Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Prince of Darkness Sees The Light

According to Peter Oborne writing in The Mail today, Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown are at daggers drawn again, the catalyst for this latest breakdown in relationships Brown's various strategies (for want of a better word) in the run up to the election including that catastrophic PBR on Wednesday.

The prince of darkness, lord of many titles and minister for everything apparently still does not have the power to prevent Brown and his mini me Ed Balls from self destructing. So, that's Alistair Darling and Mandelson who fundamentally disagreed with the approach on Wednesday. Yet it still went ahead. There was us thinking that Brown was fatally weakened and only surviving thanks to the support of Mandelson.

Oborne notes that Mandelson has been uncharacteristically quiet all week in the wake of what was supposed to be one of the big setpieces of the dying days of this government. Remember this is the man who only a few weeks ago was going to be the government's frontman, Brown having realised he wasn't too good at the job. Can it be that even the Lord of Lies cannot bring himself to defend that appalling report which basically amounted to a dereliction of duty? He regards it, as do I, as a missed opportunity.

Alistair Darling of course had no choice but to defend himself and his PBR, but he seemed less than enthusiastic even by his soporific standards on the radio on Thursday.

The Cabinet, we are told, is now split down the middle on policy and electoral strategy. Yet still they struggle on.

There was a time, admittedly in the distant past, when such fundamental disagreements as these would have led to the resignations of ministers and indeed of entire governments. No more. Survival is the name of the game now and to hell with the rest of us. But there is no doubt that if Mandelson or Darling had taken such a course, or even seriously threatened it then Brown and his government would have fallen.

Oddly though it is this threat which ensures that Brown is now able to get his way on matters such as these. We are now so close to an election that dissent within the ranks would be tantamount to treachery as it would fatally damage the party and make the election result even more of a disaster than it would otherwise be. Thus they have to put up and shut up, ironically giving Brown the sort of power to get his way that he hasn't enjoyed for two years. Labour missed their opportunity to dump Brown and must now march behind him grumbling sotto voce as they do so.

Yet the dissent and grumbling is already leaking out. Perhaps its a case of getting them getting their excuses out early. And of course Mandelson had hoped by now to have jumped ship and be installed in a new job in Brussels, watching the whole debacle from the comfort of his new five year contract. He is said to be rather bitter about that and so is pouting silently in the background.

Those who think that an election in March is a distinct possibility will regard the odds as having shortened further. How can they possibly last another six months under these circumstances? Whatever cunning plan Brown thinks he has for an election, if he can't even persuade his own Cabinet of its merits what chance the rest of us?

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