Will they cope as the pressure builds up?
Yet again Gordon and his team are having their weekend spoilt by a hostile story about a past action by the Chancellor from a part of the media empire that they used to think of as being supportive.
Today in the Sunday Times it’s Gordon’s decision to flog off half of Britain’s gold reserves in 1999 that comes under scrutiny. Unfortunately, as the paper observes, the price of gold has trebled in the intervening period and the Chancellor is said to have pushed for the sale at the bottom of the market.
Like the pensions row before Easter the focus is on the advice that Gordon received prior to the move and what the paper describes as its 18 month battle to get information.
In one potentially damaging piece the paper quotes a senior a senior investment bank director who was present at a key meeting as saying â€œWe were told this was a Brown thing and that the Bank had no say over what was going on. The officials were unhappy.â€
The key problem is that these stories, whether accurate or not, eat into the heart of Brown’s claim to be prime minister – his management of the economy over the past ten years. They also associate his name with bad news and controversy just at a time when the opinion polls are going to be critical.
However brave MPs in marginal seats might be about poll ratings in public they would not be human if they weren’t having misgivings in private – after all it’s their jobs, salaries and status that could be on the line.
To my mind the question is whether Brown and his close aides will hold their nerve. If he goes through the next four weeks without doing anything precipitous then he should be home and dry. But under massive pressure he could blow up and then anything can happen.
There’s a good piece describing what the period between Blair’s announcement and the close of nominations next month is likely to be like by Charles Clarke in the Mail on Sunday. The fact that its author is Clarke and that it is in the Mail are hardly going to commend the piece to Labour’s rank and file.
Clarke’s description of that period as being “the longest week of all” for Brown rings very true.
The latest Brown leadership betting price 0.28/1.