"Twice a year Gordon Brown fills his party's sails with pride. His tornado
of facts and figures magics up images of untold national wealth and success.
Standing at the dispatch box, the towering superiority of his brain makes
intellectual pygmies of his opponents."
For those of weak dispositions, let me give you some highlights...
This was more than a horrible humiliation for the prime minister. This was the week that social democracy ebbed away in England...This week Brown and Darling all but killed off social democracy too...To give the children of the well-off a £1.4bn inheritance bonus while the children of the poor only got another 48p a week in tax credits is symbolically far worse than that otorious 75p for pensioners...There is a stunned disorientation among Labour MPs, alarmed by both Brown's vision void and his sudden incompetence. Talk to ministers and wise old heads of Commons select committees, and they are reeling with shock. The backbenches sat through Darling's politics-free performance on Tuesday like the Animal Farm beasts gazing through the farmer's window in the final scene. Far too late they realised something awful was happening before their eyes: you could have cut their silence with a knife. How has Gordon Brown managed in such a short time to shipwreck himself and his party? The seriousness of it is only beginning to sink in after Labour's long hegemony.
Bungling the will-he-won't-he election was a survivable self-inflicted injury. The intellectual injury is the real damage. Retreating armies raze the ground behind them to deny their enemy forage: but what Brown and Darling did on Tuesday was to flame-throw the ground ahead, right up to the far horizon beyond the next election. They have nowhere to go, nothing to feed on, no narrative path ahead, no clear political turf to occupy... But when Cameron threw "phoney" at him in Prime Minister's Questions, it stuck like napalm. He could duck the bottles thrown over his election funk, but "phoney" will stick because his comprehensive spending review smacked of panicky, comprehensive cowardice... His party is suddenly gripped by doubt that the big brain has a strategy. Looking back on his content-light conference speech, it asks what he has been thinking this past impatient decade...