Opinion: Cautious Brown needs to get out more

Gordon Brown is under growing pressure - from the media, MPs and even some close friends - to plunge the dagger into the weakening Prime Minister. But his closest advisers, like him, are rather more cautious.

My advice to the Chancellor is that when faced with conflicting views about which strategy to adopt, it's wiser to listen to your enemies than your friends.

Take for example The Daily Telegraph leader last Saturday, which accused Brown of being ‘sulky, unmanly and disloyal -willing to wound but afraid to strike'. But similar sentiments are being expressed by those closest to the PM; one telling a Sunday paper - off the record, of course - that Brown was a ‘chicken' who lacked the ‘guts' to challenge for the top job.

So, bizarrely, those who don't want Brown to be PM are urging him to do exactly the same as some of those who do. No wonder he's cautious.

We all know he is no gambler and right now challenging Tony Blair looks a huge gamble. It would split the Cabinet, many of whom think their political days will be numbered under a Brown-led country.  It would also split the Parliamentary Labour Party, and many loyal members would not understand why having waited more than a decade for the top job, Gordon couldn't wait a few more months. Let's not forget why Brown decided not to challenge Blair for the leadership more than a decade ago. His reason was simple: he didn't think he could win.

Now with the winning post in sight, Brown has spent the summer at his newly security-gated house in Scotland, where his principal PR advisers, Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander, have been in touch daily. As both of them are ­ministers, neither would utter a disloyal word against the Prime Minister - in public at least.

They both favour a strategy where they continue to attack the so-called Blair ‘outriders' - Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers, and certainly advise against a debate on the future of the Labour Party until Blair has gone.

But I believe Brown should get out more. This would undermine the image of him plotting in the background. He needs to be seen to be happy with the job he's got, not hankering for another one.

He will soon be forced out as he attends the upcoming party conference. And how better to say goodbye to the PM than to praise him to the rafters in the full knowledge that in­ ­Blackpool a year later it will be him standing at the rostrum.
charlie.whelan@haynet.com

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