Suspicious regularity

What do the following have in common?

Robin Cook
Peter Mandelson
Stephen Byers
David Blunkett
Charles Clarke
John Reid

Well, two things. All were important opponents or rivals of Gordon Brown. Second, all had their cabinet careers undercut and undermined, at least in part, by leaks from within government.

Only in the case of Peter Mandelson was the leaking directly attributable to Brown's supporters. In other cases it came mostly from within the minister's own department.

I wish to say nothing in defence of any of these men. All have or had serious flaws, and in many cases only themselves to blame for their demise. The one least fairly treated would probably be Reid, currently being eviscerated by the media for failings in his department which mostly predate his appointment as Home Secretary.

But I do question the suspicious regularity with which Gordon Brown's rivals are cut to pieces. It may be, mostly, a matter of luck. Robin Cook was lazy in his approach to his briefings, and the arrogant way he treated his officials meant they chose not to cover for him. The professional misjudgements of Stephen Byers and the ethical misjudgements of Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett are the stuff of legends.

And yet, there comes a point when we can no longer believe in coincidence. Brown's enemies cannot all be so unlucky. Can they?

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