Monday, November 12, 2007

Problems, Problems

Brown has a problem. His faltering performances at the Despatch Box are confirming an impression that he is nowhere as good as we were led to believe; that there is, after all, no 'there' there. But his greater problem lies in the paucity of heavyweight talent in the cabinet. This is, unbelievably, a cabinet in which Geoff Hoon is considered a safe pair of hands. The reason for this problem is that Gordon Brown spent the last decade meticulously removing from his path any Labour minister who looked like becoming a threat. There are those that have been removed from the political scene through force majeure, notably Robin Cook, but also people like David Blunkett and Peter Mandelson who are not dead, but merely seemingly permanently removed from Westminster politics. But there are also those whose political demises have Brown's fingerprints all over them. Alan Milburn, Charles Clarke, John Reid to name but three. All were deemed at one point to be a threat to Gordon, so he worked to remove them.
It worked, leaving Gordon free to fill his cabinet with his proteges. The problem with this is that even those, like Ed Balls, who have been trailed as political he-men are proving inept at being Ministers. Balls still looks as though he's just been slapped in the face by a haddock; David Miliband looks like Harry Potter with added itching powder; James Purnell? Andy Burnham? Not impressive. And in the Treasury we have the least impressive Chancellor since Selwyn Lloyd. The Home Secretary is dismissed and humiliated in the Chamber by Jack Straw, and left to twist in the wind by the Prime Minister over 56 day detention without trial.
The Prime Minister needs to be able to send Cabinet colleagues to do battle in the media. Currently there seems to be no one capable of doing so. Brown is left trying to do everything himself, and now that the goodwill has vanished, he's left looking less and less secure.

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