September 11, 2006


Now the pressure is on Brown to prove he has what it takes (Rachel Sylvester, 12/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Even before the extraordinary events of last week, Mr Blair had begun to tell friends privately that he no longer believed the Chancellor was up to the job. "I don't think Gordon can beat David Cameron," he mused to one close confidant recently, I am told, "unless he changes – and he'll never change."

When Charles Clarke told Alice Thomson and me that Mr Brown was a "control freak" who "can't work with people", he was not obeying orders from Number 10 (he has not forgiven the Prime Minister for sacking him) but he was almost certainly reflecting Mr Blair's private view. A Downing Street adviser described the Chancellor to me recently as a "weirdo" who dealt with people in an "autistic" fashion, an opinion also stated at the weekend by Peter Mandelson's old friend Robert Harris.

It is not surprising that the Prime Minister is refusing to give the Chancellor the public endorsement he desires – he wants "anyone but Gordon" to move into Number 10 when he moves out.

The Brownites used to joke that Mr Blair was like a commitment-phobic boyfriend who puts off the wedding every time his girlfriend's parents ask him to name the day. Now the church has been booked, and the marquee reserved – but the groom has changed his mind about who he wants to take down the aisle. Even as the final act of his political career spins out of his control, the Prime Minister hopes that, by delaying his departure for a few months, he can give the Chancellor's potential rivals the chance to make their name.

There are some signs that the tactic is working.

Bad enough not to marry the girl, do you have to tell everyone she's a loon?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 11, 2006 10:57 PM
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