Think we’re bluffing?

Benedict Brogan think things are coming to a head. Who will blink first is the question:

The latest from inside the Government machine tonight is that Ruth Kelly is pretty much on her own in the row over adoption rights. John Hutton is the only Cabinet minister who has stood up to Alan Johnson and said he backs her. Lord Falconer has set the tone – you can’t discriminate on who gets protected by anti-discrimination laws. The Prime Minister is sympathetic to the Church’s position – and not just because his wife is a Catholic – but is pragmatic enough to see that there is no support for an exemption in the PLP.

Gordon Brown and John Reid have said nothing. Reid is a Catholic with enough trouble on his plate. The Chancellor has no reason to get involved, although I’m told he believes the time to have the argument about how the Equality Act should work was before it became law. Now is too late.

So tonight the word is the Government is preparing to call the Church’s bluff. Senior ministers believe that when it comes to it, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor will not make good his threat to close seven Catholic adoption agencies. Personally, I wouldn’t take that bet.

And the expectation is that faced with a choice between her job and her faith, Ruth Kelly will call it quits and resign from the Cabinet. She’s had a tough time, she has no support in the PLP and it will be downhill from here if she stays.

By the way, Downing Street officials are describing Alan Johnson, the charismatic former postman, as “to the left of Stonewall”.

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