabout it".

The comments are significant in coming not from a known Blairite detractor ofthe PM, but from a noted Labour economist who has never spoken out against theleadership.

After a week in which Mr Brown has come under fire for falling poll ratings andhandling of the threatened economic crisis, Lord Desai described the Labourleader's style as being "like porridge: or maybe haggis.

It is not very persuasive if you don't already agree with him".

He went on: "He is a worrier with an academic approach to solving problems, butthat does not always reassure people when they feel uncertain." The peer, whois emeritus professor of economics at the London School of Economics, said theoutcome of the local elections in London a fortnight today would now largelydetermine whether the Labour party stuck with Mr Brown as its leaderor prepared itself for a transition.

"May 1 is going to be a bad result for us," he said, adding: "If Labour losesin London there will be a real climate of fear. We never expected to loseLondon.

Labour can't distance itself from a Ken defeat. We turned our back on Ken once:now we have embraced him and adopted him. It would be absolutely traumatic forthe party. At that point, backbenchers would look at the situation and say,'How is all this going to work out for me?' There would be real panicstations." Asked who he would prefer to succeed Mr Brown, he said: "We are notthere yet. It is very difficult to change a Labour leader before an election.

Whenor ifthe time comes, I think it has to be David Miliband because he has shownmaturity about the leadership and he withstood the pressure to stand last yearagainst Gordon." Lord Desai issued a damning verdict on the chances of SchoolsSecretary Ed Balls, the leading Brownite contender to succeed the PM, saying:"Ed Balls is a repetition of Gordon Brown. …