05 July 2009

Are Brown, Darling and Mandy heading for a split?

Superb opening to Alan Watkins weekly piece in the Indy:

Old-fashioned biographies of great men used to come out in three volumes. If the fashion were to be revived, which seems unlikely, the first book would be entitled Gordon Brown: The Years of Promise, and would cover the years up to 1997. The second book would be subtitled The Years of Fame, and would take us up to the great non-election of 2007. We are now coming to the end of the last book. It would be called The Last Phase.

Indeed we are coming to the end of The Last Phase, whether it be at the general election or sooner.  Clearly, a split is emerging in the bunker as I highlighted earlier, and it could become very dangerous for Our Dear Leader.  This from Matthew d'Ancona:

….Alistair Darling, who has been asserting himself impressively since fending off Ed Balls's pitch for his job. The still-Chancellor understands, as he told the Independent on Friday, that "we have to be clear, as we go into an election – and the Tories will have to be – which choices we are prepared to make". It is all, as Darling notes, about "the big differences in priorities and attitude".

Lord Mandelson is widely reported to sympathise with this position, and to be deeply concerned by the Prime Minister's insistence that the "dividing line" between the two main parties is still between Labour "investment" and Tory "cuts". If that is so, His Lordship is not making much headway in persuading the PM to embrace reality: namely, that the Government's own statistics show that, under Labour, public spending would be cut in real terms by no less than 7 per cent between 2011 and 2014.

We can dismiss Shaun Woodward’s views as he carries no weight, but the other players are key, Brown, Mandy, Balls and Darling.  Are we beginning to see a divide right at the heart of new Labour?  As d'Ancona says, Mandy appears not to be making much headway in getting Brown to modify his tactics.  So, what we have here is a potential split between Brown and Balls on the one hand and Mandy and Darling on the other.

The danger for Brown is not so much Mandy but Darling, who is unsackable.  However, what happens if Darling doesn't get his way and Brown refuses to budge?  Not only could we see the Chancellor being forced to resign, but Mandy could be left isolated.  That would complete The Last Phase, not only for Brown but for the Labour party.  Under these circumstances not even Alan Johnson would be able to turn matters around.

A compromise there may certainly be, but it could all get very messy with leaks galore over the coming weeks.  This Sunday’s revelations may be a foretaste of what is to come.

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