A little further analysis of Cameron’s speech is required before we move on. From Jane Merrick to John Rentoul though to Peter Riddell the views are the same, the speech didn't inspire. Riddell sums up the past three weeks well:
I doubt if the conference season has changed the political landscape. The Liberal Democrats were ill-disciplined; Labour was defiant in face of expectations of defeat; and the Conservatives were trying not to be overconfident — with only partial success. Voters still have reservations about the Tories. They are heading to be the biggest party in the next Parliament, but cannot yet be sure of an overall majority.
Then we come to Martin Kettle. He demolishes the case that Cameron and Osborne have put this week and then comes to this conclusion:
This was a speech which, to adapt another cliche, may unseal the deal. An energised Labour party, under an effective leader, could do the Tories a lot of damage right now.
Bagehot suggests Cameron’s speech was rather good and then:
Mr Cameron doesn’t have to be the most talented politician in the world. He only needs to be a better and more appealing one than Mr Brown. And he unquestionably is.
So, Cameron’s speech returns us to the ‘little local difficulty’ of Brown’s leadership. There is no need to rehearse all the arguments yet again. However, Cameron’s performance throughout the week did prove that Brown will be no match for Our Dave during the election campaign. The TV leaders’ debates will be a non-contest.
As Kettle suggests, the important debate about policy will only be effective if Labour has a new leader. This matter can’t be left much longer. Any momentum that Cameron and Gambler George gain from their outing to Manchester has to be stopped before it is too late.
One key plank of the Tory strategy is that Brown remains in post. They have written him off, as have the rest of us. John Rentoul, having completed his conference tour, reports:
The Conservatives are united in wanting Gordon Brown to remain as leader of the Labour Party. The Labour Party is united behind the opposite proposition, but divided and despairing about whether there is anything it can do about it.
The conference season hasn't changed the political landscape. The situation remains the same as it was, but with one key difference. Time is marching on.
Finally, we come back to the point repeatedly made. Do Labour MPs have the will to fight? Over the next few weeks we will find out.