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The happy gang

Brian Taylor | 14:01 UK time, Wednesday, 3 June 2009

What a mess. What an utter and total guddle.

In resigning as communities secretary, Hazel Blears may have concluded her departing message with an exhortation to vote Labour in tomorrow's elections.

However, every other element of her resignation - its manner, its timing - seemed calculated to destabilise the leader of that party to which she professes her allegiance.

By common consent, divided parties do not flourish in electoral contests.

The voters tend to prefer to align themslves with politicians who are capable of internal agreement or at least presenting a front when required. Folk want to join a happy gang.

As David Cameron pointed out in the Commons, Ms Blears was the minister responsible for local government in England.

She has chosen to quit on the very eve of . . . local government elections in England.

Marginal seat

Team Brown could say - and did - that yesterday's leaked departure of the home secretary was simply an unplanned happenstance.

Always intended to go, more time with her family, marginal seat, still backed Brown . . .

But nothing of the sort can be said with regard to Hazel Blears.

This, remember, is the minister who lampooned Mr Brown's YouTube appearance.

This is one of the ministers who were said to be contemplating the PM's ousting a year ago.

She is said to be upset at Team Brown's portrayal of her "unacceptable" expenses claim.

Taking that as read, the timing of her resignation is revenge.

Cabinet reshuffle

Further, the PM was simply unable to rebut Mr Cameron when the Tory leader inquired whether there would be any other unscheduled departures - before the cabinet reshuffle pencilled in for next week.

He was unable to say that the chancellor would still be in office a week's time - although he countered Mr Cameron's grammatical challenge by praising Alistair Darling in the present tense, rather than purely the past.

And, admittedly, Mr Brown had logic on his side when he argued that sorting out the scandal of Commons expenses was not solely dependent upon a General Election.

Indeed, he argued it was incumbent upon all parties - including, he meant, the Tories - to act now.

He linked that to his assertion that he was working "every day" to revive the economy.

But he has demonstrably lost authority. Not all authority: he remains in office. But control, clout. He is not fully in charge of events.

As the SNP will point out next week when they lodge a Commons motion demanding the dissolution of parliament.

Expanses row

So what does it all mean? There are now two serious options. Mr Brown regroups as best he can over the summer recess - and goes to the country at a moment and in a manner of his choosing next spring.

Still would be far from an ideal occasion for Labour - who were lagging in the polls long before the expenses row.

Alternative scenario. Tomorrow's elections prove disastrous rather than merely bad, there is further agitation, Mr Brown is replaced by a caretaker - and there is an election in the autumn.

To repeat, a caretaker couldn't continue in office based upon a mandate originally obtained by Tony Blair and inherited by Gordon Brown.

The public - whose patience is already wearing thin - wouldn't stand for it.


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