It does not look good for the prime minister. Mr Purnell’s resignation could well be fatal for Mr Brown. A resigning cabinet minster has put the matter in the cleares possible terms, calling for Mr Brown to step aside for the party’s sake, and for the country’s sake.
Momentum is a cruel thing. Once this psychological tabu, calling for the prime minister to resign, is broken, more and more Labour MPs may join in to oust the premier. Facing catastrophe, perhpas it’s natural to look for a cathartic event.
It is possible that Mr Brown can push through his reshuffle and still be in No 10, but it seems less and less likely. Even if he were to manage to cobble together a cabinet and snuff out the rebellion within the party, his authority will be much diminished, and the party demoralized.
By later this morning, a clearer picture should emerge, and whatever happens, today will be remebered as one of the defining moments of modern Britain. It may well be the last scenes of the Labour party’s tragedy: there will either be a party in disarray, without a leader descending into introspection, or a gravely weakened prime minister whose authority and power are reduced to almost nothing. Whatever the outcome, Labour is facing the abyss, an electoral annihilation, whenever the next general election is called.