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Even Harry Potter can't save Gordon now

IF you want to see Gordon Brown suffer, turn away now. Because he is going to cruise the Labour annual conference.

The PM is not on trial, or giving a ‘make or break’ speech. He’s the star of a carefully-choreographed loyalty rally.

And when he’s on stage he could sing ‘Always look on the bright side’ - and get a standing ovation.

The prospects for Gordo are about as bright as they were for Brian nailed up at the end of that Monty Python film. Everyone knows it’s over.

But they won’t come for him here. This isn’t the brutal Tory conference, where some turn up just for the political violence. Labour likes to worship, not fight. And here in the conference hall, Brown’s fixers have built a temple, not an arena.

Cabinet members must keep speeches to just SEVEN minutes. Our verbose MPs struggle to introduce themselves in that time. So the “plotting” will be restricted to 2am moaning at the bar.

Yet this won’t mean Gordo is safe. Just look at his Cabinet. They’ve gone from fearing him to mocking him. Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, now talks about his Prime Minister as Les Dawson spoke about his mother-in-law.

“I think Gordon has a nice smile,” Johnson says. “He worked on it as well. He paid quite a lot of money for that smile.” Boom boom!

And loyalty? “I’ve never been a great Brown cheerleader.” Gordo is the best PM “at the moment.”

Of course there are some professing undying loyalty to the PM. Glenys Kinnock. John Prescott. Margaret Beckett. When this lot are your best character references you know you’re in trouble.

Things are not looking up. JK Rowling may be donating £1m – but Brown needs her magic, not her money.

Take the last Cabinet meeting: It was meltdown. Ministers were sending text messages, rolling their eyes, stifling laughs.

Gordo told them his leadership should not be discussed until after the economic storm was over.

“That showed us all how weak he is,” one Cabinet member told me afterwards. “The best he can say is ‘not now’.”

One of my spies in No10 has told me about the first draft of Gordo’s Conference speech. There is an apology—of sorts. He says ‘things have been more difficult than I expected’. So yes, it’s still very much the hardest word.

But then says ‘the global economy is collapsing so you need me, me and more me’.” Cue applause.

The Brown premiership looks set to end not in a bang but like a bad sitcom, losing audience.

The line I keep hearing is: “How many Cabinet members does it take to topple a Prime Minister?” Except it’s not a joke.

Some say six. Others say two: Straw and Darling. I believe it could be done by just one person knocking on his door. But that would have to be Sarah, his wife.

She’ll see the toll this is taking on him. The kindest thing will be to release him from this misery.

Brown is a proud man. He’ll know his premiership has ended in abject failure. He can survive as PM only by crushing rebels. He can survive the Labour conference only by crushing debate.

But he stands today a Prime Minister bankrolled by Harry Potter and the trades unions. And a new fate now awaits him.

Brown can handle being hated. But to go down as a bad, national joke would be the worst exit of all.

FRASER NELSON is also political editor of The Spectator.



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