OK, now I’ve read all the papers and – well, it looks to me that Labour did a pretty good job last week of ensuring that it loses the next election.
No one comes out of this smelling of roses. Blair has been forced to admit he is a dead man walking and has lost it with his party. Brown will forever be suspected of attempting a coup, particularly after the revelation that Tom Watson, the instigator of the letter demanding Blair’s prompt resignation, visited Brown at home the day before the letter was leaked. And Charles Clarke was “stupid, stupid, stupid” to have attacked Brown as he did, even if he was spot-on about what is wrong with the Chancellor.
Looking on the bright side, Clarke's intervention might just be seen in retrospect a year hence as the wake-up call Labour needed to stop it electing Brown as leader. But the chances of that are remote, because it’s still very difficult to imagine anyone mounting a credible challenge to Brown, for all his dunderhead incompetence (at best) this week.
John McDonnell won’t get the nominations required to run (and anyway he is not credible, for the rather obvious reason that he is a Trot headbanger). Clarke himself would get my vote, but I’d be amazed if he crossed the nominations threshold either. Either John Reid or Alan Johnson might do better, but neither has significant support either in the trade unions or among Labour’s individual members – for many of whom Reid is a hate figure. David Miliband is too young and inexperienced and has no political machine behind him of any description. The momentum is still all with Gordon, and that in itself means anyone with an eye on a future career will probably keep his or her powder dry.
So my money – for now – is on an uncontested leadership election, Brown becoming PM, continuing bickering from his many party critics as he fails miserably to claw back the Tories’ opinion poll lead, a Tory victory in 2009 or 2010, then 15 or more wilderness years for Labour as this week's protagonists try to take their revenge on one another.
Welcome to the progressive century, comrades!