Matthew Norman: We are witnessing a very British form of anarchy

There is only blind panic and frantic plotting by members of a headless party
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The Independent Online

Come on now, admit it, this is the most tremendous fun ever. EVER. After weeks of holding forth about systemic crisis, loss of public trust, constitutional reform and all the rest of it, the moment comes to stop "bloviating", to use the Washington verb for pompous punditry, and confess that we are in heaven.

That apart, I haven't a clue what exactly is going on in Bedlam-by-the-Thames, let alone whether this Labour PM, like Harold Wilson before him, is going on. Nobody does, not even those brethren who have looked down from the press gallery for decades, because there is no template for mayhem like this. We have been beamed aboard a planet that has never even been probed.

Into the vacuum where the guiding light of precedent ordinarily lives, the clichés rush as feverishly as the analogies, but offer zero insight. "Chaos theory" sounds cool, but only about four people in the world understand what that really means, and I'm not one of them. With references to No 10 suffering catastrophic engine failure or going into a corkscrew spin verging on the tasteless, rats departing the sinking ship is the transport metaphor du jour.

Rats are smart and terrifying little vermin, however, while the only fear you'd feel on finding yourself in Room 101 separated by a flimsy wire mesh from Hazel Blears' gob is that she'd use it not to gore or gnaw, but to bore you to death with her cretinous "sunny optimism". The self-righteousness in yesterday's crude assassination attempt (technically, letter of resignation) suggested an excommunication order issued against his useless, dithery bishop by a cleric about to be unfrocked for choirboy interference.

Even a large cheque made out to HM Inland Revenue couldn't buy you sport like this, and the memory of Rafael Nadal's unimaginable defeat in Paris counsels against cocky predictions. However apparently overpowering the scent of Gordon Brown's terminal gangrene, all one can safely do is unleash a barrage of ifs and then qualify them. If Blears' departure is part of a coordinated effort with fellow pre-emptive resigners to destabilise him fatally, it might work and it might not.

Writing yesterday afternoon, with events moving like a runaway train and my psychic powers oddly diminished, I have not the foggiest whether any further cabinet ministers jumped overnight, or plan to do so between now and the imminent reshuffle that promises much for fans of the surreal. If so, that might be the tipping point. And it might not.

If late tonight Labour has lost control of the four of its metropolitan councils up for grabs, which is likely, that could do it. Or not. A share of the popular vote in local elections below 20 per cent would seem the final straw, but the ability of this prime ministerial camel to keep plodding on through the dunes with nothing in the tank is just about the only known known, as Donald Rumsfeld would have it, that survives.

If tomorrow, or on Monday, Gordon makes Ed Balls his Chancellor, we are assured that so factional an appointment of so divisive a figure could provoke the tidal wave of internecine bitterness to sweep him away. But again, it might do no such thing.

And if on Sunday it emerges that Labour was bested in the Euro election popular vote by Ukip, you'd think that even Gordon would feel compelled to consider retiring with the Scotch and trusty Luger. But thinking in the absence of any map for these unchartered waters is futile. If gut instinct is any guide, my own hunch is that at this moment, with the Labour backbenchers' Go Now Gordon petition reportedly gathering signatures by the hour, it is marginally odds-on that he'll be gone this time next week; and that by tomorrow morning his survival will have drifted further. But my hunch is at best as good as yours, and probably worse.

Logically, of course, there shouldn't be a chance in a thousand that a PM who has lost every ounce of authority over his Cabinet, his government and the House of Commons, every last milligram of respect from the country, and any remote ability to shape events could blunder on for another day, let alone another year. But logic galloped out of town long ago, leaving in its wake this captivating production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest as reworked by Alan Ayckbourn, with additional material from Dario Fo and stage directions by Ray Cooney.

Onto even the most joyous of vistas the odd drop of sadness must fall, the one here being that no one will be loving Gordon's torment more than Cherie Blair – the half woman-half supermarket trolley mythological hybrid whose fill-your-boots avarice did so much to create the culture of greed that has all but destroyed him. The lone shard of poignancy flying forth from his shattered administration, meanwhile, is that the PM is so uniquely ill-suited to take what comfort the vaguely normal would extract by way of gallows humour.

Dame Edna famously commended Jeffrey Archer for being able to laugh at himself, adding that but for this "you'd be missing the joke of the century". The PM, bless him, is missing the political joke of the millennium.

The days when pretentious gits like me invoked tragedy in a Gordonian context have long since passed. Tragic heroism relies upon a certain largeness of spirit, or at the very least a sudden moment of self-knowledge so acute that it induces intolerable psychic anguish. Ajax slaughtered his sheep when made aware of his fatal flaw, Oedipus put out his eyes when faced with his. Despite his ocular head start in that direction, Gordon is as nugatory a figure as Nero, fiddling with ritualistic lines at yesterday's PMQs while his government self-immolates.

It's the smallness of the man, the lack of grandeur in his dreams, the pathetic dressing-up of rank self-interest in the translucent cloak of dutifulness, that makes guilt-free schaudenfraude less a temptation than a moral obligation. For this has become a morality play – specifically, the first morality high farce in politico-theatrical history - about a system so deranged in its complacency that it gifts such power to one whose personal ambition is surpassed only by his lack of talent, without any mechanism to remove him once that power has drained away.

What we are witnessing is a very British form of anarchy. There are no rules here, only blind panic and frantic plotting by members of a headless party with enough nerve endings still active to charge around until electoral rigor mortis sets in.

As for the rest of us, like superannuated Bisto Kids, we stand with our noses pressed up against the window onto the best little madhouse in town, reveling in the sight of the inmates desecrating the asylum they won't be running for much longer. The process of rebuilding the political system will be lengthy, dull and doubtless horribly botched. So for now let's enjoy the electric, convulsive merriment, if only for the therapy, and leave the bloviating for more sombre days ahead.