Only this morning, Andrew MacKay said that he would stand for election again - but after a conversation with David Cameron he has now decided to stand down at the next election. The open meeting he held had several calls for him to go, and there was talk of a petition. The grassroots momentum was significant. This, make no mistake, is a personal loss to David Cameron who relied on MacKay to be his eyes and ears in the backbenches.It's become pretty obvious that Cameron intends to purge the Tories of all those who have abused a lax system, whether their claims fell within the rules or not. The party faces a torrid time over the next week or so, but one thing is now abundantly clear, whatever you might think about the main parliamentary parties' behaviour generally, the battle between Brown and Cameron on how to deal with the issue is being comprehensively won by Cameron.
As I said a few days ago, thanks to his indecisiveness, mixed messages and perennial favouritism Brown faces the impossible task that is reshuffling a tainted and split cabinet. Another minister broke ranks today providing a front page story for the Times and further evidence of a government in total disarray not just over the expenses fiasco but over the management of the economy and home affairs, too. Caroline Flint, the over-promoted minister of something-or-other in question and friend of chipmunks everywhere apparently
...risks angering Downing Street by saying that Ms Blears had technically done nothing wrong, despite Mr Brown’s branding her behaviour “completely unacceptable” after she failed to pay capital gains tax on the sale of a flat.
Ms Flint says that Ms Blears is “one of the last people who would ever come into politics to gain some kind of financial benefit”.So, not only wrong but wrong-headed and a thinly-veiled assault on Geoff Hoon, the Lord High Chancellor of Troughers. Combine this backbiting with the brewing tempest over the economic mismanagement apparently exacerbating an already serious situation vis-a-vis the debt crisis, with the UK about to lose its AAA status according to CNBC and you quickly see the Times is way off-beam with its characterisation of the mood within the Parliamentary Labour Party...
In a further sign of the febrile atmosphere at the top of government, some ministers are now speculating that Mr Brown could be persuaded to call an autumn election. They say that, with Labour apparently heading for certain defeat next year, the only way Mr Brown could rescue his party would be to be bold and go to the country...They shouldn't bother talking to 'some ministers'. There is not one snowball's chance in hell that this outcome is even remotely likely. On the strength of the evidence so far, Brown will either hang on until the last possible minute of this parliament (not a chance) or he will be metaphorically assassinated (probability rising with each passing day) soon after the June 4th wipeout by the growing mass of disaffected Labour MPs faced with unemployment.
Not to see this is not to appreciate the state of panic among Labour's rank and file, or the total lack of leadership or connection from the Prime Menacer. While they are ponderous and slow on the uptake, predictably, they will eventually come to the conclusion that they chose him and they can depose Brown. Whatever they might think of him personally, they will look at David Cameron and see tough, sure, decisive - even brutal - leadership from a fairly normal human being. They will then look at Brown and see a bully who cannot see past the end of his own nose, inconsistency, dithering and, above all, a willingness to burn anyone to save his own bacon.
It will finally dawn on them that he is a liability and has to go.