May 8, 2006


How the Blair-Brown fault line could swallow the whole party (Rachel Sylvester, 09/05/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Last week's reshuffle created more bruised egos. "This will be endless," one of Mr Blair's advisers at Number 10 admitted to me yesterday. "Madness has entered the Labour Party's soul."

Meanwhile, the two men at the top of the Government are apparently irreconcilable. Mr Blair is convinced that Mr Brown is behind what appears to be a carefully co-ordinated campaign to force him out. The appearance on the airwaves of Andrew Smith, Nick Brown and Geoffrey Robinson - all close allies of the Chancellor - calling for the Prime Minister to publish a timetable and using an extraordinarily similar form of words was, in the view of Number 10, too neat to be a coincidence.

"It's obvious Gordon is organising this. It's not The Da Vinci Code," one of the Prime Minister's advisers told me. Certainly, the Brownites make no secret of their desire to see the Labour leader go - they have started to make the case that Mr Blair has, because he has lost the trust of his party, become a "roadblock" to the sorts of public service reform the Government needs to implement - a deliberate reversal of the criticism made by the Blairites of the Chancellor in the past.

For his part, Mr Brown is still fuming about last week's reshuffle: the appointment of Hazel Blears as party chairman, a role that will be crucial to the management of the handover of power, was particularly irritating to him. He wanted Douglas Alexander to get the job and was ignored.

The Chancellor was also cross to discover that Andrew Marr had been briefed, ahead of his interview on Sunday morning, by a special adviser working for the arch-Blairite John Reid. The new Home Secretary's remarks about "Old Labour" plotters - e-mailed around to all government special advisers by Downing Street yesterday to hand on to their ministers as the "line to take" - were seen by the Brownites as a declaration of war. "MPs want to see a commitment to a stable and orderly transition in actions as well as words," one ally of the Chancellor said.

Ministers look on in dismay. One said: "They live in two separate worlds. They're both paranoid about each other. It's pathetic. We are in free-fall and nobody can stop it."

And for what? Mr Blair's advisers now think it likely that the Prime Minister will stand down at some point next year; Mr Brown's aides say they want the handover to take place by the summer of 2007. And yet, for the sake of a few months, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are tearing the Labour Party apart. This is all completely irrational - but politics has always been driven by psychology as much as by reason.

The truth is that Mr Blair does not really want to hand over power to Mr Brown because he does not fully trust him to stick to his New Labour agenda. The Chancellor wants to get into Number 10 as soon as possible because he thinks the Prime Minister will squander his inheritance if he stays in office much longer.

Yesterday, a Number 10 adviser likened the Brownites to "teenage girls who cut themselves and don't quite know why".

To see if they still feel, of course.

Support for Labour at lowest level since 1992 (Peter Riddell and Philip Webster, 5/09/06, Times of London)

LABOUR’S poll rating has fallen to its lowest level for years amid the turmoil at the top of the party and the bad local election results, a poll for The Times suggests today.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are given the starkest warning of the cost of their feuding, with the Populus survey showing David Cameron’s Conservatives moving into an eight-point lead.

The shock results of the Times poll — the first since Friday’s reshuffle — will be a chilling warning to the warring factions of the perils of more infighting.

You can have it all...

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 8, 2006 11:29 PM
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