In the past two months Gordon Brown's brand has been "badly trashed" and the good work of his honeymoon period undone, says The Observer's Andrew Rawnsley.
Claims on competence have been undermined by "Northern Rock and the lost data discs"; claims on trust "corroded by the on-off election and the donations imbroglio". A double-digit Labour poll lead has turned into a double-digit Tory lead in just eight weeks. To Brown's horror, he has even suffered the indignity of being conferred with the Order of the Grey Underpants, owing to parallels between his and John Majors time in office.
Ive never seen the House of Commons in a mood quite like this, says Peter Oborne in the Daily Mail. Ministers are "hollow-eyed and drained", nothing of importance happens, Labour backbenchers are "listless" and some are even beginning to discuss ways of replacing Brown.
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I've heard rumours, too, says John Rentoul in The Independent. Some insiders have apparently become so frustrated that they think they may have to find a new leader before the next election either Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Schools, or David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary. While this sounds "most improbable", the fact that people are talking about it at all speaks volumes.
Brown's instinctive response has been to step up his already frantic work schedule, says The Times. This is counterproductive. He will not improve his standing by embarking on yet another set of initiatives, especially if they involve more state interference into our lives.
Brown needs the Christmas Holiday like a boxer who has taken a terrible thumping needs the bell, says Peter Oborne. He needs to get patched up, confer with lieutenants and regain his strength. All is not lost, says Rawnsley. His dark weeks have not been as black as the poll-tax riots, which did for Margaret Thatcher, or Black Wednesday, which ruined John Major. Brown has life in him yet.
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