2 min read

Editor's blog 31 July 2008: The curse of the drinking classes

Oscar Wilde inverted the well-known Temperance Movement slogan to produce his formulation that "work is the curse of the drinking classes" - which is to say that workload has rather got in the way of recent updates to the site. Apologies if you've been franticaly hitting refresh and waiting for us. We are back.

However, please note that the near-daily updates may be a bit more sporadic during August, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, there are three new pieces for you today - this blog; the latest Health Policy Today on the silly season Labour leadership stuff); and a new Colloquia on the subject of rewards for clinical performance.

Do you believe in the reality of the Gordon Brown leadership challenge stuff? I'm not sure that I do.

Cast your mind back not too far at all to the summer silly season challenges to the authority of William Hague (best political reinvention since John Profumo, I'd say), Ian Duncan Smith and Michael Howard. Now OK, none of them was in Prime Minister nor in any danger of becoming so.

But Tony Blair's Lazarus thing with popularity was at least as much about his resilience as his showbiz - it was impossible to keep count of how many times Blair had his 'worst week ever'.

No, I could be wrong about this, but I have the feeling of this being a mainstream media event which is tastefully known as a "goatfuck": a media scrum where everybody is seething and fighting to get close to the object of the story, and ructions ensue.

Many political correspondents are amnesiac. A year ago, Brown was walking on water; not only because of the flooding. Had he not so spectacularly bottled the real prospect of an autumn 2007 general election, there would now be a fourth-term Labour government with a working majority. Instead, he ceased to be new; Cameron continued to be new; and the economy has soured.

So is it all over for Gordon Brown?

Nobody has a clue. If David Milliband, Harriet Harman or others are seriously considering a challenge, they will need to work out a) whether the economic downturn may be short and shallow, rather than durable and deep; and b) whether public animus is against Gordon Brown as an individual (the 'throw him out' theory) or New Labour as  a brand (the 'throw the bastards out' theory).

If the answers to a) and b) are the former, there may be a challenge - assuming they can get 20% of the parliamentary Labour Party to sign up to one.

If the answers are the latter ones, the next election might look like a good one to lose.

The mainstream media, of course, are loving it. It is making them feel important, filling column inches.

And who knows? There can be such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the words of The Zombies' greatest song, "it's the time of the season".