A scan of the Sunday broadsheets has revealed to me the disturbing (or, rather, the disturbed) pattern of thought that lies behind the government's most recent laughable attempts at news management and image-building. Someone in the Cabinet Office is trying to resurrect the myth that usurping, smearing, epic economic disaster zone, Gordon Brown, is "courageous" and guided by some strange sort of religious morality. Someone else in the Cabinet Office is trying to breathe life into the propaganda corpse that is 'Tory cuts' despite the fact that this particular myth has been comprehensively exploded many times over the past few weeks. [see Fraser Nelson's latest reminder.]
Both desperate, tragic attempts at misleading the people are doomed to fail. Why? The old reason: the cabinet itself (what's left of it) is split right down the middle on the one key issue that's impervious to spin: if Labour are going to lose the next general election, will it be a calamity or a catastrophe under Brown?
First, the economy. The Sunday Times reports that the cabinet is badly split over the simplistic and dishonest assault on Tory spending plans currently being peddled by Brown and his stupid little bully boy, Ed Balls.
The prime minister was challenged at a session of the full cabinet last week after he insisted Labour should fight the general election on a platform of more public spending in contrast to Tory “cuts”. He is determined to repeat the tactic that helped Labour win in 2005, despite the economic recession making significant spending increases impossible.
Cabinet colleagues fear the strategy is “too crude” and are concerned that the government has not been candid enough about the challenges posed by Britain’s £175 billion budget deficit.
Among those who spoke out at Tuesday’s cabinet was Yvette Cooper, the work and pensions secretary, who is normally regarded as Brown’s most loyal female minister. Alistair Darling, the chancellor, warned that Brown’s central assertion that a Tory government would cut spending by 10% was based on flimsy extrapolations.
According to one source who was present, Brown was visibly irritated at the way he had been undermined, and brought the meeting to an early close, avoiding further debate.
The disclosures come as the prime minister’s plans for a “relaunch” are delayed for a second time as No 10 struggles to find eyecatching policies that can stand up to scrutiny.
Unease flared in last week’s cabinet when Brown said of the Tories: “First they will cut by 5%, then by 10%. That is an ideological decision, not a pragmatic one.” But Darling pointed out that Brown’s Tory cuts figures did not represent the party’s policy but were merely “extrapolations” based on figures produced by a think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies.It seems Darling gets it. It seems even that vinegary robot, Yvette Cooper-Balls, gets it. But her husband doesn't and neither does the stubborn old Scots fraud himself. He not only doesn't get it, he is it. As splits go, this is about as severe as you can get. It is also, at least to me, since this has all been leaked to the public via a national broadsheet, irrefutable evidence that someone in that cabinet thinks Brown is a busted flush and wants him gone. I wonder if it's Darling. I wonder if he has made the 'calamity/catastrophe' calculation and seen that it adds up to the latter. It's far more solid than his PSBR estimates, after all. And he has every reason to feel aggrieved about his treatment at the hands of his erstwhile 'friend'. And he doesn't suffer from the kind of delusional stubbornness that Brown increasingly does.
Cooper, previously the Treasury minister responsible for public spending, echoed his concerns and warned that ministers must beware of making spending pledges they could not deliver.
Whoever it is, what's clear is that somebody in that cabinet thinks Brown is potty and must be ejected before it's too late. Brown-led Labour is dying.
If further evidence of Brownite lunacy were needed (it isn't), then we need look no further than the second part of Sunday's news management mayhem: the relaunch of the Brown 'courage' and 'moral compass' memes. Unfortunately, as with all things Brown, it's already all gone Pete Tong. The Sunday Telegraph is reporting that our potty PM is appearing on, wait for it, Songs of Praise. Yes, that blue rinse bible basher staple, Songs of Praise.
"What's the big deal? Other PMs have done that," I hear you say. Well, yes, they have done that - and talked exclusively about their choice of hymns, as is the norm. But that's not for Brown. Oh no. Tame exposure is good exposure: he's hardly going to be mauled by cuddly Scot, Sally Magnusson. So this SoP will be a lot different. Read it and weep, people:
The Prime Minister will be interviewed in Downing Street this week by Sally Magnusson, one of the regular presenters of the BBC's popular religious programme.
When the show – during which Mr Brown will speak about courage and the people who have inspired him – is broadcast next month the chosen hymns will include Be Still My Soul, Fight the Good Fight and Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd.Aides hope the move will help to reconnect the Prime Minister with Middle Britain after a torrid few weeks which have seen him struggle to survive the MPs' expenses scandal, Labour's worst election results since 1910 and a series of bitter ministerial resignations.
The interview will form part of a "fightback" strategy which will see Mr Brown attempt to put forward a more human image to voters.
In a far franker-than-usual newspaper interview this weekend the Prime Minister admitted the attempted coup by his Labour opponents had been the worst weeks of his political life.
He told The Guardian also said he had been "hurt" by personal attacks and added: "To be honest, you could walk away from all this tomorrow.
"I'm not interested in what accompanies being in power. I wouldn't worry if I never returned to those places – Downing street, Chequers... And it would probably be good for my children."
Although he insisted Labour could still win the next election under his leadership, he admitted weaknesses.
"I'm not as great a presenter of information or communicator as I would like to be," he said.
He added, in comments likely to raise eyebrows among MPs, that he was "not very good" at political manoeuvring. He also claimed he could become a teacher after leaving politics.
Some Labour MPs last night detected the hand of Lord Mandelson, the all-powerful Business Secretary, in Mr Brown's new penitent tone.
When you stop laughing, just think about how a 'penitent' Brown is going to sound and then start all over again. Remember, this is the guy who smeared his political opponents in the most hateful way imaginable, including members of his own party. This is the man for whom a simple apology for Smeargate was as hard to extract as an impacted wisdom tooth. This is the man who apologised for the expenses horror show only after he was boxed into a corner by an ever so 'umble David Cameron. This is the man whose known associates include Damien "Omen II" McBride and Derek Draper, ffs.
Bottom line: this is a man who is potty enough to believe that a dose of fake hand-wringing, dressed-up as moral authority and dished-out on what is meant to be an apolitical Christian singsong programme (target audience: three million OAPs who want Brown to give them back their pensions) is the perfect platform for yet another relaunch of his cesspool image. Unfortunately for him, I'm pretty sure the burnt-out, recycled moral compass/courage claptrap won't wash with the pensioners let alone the 57 million other members of Britain's non-Songs of Praise watching congregation. "Reconnect with middle Britain"? My sides are splitting. This is a pretty spectacular delusion even by Brownian standards. Cabinet members will ask (and, it seems, are already asking): is this really the best we can do?
This will be one of a kind: a hilarious train wreck. I can't wait.
While Songs of Praise normally features churchgoers talking about their favourite hymns, Mr Brown will appear in a special edition focusing on courage.
He wrote a book on the subject, which was published in 2007 and detailed the lives of eight figures whom he believed to exemplify courage. Other guests will include a woman who has campaigned against gun crime.
The BBC is understood to have approached the Prime Minister before the expenses scandal engulfed parliament, but the programme could nevertheless present him with an opportunity to reassert his credentials as a devout and honest politician.
He has previously referred to being guided by a "moral compass", and last month claimed that the revelations over expenses had offended his "Presbyterian conscience".