Today's Telegraph front page lead will send shivers down the backs of diehard Labour supporters. GIVE US VOTE ON BROWN, MPs TO TELL CABINET. That way lies disaster. Such a vote would be anything but conclusive. The payroll vote, numbering more than 100 MPs, would be duty bound to support Brown but there would be a number of resignations by those whose consciences would not let them vote against him while remaining as part of his team. Even if they were few and far between, the result of any vote is unlikely to be decisive either way. And even if it were, what about the views of ordinary Labour members (as Prescott condescendingly likes to call them) and trade unions? They seem to be ignored at the moment.
The briefings emanating from the Brown bunker have the same sort of 'don't mess with us' mentality as those put about by IDS's last few supporters in October 2003. Some journalists (see George Pascoe-Watson's hilarious Sun editorial today) are happy to parrot them, and even express support for Brown. Others (see Jackie Ashley in today's Guardian) write more in sorrow than anger that Brown is toast, and he'd better realise it.
Anyone making predictions now is a fool. The lie of the land in September may look a tad different.