Three little turncoats in a row? Evidence of Brown's 'big tent' mentality? A baffling display of political ineptitude by David Cameron? What they certainly represent is that for all Brown's talk of 'new politics' the primary focus of the Prime Minister remains the detabilisation of the Conservative party and of David Cameron. As Nick Robinson says
, the move by Eliasch in particular is evidence that the old power of patronage - the only direct power wielded by a Prime Minister - is still alive and well. Ultimately, while an opposition can talk the talk, a Government is able to do concrete things - and offer real jobs.
As for Bercow and Mercer, this is a piece of, ahem, naked political opportunism by the Prime Minister. Neither of them are natural consensus politicians, let alone closet Labour supporters, though Bercow has doubtless been subject to a prolonged domestic ear-bashing on the subject, and Mercer in particular ought to remember the forced outrage from the Labour benches when he was described as a racist dinosaur. Brown isn't after them for their looks - this is a seduction aimed at embarrassing David Cameron.
And seduction is more or less what Brown is doing. He's the equivalent of the older boy at school who has his own car and sets out to seduce the girlfriends of less fortunate kids by offering them a sweeter deal - whether it's a genuine 9-carat gold necklace or a chairmanship of an advisory committee. The aim is, in any event, to stamp your dominance on the other boys. The potential problem for Brown is that each successive steal looks less like an attempt at consensus politics and more like what it is - a party political attempt to embarrass David Cameron or Ming Campbell.
On the Today programme Brown was asked by John Humphries whether, since Brown was portraying these moves as a part of a new consensual politics, he had discussed them with the party leaders. If this is consensus, shouldn't you have cleared it with the other leaders? Brown's evasive response (he always steers clear of direct answers to direct questions) made it look all the more shifty.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with politicians acting politically to discomfort opponents. But the facade of consensus is soon dissipated. Brown is starting to look more like a serial home-wrecker than a big-tent centrist.
UPDATE: In a piece defending this tactic, Jonathan Freedland rather gives the game away by saying how all this cross-hiring demonstrates Mr Brown's pulling power.