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EDITIONS
Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 12:06 GMT
New Labour, new dangers?


As Gordon Brown ploughed his way through his magisterially obscure statement, he looked for all the world like an old testament prophet hoping that if he was thunderous enough no one would notice that he was snapping some of his own tablets of stone behind his back.

And as he pretended, at least to himself, that he wasn't shredding his own reputation, a few pieces of the jigsaw began to clatter into place.

Gordon has rediscovered his ideologically edge. It has always been present but rarely deployed.

Something has been stirring in the Brown camp over the last few weeks.

As you first read here a couple of weeks ago the relationship between the chancellor and the prime minister is said to be at its lowest ever point.

He's rebuilt bridges with John Prescott. The deputy Prime Minister is fed up with underlings in Number 10 trying to find out when he's going to quit.

According to Brown allies the deputy premier has decided to hang on as king maker, determined to deliver the crown to Gordon as his last legacy.

Health defender

Meanwhile his allies have been fanning out, making it quite clear that the chancellor is re-opening the whole debate about top up fees and prefers a graduate tax.

Just like the majority of the Labour Party and Labour MPs.


For New Labour, politics has moved in to new and much dangerous place

And while spitting bile at the health secretary Alan Milburn, they've made it just as obvious that Gordon thinks Foundation Hospitals are an attack on the ideals behind the National Health Service.

Funny, the majority of Labour MPs and the bulk of the Labour party would be relieved that somebody at the top table is fighting their corner.

Until now the hostility between the Brown and Blair camps has been largely about personality and style.

Avoided crises

Now Gordon has rediscovered his ideological edge. It has always been present but rarely deployed. He hasn't needed to, until now.

Until now most people agreed the one thing that was definitely going right for the government was economic management.

There might be crises over fuel or foot-and-mouth, there might be confusion about targets and delivery, there might be too much spin and sleight of hand.

And some of these could be laid at the door of number eleven. But few doubted Brown bestrode macroeconomic management, getting his predictions uncannily right.

New danger for New Labour

Now Labour MPs know he's fallible. Wrong, even. With dangerous waters ahead.

So before they even realised they rumbled him he has been busy stressing that he is the true guardian of the true faith.

The message is that they need him, and not just for his drier, economic skills.

And the new froideur between his team and Number 10?

It is not too hard to imagine that Number 10 didn't like Mr Brown's ungracious presentation of his poor predictions and that the prime minister didn't like the fact they were wrong in the first place.

For New Labour politics has moved in to new and much dangerous place.


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Launch AT-A-GLANCE
 VOTE RESULTS
Has the chancellor managed the economy well?

Yes
 52.21% 

No
 47.79% 

6639 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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