The reason I suggest that Brown has lost control, comes from the pathetic excuse he gave for not attending the vote. From the Andrew Sparrow at the Guardian:
Downing Street said today that Brown did not attend the Commons to vote because he had important government meetings and because he knew the option he favoured was going to be defeated by a significant majority.This was a free vote, so Brown could claim that his own MPs could vote against him. However, It has been alleged that "Government whips were seen nodding Labour MPs through the lobbies in support of the anti-reform amendment". This of course means that the Whips were directing Labour MPs to vote against the Prime Minister's wishes. So who is in charge of the Government? Gordon Brown or the Labour Party Whips? It looks for all the world to be the Whips. And I'm afraid that on such an important decision "I was busy" is not good enough from the Prime Minister.
David Cameron said: "There is an urgent need for reform, which is why I led my shadow cabinet to vote against the John Lewis list. "Gordon Brown also had a real opportunity to show leadership and vote for change but once again he bottled it. "On the one hand, he expresses disappointment at last night's result, yet he didn't even turn up for the vote. His excuse that he was in a meeting is utterly feeble, particularly when his whips were herding people in to wreck the reforms."