This Way Madness Lies ... Some Former Labour Ministers Are So Rattled by Gordon Brown's Poor Performance in the Polls That They Are Considering a Suicidal Strategy: Let Him Have the Premiership-But Only on Probation

By Bright, Martin | New Statesman (1996), March 5, 2007 | Go to article overview
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This Way Madness Lies ... Some Former Labour Ministers Are So Rattled by Gordon Brown's Poor Performance in the Polls That They Are Considering a Suicidal Strategy: Let Him Have the Premiership-But Only on Probation


Bright, Martin, New Statesman (1996)


Gordon Brown is in serious trouble. That much is obvious now, even to the most devoted members of his inner circle. Just three weeks before the Budget, authority is leaching from the Chancellor. The polling is worrying enough, with the latest ICM survey giving the Conservatives a 13-point lead in the event of a Cameron/Brown contest. Those around Brown have known for some time from their own internal polling that their man cannot win a head-to-head beauty contest. They take comfort from separate polling evidence which suggests that the British public still trusts the Chancellor more than David Cameron.

This view was bolstered by a poll of 100 leading figures from the City, industry, media and politics carried out by Opinion Leader Research, which showed that 87 per cent believed what the Chancellor said, compared to 58 per cent for Cameron.

Yet this merely serves to underline the fundamental problem facing the Labour Party: it may be the case that most informed people from the political classes, the chattering classes, even the business classes, know that Brown will make a better prime minister than Cameron, but that it may not prove enough to win him the next election.

The launch of a website by Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn, ostensibly to discuss the future direction of Labour party policy, could not have come at a worse moment for Brown. However, its launch marks the official entry of Clarke into the camp of the Blairite "ultras", joining Milburn and Stephen Byers. At one time this internet venture might have been dismissed as the vanity project of two bitter and irrelevant figures. And the fact that Brown has been forced to "welcome" the latest attempt to initiate debate is a sign that he is rattled. The website is a direct challenge to Brown from two of his staunchest critics. Neither man can now challenge for the leadership, but they can still run an effective guerrilla campaign that could do long-term damage.

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They know that the doubt crept in long ago. The latest relaunch of Brown's "Britishness" agenda was tired and uninspiring. The suggestion that immigrants should do community work before gaining citizenship was too easily dismissed as a gimmick.

There are those who believe that the entry of Michael Meacher into the leadership contest has provided Brown with the perfect opponent: a man who represents everything he and Tony Blair swept aside when they created new Labour.

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This Way Madness Lies ... Some Former Labour Ministers Are So Rattled by Gordon Brown's Poor Performance in the Polls That They Are Considering a Suicidal Strategy: Let Him Have the Premiership-But Only on Probation
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