Opinion: Labour turmoil is fantastic, for the Tories

Ironically, if a Conservative had said Gordon Brown was a 'control freak with psychological issues', David Cameron would have been forced to condemn 'personal attacks', and the Chancellor's standing would probably have been enhanced.

But because an ex-Labour minister said it, however ‘emotional' he may have been at the time, this - and similar character assassinations over the past week - have been damaging to Brown, and even more so to the Labour Party.

You can just see the Tory posters with pictures of the Chancellor and ‘Stupid, Stupid, Stupid' blazoned across them.

This ‘Anyone but Gordon' campaign is not new however. At the very time that Blair and Brown were having their infamous ‘Granita' meeting in the late 1990s, I was having a pint in a bar with Brown's aide, Ed Balls. A thirsty Charles Clarke saw us and shouted over very similar ­sentiments to those he reeled off last week - with a few F-words thrown in for good measure.

The other attacks on Brown back then were far more sinister, often involving lurid allegations about his sexuality. He was wiped out by the Blair juggernaught before a contest could begin - and vowed it would never happen again.

But this time around, one fact remains to make it all so different. He is still odds-on favourite to win the leadership race. As I wrote last week, Brown knew that to stab the PM in the back would fatally damage him. One just needs to look at the damage done just by Brown being falsely accused of a ‘disloyal act'.

The Brown camp are actually ­jubilant at the moment. There is now a rough timetable for Blair's departure and their man can talk openly about being PM. It is no coincidence that his performance on TV with ­Andrew Marr on Sunday was his best ever. Even the normally savage Quintin Letts ­described Brown as ‘accomplished and calm'.

Yes, there are other candidates against Brown, but none of them can win. This is down to the fact that he has been working for this moment for ten years and his support among the unions, party members and MPs will ensure that he has a comfortable victory.

But he faces a much bigger problem. The backbiting within Labour is doing the party itself serious damage. That's why for the first time in more than a decade, the Conservatives are now the bookmakers' favourites to win more seats than Labour at the next election. And, as we know, the bookies rarely get these things wrong.
charlie.whelan@haynet.com

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