Just a few short months ago, I suggested that Gordon Brown would win the next election whenever it was called. He looked pretty invincible at the time, but his position has been steadily eroded. By now he looks like a man no longer in control of his own destiny.
It’s not the detail of the various stories, or twists on stories, which are damaging, so much as the way in which there is always more. As John Major found out in his turn, it's the steady drip, drip, drip which does the job. And when a tap is dripping, merely trying to turn it tighter and tighter won’t solve the problem in the long term, and rarely helps in the short term either. Just when he thinks the worst is over, someone asks another awkward question which fires the next twist or turn.
The parallel with John Major, whilst far from perfect, does have some resonance in other ways as well. The attempts to tough it out; the attempts to hold on to his friends when he should be sacrificing them for the greater good; the attempts to rationalise the individual stories as being unimportant in themselves - these all bring back memories of the past.
Equally familiar are the attempts to turn the fire back on the accusers, and draw attention to their misdeeds – to say nothing of the way in which the accusers conveniently ignore their own misdeeds whilst they press home the attack, and somehow get away with it.
Loyalists refer to a media frenzy – it’s a fair point, but I’m afraid it’s irrelevant. Fairness is no longer the issue nor the story. The story now is Brown, and the way he deals with the series of crises which have befallen him.
I suspect that Brown is genuinely angry at what has been done by some of those around him, and rightly so. I suspect that he feels that having a number of prominent people hounded out of office for pretty minor misdemeanours is unfair and unjust – and he may well be right on that. It is a sad reflection on the body politic that being right is just not enough. Perception is what counts, and things have already gone too far.
Is all lost? Actually, I don’t think that it is – yet. But it will be soon unless he gets a grip. He needs to clean out the stable, and to be seen to be doing so. A few heads rolling now, a clean breast of everything to the police and the Electoral Commission so as to get the investigations concluded quickly, and quick action to further tighten the rules on the funding of political parties could all wrongfoot the Tories, and leave them struggling for funding. They are, after all, even more dependent on large personal donations than Labour. Shadowy organisations and funds could do with a little more investigation too.
The very worst thing he can do is appear to procrastinate.