Can Brown recover?

Maybe, says the Economist.

Can Mr Brown reverse the dynamics? He has been offered no shortage of advice from his party. Turn left, say those who never much cared for the New in New Labour, and in his weakness see a chance to ditch it. Smile more, say others—though when Mr Brown tries to speak human he seems less convincing than when he sticks to macroeconomics. There are a few who, despite the risk of looking chaotically undemocratic, simply enjoin him to go: over half the Labour supporters in a Populus poll for the Times want him out.

Mr Brown can scarcely complain about disloyalty, for he helped to inculcate a taste for plots and mutinies during his long march to Downing Street. But would his removal improve things? From the Labour Party’s point of view, there are too many flimsy contenders to replace him and scarcely any serious ones. The struggle to get rid of a leader causes lasting damage—as the Tories, who only recently recovered from the civil war unleashed by the ouster of Lady Thatcher, know well. Besides, the Tories need a huge swing to form a government at the next election, probably in 2010. They are still planning for a hung parliament. Scandal, or an eruption of atavistic, Conservatism may yet weaken Mr Cameron. The new mayor of London, Boris Johnson, now an icon of Tory resurgence, may embarrass his party.