The results of yesterday's elections are coming in, revealing that our green and pleasant land is rapidly turning blue and Tory as the Conservative Party gain control over vast swathes of the South, East Anglia and the Midlands. The LibDems have won in Bristol, but that tiny patch of orange is beginning to look like a satsuma floating in a deep blue ocean.
At present, the Tories have gained three councils while Labour - as of yet unrepresented on the map - have lost one. However, there are now 29 more Conservative councillors - bringing their total up to 166 whereas Labour have lost 25, which brings them down to just 22. These figures will change as more counts are completed but thus far it's looking like Brown's party are not just going to suffer a defeat but are in for the sort of kicking that can sometimes finish a political party off for good.
In the last week, four prominent Labour members have resigned their posts. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith - still recovering from the embarrassment of her Parliamentary expenses paying for her husband's porn viewing habits - announced her resignation on Monday, then Hazel Blears went just ahead of her almost certain sacking in the current reshuffle. Next came Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell, who left after sending a sensational letter to Gordon Brown in which he pleaded with the Prime Minister to step down for the good of Labour's future. Now Defence Minister John Hutton has gone. Brown is desperately trying to fill the yawning hole left in his party by filling the gaps with people who will remain loyal to him. David Cameron has said that "the Government is falling apart," and just for once it looks as though he's right - Labour is in a shambles.
Brown has insisted that he will not stand down but there is increasingly little faith in his capabilities amongst back-benchers from his party. If 70 MPs are willing to sign a petition, Brown will have no choice but to face a leadership contest - and according to last night's Daily Politics BBC TV show 80 of them have shown willingness. Paul Farrelly, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, says, "There have been too many mistakes and misjudgments over the last two years. In the interests of the country and the Labour party, I think Gordon must really consider his position." Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield, is more scathing. Brown "clearly doesn't like" the Labour party, he says, adding that neither does he "rate it, and takes no notice of it ... I would vote for a change of leadership."
Despite messages of support from remaining Cabinet ministers, Brown is now quite possibly the least popular leader amongst rank-and-file Labour MPs in the party's history. Today's results indicate that, without a miracle, Labour is heading for a crushing defeat in the General Election which must come next year at the latest. However, with the Chief Whip and - more importantly - six out of ten voters saying they think an earlier vote is desirable, it may happen even sooner. Whenever it happens, there seems to be very little chance of Labour getting away intact as a political entity.
If he truly respects, loves and believes in the party he represents, Brown must step down. Whether or not the's the right man for the job is irrelevant: his leadership is opening deep rifts in the Cabinet and among the back-benches, creating turmoil. Though a new leader will have virtually no hope of steering Labour to another election victory, he or she will represent an opportunity to begin picking up the pieces if what has been a most extraordinary and destructive year in the Commons and to batten down the hatches ready for the storm to come.