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Friday, April 18, 2008 

Imagine... imagine... imagine a story....

It's difficult to even begin to imagine what was going through the mind of Angela Smith MP yesterday. Perhaps she was laying there in bed on Wednesday night, tossing and turning, thinking about the meetings she's had with her constituents, rereading the letters in her head from those who've previously loyally voted Labour that were not angry, but just bitterly disappointed with how they'd been betrayed by a supposedly socially democratic government over the removal of the 10p top rate of tax, feeling disillusioned with how her own party was taking from the lowest paid and giving to middle earners just as the economic weather has turned. Resigning would have been extreme, and damaged the government as a whole, but it would have been highly principled and could, just could force a change in the policy, unlikely, but vaguely possible. Most of her spineless colleagues would have thought this over, finally fell to sleep and then would have dismissed it in the morning, like most do those bizarre, foolish ideas that tend to plague you in the middle of the night and then instantly regret even thinking up. But no, she would be strong, and go through with it!

It's even more difficult to begin to imagine what was going through her mind when she suddenly decided that she wasn't then going to resign after all. It's easy to see government as an extended family, Smith as the disobedient child, having told Cooper, her furious, snarling, teeth-gnawing mother, the corners of her mouth already flecked with spit, that she was going to quit. "You better well phone up your father Gordon and tell him then!"

And so she did. Quite what Gordon, away in Washington on important business, told her that reassured is even more difficult to imagine. It certainly wasn't the news that they weren't going to go through with the tax rate change after all. The terse, through gritted teeth statement, so obviously spin doctor scripted, saying that Gordon had convinced her that the government's anti-poverty agenda remains unchanged even while 5.2 million will be losing out, just made an embarrassing situation even more mortifying. Perhaps the real reason she rowed back was because Gordon had threatened to have her sent to Siberia. It's more a convincing explanation than Brown winning her over with the sheer power of his argument. From standing up to her parents to making even Clare Short look dignified all within 24 hours, not even Armando Iannucci could have imagined it.

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