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Gary Younge
King Gordon's hollow court

Gordon Brown's ascent to the Labour party leadership without a challenge puts him at the helm of an organisation that is clearly rotting from the head down.

Labour has just been drubbed in local elections, trails in the polls and the man set to take over is even less popular than the one they are getting rid of. You would think that on its own would provide sufficient reason for Labour to want to seize the opportunity to have a debate about its future.

The fact that John McDonnell could not garner enough votes to stand is a shame. It confirms the terminal decline of the left within the Labour party. His bid was only ever symbolic - in essence what he offered Gordon Brown was an election without a challenge. But the symbolism was important.

The fact that no one else came forward from the centre of the party is in some ways more worrying. That nobody wanted to discuss the precipitous decline in membership, the alienation of the party base, the growing Tory threat, the war, the economy - nothing - suggests that this is a party that does not have self-preservation at heart, that the battle between Brown and Blair really was about nothing. A party devoid of ideas and democratic impulses that has now lost its electoral instincts - the only instincts New Labour really ever had.

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