David Singleton: Mark Penn's words will boost Number 10

As we enter the second week of the parliamentary recess, many political observers believe Gordon Brown is a spent political force, immune to the benefits of good PR.

David Singleton
David Singleton

Most people in Westminster now expect Brown to either be booted out by his party before the general election, or to hang on and drag Labour to a crushing defeat that could consign it to the opposition for the next decade.

Against this backdrop, the utterances of Mark Penn - as reported exclusively on our front page - should be music to the ears of Team Brown. The Burson-Marsteller CEO, a former adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, believes that Brown is not necessarily destined for a catastrophic general election defeat.

In fact, Penn claims Brown is actually 'in a situation where he could win' and even suggests that the PM might pull off a revival reminiscent of Bill Clinton in the early stages of his presidency.

It is one of the most optimistic verdicts of Brown's predicament that we have heard from a senior PR professional in some time.

And by giving Brown a fighting chance in the general election, Penn may also be indicating that he is keen to help the PM in the run-up to the election.

Reports that Downing Street was planning to headhunt Penn surfaced last year, but Number 10 denied it had met up with him.

Could it happen this year? Such a move could see Penn working alongside Downing Street polling and research guru David Muir to breathe new life in the Brown brand as the election draws closer.

It is an intriguing prospect, yet it is unlikely that the former Clinton campaign chief will be the man who saves Brown. For a start, there is no money to pay the vast sums Penn often commands.

Second, Downing Street has already signed up two consultants from Benenson Strategy Group, which worked on Barack Obama's presidential election campaign. Penn's verdict will be welcomed, but the people Brown's aides really want to hear from are, as one Number 10 insider puts it, 'the Obama crew'.

(Danny Rogers is away)

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