Brown lives to fight another day

He has defied political gravity and steered a way through this minefield reshuffle

Yet again Gordon Brown has defied his critics and lived to fight another day. In what seemed like an impossible reshuffle, he correctly judged that moving Alistair Darling against his will to the Home Office would have spelt the end of his government. And by successfully easing Alan Johnson into the post, he has neutralised his chief rival for the leadership and strengthened his premiership. That Johnson has decided to remain loyal - albeit perhaps on the theory "he who wields the knife never wears the crown" - is infinitely significant. At a stroke, Brown has defied political gravity and - with the help of Peter Mandelson - steered a way through this minefield reshuffle.

Of course, the perceived crisis is not over yet. The public read that a government is in free-fall. More voices are likely to call for Brown to go, as Douglas Alexander conceded this morning.But - for now at least - Brown has yet again reminded the political world why it is wrong to write him off. Of course, it is exciting to declare "he's finished". But the boring reality remains that Brown will remain leader, at least until a general election which still, after all, looks set for next year.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.