Hazel Blears has laid into the government's "lamentable failure" to communicate. "Youtube if you want to," she mocked, referring to the prime minister's recent use of new media. David Blunkett told us of "a void" in the heart of Downing Street and said that Labour has "no underlying social policy". Charles Clarke is "ashamed" of being in the party. Alan Johnson's declaration of loyalty to the leadership included the words, "I'm not saying there are no circumstances" in which he might run.
And the smears, of course, we mustn't forget them. The smears, the evasions, the ludicrous foreign trips, the personal insults from foreign governments, from former colleagues, from committee chairmen...
Unnamed ministers are quoted as saying that Gordon Brown is "lashing out" at people and looking for someone to blame for the debacles of recent weeks. There are stories of rages and of flying office equipment. We all saw the prime minister so dazed with tiredness in parliament the other day that he didn't know whether he was coming or going. And he says, "I don't regret anything I've done".
If there are any television producers out there interested in the sitcom I'm writing, I hope they'll get in touch. It's based on Hugh Trevor-Roper's book The Last Days of Hitler and is set in the Fuhrerbunker in the spring of 1945.
Its merits are these. It is a proper situation with a group of unlikely characters bound together in claustrophobic dependency and animated by a brooding loser driven to the end of his tether by bad decisions, a coalition of enemies, and sleep deprivation. What with its wild mood swings, false information and absurd strategems, it is very funny. But above all it is topical.
Bunker life seems to be the same over the years, irrespective of race or creed. Our cabinet has nothing in common with the leaders of National Socialism ("Monkeys", as Trevor-Roper called them), of course not. We have a fine body of men and women doing an impossible job under very difficult conditions. But it's also true that our ministerial MPs are evolving out of their original offices into bunker people.
"Its leading politicians," Trevor-Roper said of the Nazi party, "were not a government but a court – a court as negligible in its power of ruling, as incalculable in its capacity for intrigue, as any oriental sultanate... " When governments run out of energy, they become like courts not cabinets.
Now that the momentum of the government has collapsed, its ministers become eddies of factional interests. And Her Majesty's Government is turning into a theatre playing out the comic drama of position, poisoning, assassination, betrayal. Added interest comes from the excruciating tension of a final inevitable crisis.
Does anyone think that Gordon can pull it off any more? That a programme of renewal can be conceived, worked out, written up and communicated in these conditions of perpetual bombardment? He has to cope not just with the casualties of the June elections, but the firestorm of MPs' expenses in July. Rumour has it that three or four cabinet ministers are going to be blown out of their clothes by lurid revelations.
Meanwhile, out there in the world, the teaching unions vote to defy the law in an act of collective civil disobedience. It's a little more than tweaking the prime minister's tail. That small collapse of our civic order could really be the start of something. An awful lot of discontent has built up over Gordon's decade of dirigisme. And the failure of authority goes directly back to him. He is the central disaster.
Boris Johnson was asked last week whether he thought power corrupts. He replied: "Power reveals." Power has indeed revealed Gordon Brown. It has undone him and exposed his workings, his mechanisms, his motivations, his modus operandi, his character, his destiny.
He has marched with an unerring tread from his Downing Street launch two years ago to his final bunker. He was always headed here.
The essence of bunker life is that you are divorced from reality. You can no longer see for yourself. Reports come through but they are tailored to what you want to hear, or what your courtiers want to tell you. Historians are press-ganged in to provide examples of sudden, amazing victories. Astrologers or economists provide good news, encouraging news. But time is only going one way, and usually there's only one way out of the bunker.Reuse content