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Nelson's column

WITH just 11 days until the Euro elections, Gordon Brown is preparing for an almighty battle — against his own party.
He’s certain to lead Labour into a humiliating defeat. Then he’s preparing for someone to come after HIS job.
Gordo may be dismal at elections but he has a black belt in internal combat. And he’s now facing the revenge of the Blair Babes.
A few days ago, he had planned to sack Hazel Blears for milking her expenses (and attacking him in a newspaper article). But now a ‘Save the Chipmunk’ campaign has started, led by an unlikely Warrior Princess: Caroline Flint, Minister for Europe.
She has said, in code, that Blears must stay in the Cabinet or Gordo will have to meet the wrath of Labour Women.
This is no idle threat. Think back to last summer. The Labour MPs willing to stand up to him in public were almost all women.
One of them told me that they react against what they see as Gordo’s male chauvinism and testosterone-charged bullying tactics.
And why, they ask, is Blears getting it in the neck when Geoff Hoon’s expenses are just as dodgy? Because she’s a woman?
Why is Jacqui Smith about to be sacked as Home Secretary when there’s no sign her replacement will be better?
One of Flint’s allies put it bluntly to me: “There’s a feeling out there that Gordon just doesn’t like women. And it’s mutual.”
Ruth Kelly has already gone. If Smith and Blears go, his Cabinet will look like, ahem, a gentleman’s club. So what then?
Labour men tend to moan into their beer, as you can see them doing every night on the Commons terrace bar. But the women get even. They’re also worried about how Unite, the trade union, is slowly taking over the Labour Party.
They fear that Unite is using the same bullying tactics that they see Gordo deploying in No.10. So the fightback is starting. And a procedure is being spoken about that could take Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, to No10.
One female Cabinet member told me a while ago how important it is to threaten Gordo. “It’s the only language he understands,” she said.
So, what’s next? There could be a stalking horse candidate (some say Peter Hain) whose mission would be to rock the boat. Rebels could deploy against Brown the tactics he used to get rid of Blair. Line up junior government members to resign, hour by hour.
Last summer, Brown asked his attack dog, Damian McBride, to sniff out potential rebels who were then sacked on the spot.
Then we noticed their gender. Siobhan McDonagh, Joan Ryan, Fiona MacTaggart, Janet Anderson. All with nerves of steel.
But now, McBride has gone. And even worse for Brown, Harriet Harman, deputy Labour leader, has said she won’t stand.
She has cut a deal with Johnson. She’ll stand aside, if he keeps her as No.2. Then she’ll make her move when he loses a general election.
No one expects the smiling Johnson to win. But the logic is that he’d save about 80 Labour seats but taking the anti-Brown swing away.
This sounds right to me. The Tories main plan is to harness the anti-Brown votes — the PM is David Cameron’s top election weapon.
A Shadow Cabinet member last week told me he was canvassing, and was disconcerted to hear no one criticising Labour. “But mention Gordon Brown personally and voters go into a blind fury,” he said. “We can just pray he stays until the election.”
I still reckon the Tories will get their wish. Could Labour really impose a THIRD Prime Minister in one parliamentary term?
And above all, we must remember that Brown is a great survivor who specialises in crushing rebellion.
But that doesn’t mean that Labour’s Warrior Princesses aren’t bold enough to give it a try.



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