Gordon Brown can't possibly have failed to notice that he's not very popular these days, but is he wondering why?
Who could ever be so arrogant as to do anything but, you may wonder. How about Gordon Brown? In just one week, three of his mates have done the dirty on him. First there was Lord Malloch-Brown, one of Mr. Brown's GOAT (Government Of All Talents) ministers, rapidly enobled and brought into Government soon after he took over the reins of the Labour party. Malloch-Brown, once believed to have been one of the PM's closest allies, originally put his decision to quit down to "personal and family reasons" - often translated from politician-speak into English as "I'm pissed off but don't want to say why just yet" - but just a few days later delivered a harshly-worded condemnation of Brown's leadership and the party's current policies which he compared to those of Latin American and South-East Asian nations.
Within a few days, fellow GOAT and Health Minister Lord Darzi, a top surgeon, also signalled his intention to leave the gang. Though he has so far kept relatively quiet concerning his thoughts on Mr. Brown and is claiming his decision was made so that he can return to his patients and research, Conservative Andrew Lansley and LibDem Norman Lamb both suggested there might be more that the Lord is choosing to leave unsaid. Another GOAT, Lord Digby-Jones went last year and a fourth, Lord Carter, has said that he too will quit. Out of a flock originally numbering five, only Lord West remains.
Hazel Blears was highly critical of Gordon Brown's YouTube appearance, which she compared unfavourably with going out and meeting the voters.
A number of MPs have also quit over the expenses scandal and taken the opportunity to throw their metaphorical drinks in Gordon's face as they left the clubhouse. Hazel Blears, standing down after it emerged that she had enjoyed stays at some of London's most fashionable (and expensive) hotels and lined her own pockets at the tax-payer's expense rocked the boat more than most, choosing as she did to go just a few days before June's elections in which Labour staged their worst performance in party history. Other female MPs have compared him to a Mafia boss: "Personally he's very warm, charming and friendly," says former Environment Minister Jane Kennedy, "but when dealing with his politics he engages with a darker side of himself and he believes the end justifies the means."
Even Alistair Darling, the man who stepped into Gordon's old job as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has criticised his leader's style. "We have got to make sure that ... we sharpen ourselves up, that we have a clear message of what we are about," he said back in April 2008, leading the Conservative George Osborne to claim Mr. Darling's comments were "an unprecedented attack on the Prime Minister by his most senior Cabinet colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer."
Yesterday, James Purnell - the ex-Cabinet Minister whose resignation on Election day was very nearly the cause of a party leadership challenge, which Mr. Brown avoided by the skin of his teeth - admitted that he had been considering leaving the Government since last December after he lost faith in Gordon and his ability to successfully lead Labour into the next General Election. Purnell was the most senior MP of the eleven who departed from the Cabinet in June this year, when he publically called for Mr. Brown to step aside and allow a new leader to come forth. His resignation letter to the PM included the statement "I now believe your continued leadership makes a Conservative victory more, not less likely." That's about as close as most politicians come to saying: "You're shit and you know you are." In an interview with The Guardian, Mr. Purnell attacked what he called Labour's "small c conservatism," adding that there is a "need to open up New Labour, reinvent it and then eventually move beyond it." With Brown at the party's helm, moving beyond New Labour looks highly likely to happen next year - unfortunately, it'll be David Cameron in control and his handmade John Lobb brogues are going to be stomping the accelerator harder than a copper stomps a newspaper vendor in an effort to speed as rapidly as possible away from it.
Even Lord Mandelson, a man who owes his job and numerous titles almost entirely to Mr. Brown, has been disparaging. In June, he offered the PM some advice if he is to remain Labour leader, saying that he needed to be seen as "being decisive. Secondly, in listening to people and respecting official advice you receive. And thirdly, introducing a bit of humour and jollity to your work," which suggests rather transparently that these are things Mr. Brown has not been doing thus far. Advice from Mandelson on avoiding being knocked from the top spot is a bit like advice from a cobra on the subject of how to avoid being bitten by a snake - he knows precisely what you've been doing wrong because he's an expert in spotting weaknesses.
Today brings news that Lord Sainsbury, the supermarket baron who has financed Labour for years and ex-PM Tony Blair's most loyal and trusted Minister, is turning his back on the party after donating around £4.5 million in the two years since Mr. Brown came to prominence. Last month, Lord Sainsbury set up the rather Orwellian-sounding Institute for Government which has since been serving as a training facility for Conservative would-be Ministers, with staff who have been preparing senior Tories for the Civil Service. According to The Times, Lord Sainsbury "found his plans constantly thwarted" during his eight years at the Department for Trade and Industry. "It wasn’t that civil servants were trying to frustrate you — the Yes Minister myth — but after a bit you realised you were being asked to work a system designed for a previous age when the problems were much less complicated," he says. The paper also says that the Institute's visitor's book reveals that 15 permanent secretaries - including Cabinet Secretary and most highly-ranked civil servant Sir Gus O'Donnell - have attended meetings held at the organisation which occupies a house overlooking London's St. James' Park. Losing a supporter of Lord Sainsbury's calibre is evidence of a discontent even deeper than previously thought running through Labour.
Anyone else would have got the message by now. The Labour party is, as a whole, evidently deeply unhappy with and distrustful of Gordon Brown and his leadership which is liable to lead to a general feeling of resentment and apathy. A political party characterised by emotions such as those stands little or no hope of winning any election and Labour looks set to repeat June's dismal performance when, if all goes according to Mr. Brown's plans, we go to the polling stations next summer.