Friday, 5 June 2009

Brown makes his moves

Gosh, it's all happening very quickly on the political front this morning.

Last night's resignation of James Purnell has concentrated the Prime Minister's mind and he's brought forward his reshuffle, which is happening as I type. He's racing against time to get a cabinet in place before any backbench rebellion can take hold, any other significant ministers can jump ship and the full extent of the dismal election results becomes clear. As I wrote the other day, this is key to his survival because anyone who takes a place in the new cabinet will be bound to Brown for the duration.

So far this morning we've heard that Alastair Darling is to stay on as Chancellor. Clearly Darling decided it was that or nothing and Brown backed down on swapping him for Ed Balls. This will inevitibly add to the impression that Brown is weak, a charge that the Conservatives will hammer home for months to come.

We're also hearing that Alan Johnson has accepted the poison chalice of the Home Office. A clever move by Brown, leaving Johnson with nowhere to go, either accept the crappy job or leave government. This also shows some weakness on the part of Johnson. Had he declined the move, it would have killed off Brown for good, but it seems he either lacked the spine or is playing a long, post-election game.

As things stand right now - and they are changing by the minute - the feeling I have (and have had since Wednesday) is that Brown is going to scrape through this immediate crisis. Most of the current cabinet have pledged their support to Brown and without another significant cabinet resignation it's likely the backbench rebellion will fizzle out.

One other thing to mention - Caroline Flint gave a very on-message interview yesterday (though I can't remember who too!). Expect to see her rewarded with a cabinet position by the end of the day, as I predicted on 23rd May.

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