Economic recovery plan postponed, fresh doubt about Brown’s recovery

Whatever he says about making sure the devolution of policing and justice goes ahead, Gordon Brown will have other, bigger things on his mind over the next few days. First he has to cope with the humiliation of having to postpone today’s planned announcement of phase two of his economic rescue plan, a one-off payment of £100 to the poorest families to help with soaring fuel bills. As the FT puts it: “Ministers are locked in a high stakes negotiation with the energy companies in an attempt to wring enough money out of them to satisfy 90 Labour MPs who want to subject the sector to a windfall tax”. The writing was on the wall as long ago as last week, when the utility companies failed to bow to Brown’s threat of a windfall tax. The companies hold all the cards: The government wants utility companies to keep the lights on, to build thousands of wind farms to meet new renewable energy targets – and now to stump up for a windfall tax to cut prices for the poorest customers. Something has to give. A spokesman for Eon says: ‘We can’t do it all.’ And if that wasn’t enough, Labour ex-home secretary Charles Clarke seems to be sounding the trumpet for a revolt to ditch Brown just in time to cast a deeper shadow over the other part of recovery – the Prime Minister’s survival.That’s the interpretation the pro-Tory Daily Mail is putting on it anyway. But the BBC’s Nick Robinson isn’t far off. Two sentences pack a terrific punch “Labour’s current course will lead to utter destruction at the next general election.” “There is, however, a deep and widely shared concern – which does not derive from ideology – that Labour is destined to disaster if we go on as we are, combined with a determination that we will not permit that to happen.”

Turning the New Labour slogan of 1997 on its head: “Things can only get worse.”