The Telegraph's Anne McElvoy compares him to King Lear, and there is certainly more than a hint of the ailing king in the Prime Minister, alluded to early in Tony Blair's premiership when an "unnamed source" referred to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer as "psychologically flawed". Former Daily Mirror executive David Seymour later identified this to have been the odious spin doctor Alistair Campbell, the same who advised reporters on behalf of Blair that "we don't do God". (This was, of course, long before Blair joined the Roman Catholic Church and proceeded to lecture the Pope on his "entrenched" attitude on homosexuality.)
A trio of female ministers have resigned from Brown's Government in recent days: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears and Europe Minister Caroline Flint. The first two resigned because of implications of the Telegraph's revelations about MPs' expenses for their integrity. Flint, however, did not have to resign, so one might position her as Cordelia, who out of Lear's daughters spoke plainly out of loyalty and filial devotion. Indeed, Cordelia says in Act One, Scene One of Lear,
But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,
I would prefer him to a better place.
She also objected to being treated as "female window dressing", which personally I found strange coming from somebody who had posed for glamorous pics for a Sunday magazine. Flint's no Cordelia, then.
I am extremely disappointed at your failure to have an inclusive Government...I am not willing to attend Cabinet in a peripheral capacity any longer.
In my current role, you advised that I would attend Cabinet when Europe was on the agenda. I have only been invited once since October and not to a single political Cabinet – not even the one held a few weeks before the European elections.
Preofessor Calculus compares Brown to Banquo, friend of his fellow general Macbeth, who was later killed by the latter and his wife. Not that I'm comparing any of our three worthy ladies to Lady Macbeth, who at least bolsters her husband in his conviction that "'twere well/It were done quickly" (Scene VII/Act 1). It would be hypocritical of me to say that I feel sorry for Brown, who is completing Blair's work of taking decision-making out of the hands of the House of Commons and putting it into the hands of senior executives who do nothing but set targets based on the last set of ticked boxes. But I take no pleasure in seeing him lurch from crisis to crisis, stuck in a rut of believing that he is doing the right thing.
Near the start of Macbeth, the three witches prophesy that he will be a king, but also that doomed Banquo will beget a line of them. The resignations of Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears and Caroline Flint were timed to do maximum damage to Brown, which will ensure that any candidate for leader they endorse will receive astronomical publicity - they are, effectively, kingmakers.
But Shakespeare doesn't tell us one thing - what happened to the witches? Orson Welles, in his production of the unlucky play, adds a line to the end in which one witch says to the others "Peace, the charm's wound up"; on the other hand, Roman Polanski's bloody production ends with Duncan's son Donalbain entering the witches' hovel, indicating that he wishes to drink from the poisoned chalice of power, his older brother being king after their father's regicide at the hands of the Macbeths: the cycle begins again.
So what will become of our ladies? I think that, should they decide to become kingmakers, the one they put on the throne, fearful of Polanski's interpretation, will always bear it in mind that they turned on their leader before. They could do worse than listen to Lady Macbeth:
'Tis safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.