Gordon Brown has finally said sorry that his head of strategy was planning a vicious, lying campaign of smears against opposition politicians from his office in no10. Astonishingly, it has taken nearly a week for him to do not only the decent thing but the sensible thing. A man with any sense of morality would have apologised because it was the right thing to do. A man with any sense of media management would have faked the morality and also apologised. Instead, Gordon Brown failed to have any sense and so has kept public and press approbation running since the story first broke. The delay has done enormous damage to both the government and the image of the Labour party. It is likely that the latter is more dangerous because most Labour people are pretty moral and, more importantly, they are very concerned to be seen to be moral. If you puncture that self-image then they become pretty unhappy pretty quickly. Right now they are having to try and defend a no.10 operation that tried to smear political opponents' wives and uses anti-terror police to arrest people leaking information in the public interest. At least some of them are trying to defend it, quite a few aren't, including a number of senior backbenchers.
What happens next will be interesting. Brown has a variety of enemies inside the party and the polls remain awful for Labour. He has crushed any internal dissent in the past, but that was using the sort of appalling tactics that have now been exposed. My view is that a sane Labour party would have ditched him as leader long since, but the brothers can be sentimental compared to the relative ruthlessness of the Conservatives. Now, that sense of sentiment might work against Brown. Harold Wilson said that the Labour party 'is a moral crusade or it is nothing'. Most of them really believe that.