Is the issue now “Downing Street Dysfunctionality”?

Is the issue now “Downing Street Dysfunctionality”?

    How dangerous is such a widespread media perception?

Two days the Labour conference in Manchester and time for more reflection and analysis of what is right and what is wrong with the party as its leader he seeks to hold onto office.

There’s one term that features in much of the coverage which is highly damaging to Brown – “Downing Street Dysfunctionality”. This is said to have embodied in the farcical circumstances surrounding the 3am press conference in a hotel lobby overnight Tuesday-Wednesday on the departure of Ruth Kelly.

Steve Richards in the Independent has it like this: “..Throughout the week in Manchester, conversations with cabinet ministers were dominated by a single theme. Forget about the economy or Afghanistan. Wary ministers were preoccupied by what they regard as a sometimes malevolent and dysfunctional Downing Street operation. Some were bruised by what they are convinced were briefings against them. One had just heard rumours of a briefing that he was to be sacked or demoted in a reshuffle and despaired over such inept, destructive activity. Others fumed on behalf of those who had been the victim of such onslaughts..They cannot understand it. Such briefings do not help Mr Brown, as the overall impact is to convey a sense of a cabinet at war.”

According to the Telegraph what’s holding the whole thing together at the moment is fear. The widespread thought is that those who question Brown’s performance will be the victim of a “dirty tricks” campaign. There’s talk of the “dark arts” and worries amongst ministers and backbenchers alike of what will happen, if as seems likely, Nick Brown, takes over from Geoff Hoon as chief whip.

    What’s really dangerous for the PM is that this is not about policies or presentation but his managerial and leadership skills. His ability to deal the “dysfunctionality” tag might ultimately seal his fate.

But it’s been said before – don’t underestimate Brown’s staying power. That he got the job last year in the way he did is testament to his extraordinary political abilities and resilience. His remaining time in office ain’t going to be comfortable for anybody.

Let’s see what the Tories make of it next week. Their total silence throughout the week should be worrying for ministers and I’m expecting a concerted fierce attack with “Downing Street dysfunctionality” at its heart.

Mike Smithson

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