25 July 2009

Cameron just needs to hold on to that Ming vase

Your eyes will roll over this morning as you scan the papers.  In fact, mine did last night when Charles Clarke popped up on Newsnight in predictable fashion.  Not being content to make his point once, he goes into print in the Indy on Brown’s style:

This incompetent and unjust style has deeply damaged democratic politics. Moreover the appalling result in Norwich illustrates the important political side-effect that Labour, as the governing party, has been injured worst of all.

Now Barry Sheerman:

….morale among Labour members is low and the party is in a "desperate situation".

And the boy Balls looks over the horizon to when he will challenge for the leadership and deals with James Purnell in McBride style:

There are times when individuals in their early 40s have crises. They buy motorbikes or go off and travel round the world and have a gap year. Sometimes people do that. I don’t think for political parties to have those kinds of moments is very sensible, especially when you are at your moment of greatest clarity and vision.

He says now is not the time “to be going off to think tanks to find out what your identity really is”

Charming stuff that gets Balls or the Labour party nowhere.  As for Clarke and Sheerman, we have heard it all before.  Neither is saying anything new nor offer any solutions to Labour's predicament because there aren't any.  The Blair, Brown era is over.

As for Alan Johnson, it is all too late.  John Rentoul, who is dead right about Brown being unelectable in England, will keep banging the AJ4PM drum as I will, but Labour MPs haven't the stomach for the fight.  Rentoul’s colleague, Steve Richards, sums the situation up:

The rebels had their chance to remove Brown last month and failed. As one of them told me a few days ago: "We did not have an alternative candidate. In the end that is what explains what went wrong". They still do not have one.

Key cabinet ministers also made their choice when, in their different ways, they supported Brown last month. Lord Mandelson, Alan Johnson and David Miliband are unlikely to revisit those decisions in the autumn. Some of those who might have played their part in another insurrection are leaving politics altogether.

Partially the course is set. Labour has no other candidate to lead them. As one cabinet minister put it to me yesterday: "I just can't imagine Alan Johnson preparing for the next G8 summit and the pre-Budget report."

Indeed so.  Would Johnson want it in the present situation even if it was handed it to him on a plate?

Which brings us to David Cameron.  So long as he takes the advice that I remember Barbara Castle giving the young Blair when he became Labour leader, then Cameron will win the election.  She told Blair not to make any mistakes and wondered whether he had the killer instinct.

Perhaps Roy Jenkins’ description of Blair’s approach to the 1997 election as being like an elderly butler carrying a Ming vase across a slippery floor from one end of a room to the other equally applies to Cameron today.

Brown may get a couple dead cat bounces in the polls.  No doubt there will be countless initiatives and policy launches.  There may well be more plots and attempted coups, Alan Johnson may well take over, Afghanistan or some other unknown may force Brown out, but it will not matter.  So long as Cameron doesn't make any mistakes and drop that Ming vase, Labour has lost the election.  Clarke, Sheerman, Balls and certainly James Purnell know it.

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  1. It's less like carrying a Ming vase across a polished floor and more like a round in 'It's a knock-out' where Cameron has to transport a leaky bucket of water across a revolving turntable, whilst NuLabour hurl wet sponges at him (of course, they miss and hit each other - cue hysterical laughter from Stuart Hall).

  2. To be honest, Brown lost it with the Autumn Statement last year. They could have cut taxes for the low paid or reinstated the 10p starting rate. Instead they decided to cut VAT.

    However, that's not to say that Cameron has won the Election, there are still many people he needs to convince that he IS the heir apparent. After all Westminster Elections are not won by one side sitting on its hands.