Plotters, quitters and fighters
This is a week when Labour MPs have to ask themselves a very important question: can they stage a comeback with Gordon Brown as their leader, or are they doomed to defeat with him at the helm? And if the latter, is there any chance of or point in replacing him?
Some - let's call them the plotters - believe that Mr Brown is taking their party to certain oblivion and are still desperately searching for ways to remove him and to install a new leader by January. Look out for an anti-Brown candidate to run for the chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party or a repeat of the letter-writing campaign which helped ease out Tony Blair.
Many - who will not like to be referred to as the quitters - agree with this analysis but have given up hope of installing a new leader who just might do better. Some - like Stephen Byers - are giving up politics altogether. Some will soldier on but with little hope.
Others - the fighters - are beginning to hope that a recovery might just be possible. This week, Gordon Brown will try to rally them with what's being described as a "focused" Queen's Speech - focused on beating the Tories, that is.
After a series of conversations with a series of front- and backbenchers, here's my summary of the views of the different camps. (Of course, some people's positions stay fixed. Others move from one camp to the other.)
The plotters' view
• The electorate have made their minds up about Gordon Brown; nothing will change their minds
• If you don't believe us, they say, try what I call the "cereal box test"; that is: "Complete the following sentence: 'I want five more years of Gordon Brown as my prime minister because...'"
• In 1996, just before he was hit by an electoral landslide, John Major's Conservatives were polling 34%; under Gordon Brown, Labour is now polling 25% [Source: ICM]
• Either David Miliband or Alan Johnson would do better; for goodness sake, even Harriet would do better
• A change of leadership would no longer produce an early election
• Hardly anyone in the cabinet - not even Peter Mandelson any more - will be prepared to fight for Gordon
• Everything Gordon's touched since the autumn has turned to dust
• Even an economic recovery won't help us - it didn't help John Major
The quitters' view
• The plotters may be right about Gordon, but...
• ...maybe Gordon will talk to friends and family over Christmas and stand down for the good of the party...
• ...oh alright, he probably won't - but you can't force him out without a painful and divisive fight, since he really believes it's not over yet
• If we couldn't get rid of him when five cabinet ministers resigned, how on earth do you think we'll remove him now?
• We've had a good run... I wonder if there are any directorships I could take on?
The fighters' view
• We won the Glasgow by-election with almost 60% of the vote - so much for the talk of the SNP sweeping through Scotland
• The Tories are struggling to stay above 40% in the polls, whereas in 1996 Labour was often above 50%
• The Tories need a massive swing to even get a majority of one
• Cameron has not "sealed the deal" with the electorate, as the electorate still don't trust his party
• The public doesn't want the Tories' "age of austerity": Tory cuts will always be scarier than Labour cuts
• Tory EU policy is an awkward compromise which will fall apart under pressure
• Voters want a guarantees of better schools and hospitals, not Tory gambles with them
• When politics becomes a choice of two governments and not a referendum, Labour will close the gap
• An economic recovery's just around the corner
Which camp would you be in?