Thursday, 22 November 2007

Brown feeling blue

It’s safe to say this has not been a good week for Gordon Brown. First came the news that Northern Rock, the mainstay UK bank that had a bank run about a month ago and was bailed out by the government, can’t find a buyer except predatory private equity firms making obscenely low-ball bids. This is bad news for chancellor Alastair Darling because the government may not recoup its bailout money, and although they assured the bank’s customers that their money was safe in order to stave off the bank run, it is now unclear whether that money really is safe.

But this news was quickly overshadowed by the bombshell that dropped Tuesday, when it was revealed that the government has lost data on 25 million Britons. Two unencrypted disks with the records of 7.2 million families claiming child-benefit payments went missing when they were sent from the Revenue and Customs department, which is overseen by the Treasury, to the National Audit Office. It's the biggest loss of personal data in British history, and second only to the loss of data by the VA in the US last year.

Then yesterday Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, told the House of Commons yesterday that not only did they not support Brown’s proposal to extend the amount of time suspected terrorists can be held without charges, they would resign if any such changes were to be imposed.

It’s been a meteoric fall for Brown in the last two months, from riding high during his initial ‘honeymoon period’ to his current position, it’s unbelievable how a PM can fall so far so fast. It all started when Brown allowed election rumours to persist unabated, catching political flack when he finally squashed them. This made Brown look irresolute and calculating, and gave the Tories a big opening to criticize him. Now, with the vicious tongue lashing delivered by David Cameron to Brown in yesterday’s prime ministers questions, some in the Labour party are even quietly wondering whether Brown is the right man to lead them into the next elections. Even though there’s virtually nothing Labour MPs could do to change this, the fact that they are hypothesizing about it must be deeply worrying to Brown’s team.

Something tells me those elections won’t be coming for a long, long time now.

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