What they are saying about Gordon Brown quitting

Tory press furious at Nick Clegg’s decision to ‘play footsie’ with Labour

Gordon Brown

Last night's decision by Gordon Brown to stand down as leader of the Labour party in order to facilitate a governing coalition of Labour and the Liberal Democrats has unleashed a torrent of media comment overnight - including some very angry words from the Conservative-supporting press. "A squalid day for democracy," shouted the Daily Mail’s front page this morning, and that was before its furious columnists leapt on their soap-boxes.

Senior Tories like William Hague and Michael Gove have remained relatively calm about Nick Clegg discussing with the Tories and Labour simultaneously what they might offer in return for Lib Dem support. However, they are presumably seething underneath. As the Mole reported last night, Tory grandee Lord Heseltine, not bound by any diplomatic niceties, described Brown's move as "politics at its most sordid". He told Sky News: "Don't let's talk about national interest or dignity. This is politics at its most sordid."

And as for Sky News itself, its political editor Adam Boulton allowed the frustrations of the Rupert Murdoch-owned, Tory-backing media to bubble up when he let rip at Labour spin-doctor Alastair Campbell on live television yesterday evening. At the peak of their row, when the two men looked likely to coming to blows, Boulton issued what will surely go down as one of the quotes of the 2010 election, if not of the Blair-Brown years: "Don't tell me what to think!"

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Benedict Brogan, the Daily Telegraph: "If Mr Clegg does get into bed with Mr Brown, we will know that the politician who on Friday was the Mr Integrity of politics cannot be counted on to keep his word, either about whom he prefers to do business with or about delivering stable government. He will have entrenched the party that lost, given a second life to the Prime Minister who was voted out, and six months later put Britain in the hands of another leader without a popular mandate."

Richard Littlejohn, the Daily Mail: "This was much more than a hand grenade lobbed into the talks between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. It was a deliberate attempt to rip up the rules of decent behaviour and engineer a Labour hegemony without the consent of the people. Brown may ostensibly have been making overtures to Nick Clegg, but be assured that the Lib Dems are bit part players in this coup. Although he says he will resign as Prime Minister in time for the Labour conference, this is all about Brown's legacy.

Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian: "The trouble for Clegg is that he has no idea, and no influence over, who that person [the next Labour leader] will be. Labour are inviting Clegg on to a dance floor shrouded in darkness, allowing him to see the face of his partner only once the lights come on."

Nick Robinson, BBC political editor: "The real question is for Nick Clegg. Does he now stick to his chosen path and do a deal with the Conservatives to the fury of many in his party or does he switch to Labour, risking the wrath of those who will accuse him of creating a coalition of losers?"

Rachel Sylvester, the Times: "Mr Clegg is playing a dangerous double game, dancing with Mr Cameron while playing footsie under the table with Lord Mandelson."

Andrew Gilligan, the Daily Telegraph: "The next year or two would have been horrible enough for whoever was in charge, even if they'd had a clear majority. Without one, it will be simply a world of pain. I still think it's hugely unlikely we'll end up with red-yellow rule - I should imagine the current Lib/Lab negotiations are just Clegg's way of getting more from the Tories. But if it does somehow happen, the Tories will have dodged a bullet – and been handed an Exocet for later on."

Jackie Ashley, the Guardian: "The revelation of secret talks with Labour over the weekend has incensed many Tories. It is as if a bridegroom busy planning a wedding found his fiancée was secretly planning an alternative wedding with another suitor. If there's no trust at this stage, some Conservatives complain, what hope is there for the future?"

Donald Macintyre, the Independent: "The campaign he [Brown] fought – including in the televised debates – did in fact keep Labour in second place, removing fears that his party might be superseded by the Liberal Democrats. And provided Labour does not now tear itself apart, his resignation yesterday bequeaths the party the opportunity to start afresh and build a leadership of the next generation which can re-establish it as the main – and still potentially formidable – challenger to British Conservatism."

Adam Boulton, Sky News political editor: "This is a cabal in Number 10, basically playing politics with the country's future. What's interesting is that there's been no open consultation about this measure. We haven't seen the Cabinet meet, we haven't seen the Parliamentary Labour Party be recalled to a meeting - in fact, no Labour party meeting is scheduled until Tuesday. Under the rules Gordon Brown is perfectly able to make this offer but it does appear to be a very strong attempt to stick a large spanner into the bandwagon of whatever the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are doing. And the gamble for Gordon Brown is that it simply drives the others into each other's arms."

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Jack Bremer is a London-based reporter, attached to The Week.co.uk. He has reported regularly from the United States and France.