Tara Hamilton-Miller: Labour old guard poetically isolated

Revealing his love of the poem Invictus by WE Henley on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Gordon Brown has given us a taste of his election campaign.

Tara Hamilton-Miller
Tara Hamilton-Miller

His aides have clearly come to the conclusion that making Brown a nice guy who likes the same stuff that we like is their best chance.

Expect further cultural references over the next three months - Beyonce lyrics, Delia recipes, inspiring hymns. Prepare for an onslaught of favourite bands, choices of socks, and kids you want to slap from Newsround asking him about Lady Gaga's tattoos.

As admirable as it is that our romantic Prime Minister is inspired by prose, it is a wonder he has the time to enjoy poetry. Hasn't he got a flailing country in economic meltdown to run? Gordon, instead of acting like some gloomy, self-destructive Byronesque hero, put down the sonnets and start taking control.

As the Labour leadership crisis deepens and Brown writes his party's despair off as 'silliness', thoughts turn to who is next to lead the left. The obvious choice is a Miliband brother but neither, perhaps wisely, seems to want the job that badly at present.

Keep one eye on James Purnell. Unlike Miliband (pick one), who can't sneeze without being accused of a leadership bid, Purnell has the freedom to write articles for The Guardian and talk about society, engagement, radicalism and historical references to Labour tradition.

He remains well connected across government and is still close to senior Blairites. As one hopeful leftie put it: 'He doesn't just mix with the grown-ups, he hangs out with all the young ones who will be relevant in the future.' Purnell disciples are discreetly talking about how his leaving the confines of parliamentary office to campaign has given him a better idea of what is happening on the street. Apart from the expenses debacle revealing he's a filthy boy around his flat, he's keeping a low profile and mobilising.

It increasingly looks like Brown will be left alone in the bunker with his loyal pantomime thug-mutt, Ed Balls. Purnell will be waiting. Watch him.

- Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and formerly worked for the Conservative Party press team.

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