At a debate last week, former Labour communications boss and BBC journalist Joy Johnson criticised the political hacks who have repeatedly drummed up stories about Gordon Brown’s embattled position and potential challenges to his leadership over the past few months. (“It’s pathetic” were her actual words.)


Johnson said a large part of it could be put down to editors pushing their lobby correspondents for splashworthy stories that would keep them riffing on a consistent theme.


A couple of interesting nuggets have surfaced in the press over the past few days.


In The Sunday Telegraph, Melissa Kite says Brown is increasingly having trouble with his good eye, which she suggests may developing into a “serious disability”:


The Prime Minister’s close friends have revealed that he can only see extremely large print and has needed guidance at public events. There were suggestions that if Mr Brown falls or bumps into something his damaged retina could fail and he would go blind completely…


Insiders revealed that Mr Brown’s memos are in huge print and triple spaced while his own handwriting is getting larger. One senior official said: “If I want him to reply to an email, I always make sure it’s in at least 36 point.” That is five times as large as standard print size.

Meanwhile, psychologist Lucy Beresford told the BBC on Friday she thought his decision to bring Mandelson back to Cabinet government was a form of “self mutilation”. She went on:


He certainly needs self love. He is a deeply insecure person and he has quite a great inferiority complex which habitually he has compensated for by over spending.  Compulsive spending, often with money he doesn’t have, and we collude with a lot of his dysfunctional behaviour.  So if he wants love, we could give it to him but that might not be what he needs.


Both pieces are reprisals of riffs we’ve already heard – Brown is psychologically or temperamentally unfit for the premiership. Although this doesn’t necessarily make them any more valid, it’s interesting to see them playing on relentlessly in a week that has arguably been a fairly decent one from the PM’s point of view (even if for everyone else it has been pretty grim).


Labour MPs got a rare chuckle on Wednesday when the clunking fist gave David Cameron his first bashing for a while in PMQs. The Tories have been torn between the desire to present themselves as tough on City fat cats and the urge to appeal to the Surrey masses. And Brown even managed to crack a dark joke when a mobile went off during a speech – “another bank falling?” he quipped.


The momentum of negative popular and media opinion against the PM remains formidable. There also may be a good reason the tide of favour is almost the exact inverse of New Labour’s fledgling days, when its glittering PR machine won over so many editors and producers. In Joy Johnson’s words:


They [Campbell and Mandelson] professionalised and elevated the party’s campaigning. They used the media to change the party, the politics, the policies, and the media bought the story. [But] it became too much, too much message, too much control.


You get the feeling it’s going to be a long time before the media fill their boots so readily again.