15 June 2009

Brown’s biggest weakness

It was Mandy Mandy Mandy everywhere you looked over the weekend.  Questions are now being asked if he could even get the top job here and here.  Well, I suppose the law could be changed to allow Mandy to renounce his peerage.  The problem then becomes the little matter of winning a by-election.  I suspect we would see a swing against the ‘real prime minister’ that would cause Robert McKenzie to turn in his grave.

Moving on.  Top of the heap of articles on The Great Man was this piece in The Sunday Times, which is full of useful nuggets:

The reshuffle has given him “spies” in most important departments of state. A number of ministers in his business department also have offices in other ministries: Lord Drayson in defence, Rosie Winterton in the communities department and Lord Davies of Abersoch in the Foreign Office.

Mandelson has also secured the promotion of his two closest friends in the cabinet: Shaun Woodward, the Northern Ireland secretary, and Tessa Jowell, the Olympics minister. In addition to their existing duties, both Woodward and Jowell have desks in the Cabinet Office. “Peter has put them in there as Gordon’s babysitters,” said one special adviser. “It is as if Peter does not trust him to be left on his own.”

One aide recalls the recent humiliation of a junior member of the cabinet: “We were called into Mandelson’s huge office. Peter said to my minister, ‘You look dreadful, poppet, take one of these’. Peter produced a bottle of painkillers and gave [the minister] two pills. He meekly swallowed them with a glass of water provided by Peter. It was all about asserting psychological control.”

Privately, women ministers are concerned about the unfettered power of Mandelson. “Peter does not have children,” said one senior woman MP. “He works 24/7. He does not get the family work-life balance agenda. He sees issues such as parental leave as an attack on business. Instead of what it is which is a vote winner, especially among women.”

This stuck home as being most important:

Friday’s cabinet meeting was a case in point. Brown began the proceedings but quickly handed over to Mandelson, who had prepared a paper called Building Britain’s Future, laying out a blueprint for the government’s recovery. He was listened to in rapt silence.

An exhausted and demoralised Brown, who has lacked any credibility or authority for months, now turns to Mandy not only for decisions but also to lead Cabinet discussions.  What a dangerous position the poor fellow finds himself in.

The obvious point is that Brown is totally dependent on Mandy for survival.  Moses can’t move without getting the nod of approval from Mandy.  The challengers won’t move unless Mandy withdraws his support for Brown.  If they act unilaterally they will be discredited from on high.  However, there is more to Mandy's dominance than this.

It will now be assumed by the media that Brown’s every utterance in public are not his thoughts; that his decisions, the smooth or otherwise administration of the Government and the vital appointments are down to Mandy.  Ironically, by giving Mandy virtual autonomy to manage the Government, in the hope of reviving his own popularity, Brown has made his position weaker than it already is.

Say Mandy fails or he self-destructs (he has already achieved this twice), not only would Brown be exposed but civil war would then break out within the Labour party in the critical period before the election.

If Mandy is convinced that Brown will lead Labour into the next election he would be better advised to lower his profile and attempt to reinvent Brown’s image, which is not an impossible challenge.  Mandy can hardly carry Brown during an election campaign as an unelected peer.

If Mandy has thought all this through, then why is allowing himself to be given such a high profile?  A readjustment is needed.  No Government can be effectively managed by the thoughts, decisions and actions of one man.  Brown could very well have further sown the seeds of his eventual destruction at the election or before by allowing Mandy such a free hand.

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  1. This is the way the wind's been blowing since Brown took Mandy on. The man's no fool and knew what he was doing accepting Brown's offer.

    Can't stand the greasy barsteward but at least he's got more nouse than Brown in the game of politics.

  2. An interesting theoretical exercise, but not much else. Even the great man himself knows that he would not be an acceptable PM - in constitutional terms, in terms of public opinion, in the opinion of the Labour Party.

    Mike Smithson has a bet on. I have an interesting alternative bet. Mandy's only possible route to continued power would be a defection to the Conservative Party. He is pals with Shaun Woodward after all. I predict a Mandelson defection once the Labour ship is sunk.