From the report in the Sunday Times that suggests Brown will go on and on:
Gordon has said he believes his enemies in the party are too divided among themselves to force him out.
There is nothing like stating the obvious.
Turnout will be key. 59% in 2001, 61% in 2005, what will it be 2010? Will the expenses scandal galvanise the public to turnout and vote out an incumbent? Or, as is possible, the public feel so fed up with politicians that they won’t bother voting at all? The lower the turnout the greater benefit for the Tories. If turnout is in the low 50s, it could be a Tory majority of 50 or more; in the mid to high 50s and there would be a Tory majority of 20 to 50; in the low 60s and it falls to under 20; in the mid 60s and we get into hung Parliament territory but with the help of the Ulster MPs the Tories would be sitting on the front benches. If turnout hits the high 60s or low 70s a Labour/LibDem coalition could be on the cards, and if it is in the high 70s then a Labour overall majority is the most likely result.
The share of the vote:
The media are fixated on reporting the lead, the gap between Labour and the Tories. Often it is the most misleading figure of all, but it makes for easy headlines.
Watch the shares for each party, not the lead. And first thing have a look at the lead for the opposition party. In past elections it was Labour. Now it is the Tories. If the Tories don’t achieve 40% of the vote share (and there were nine polls during October and November showed them beneath that mark) then they won’t have an overall majority, based on a uniform swing.
Fascinating stuff. It well reading his post in full and also here where Worcester gets to the heart of the small matter that the Labour party has refused to face up to:
This leads to a little question:
How is the party going to increase its share of the vote and motivate the electorate to go to the polls and vote Labour?
We have been there so many times that there is no need to bother with the answer, but Worcester gives his prediction:
The election’s on the 6th of May (at least that’s my best guess, but Gordon could call it any time). Cameron will be in No. 10 the next day. I’ll go that far, based on what I know now and my judgment of what may happen over the next three months.
Will Cameron have an overall majority? I don’t know, nobody else does either.
But it didn't have to be like this, did it?
In case you are wondering, the ridiculous is Clare Short.
Her foolish remarks on the non-Marr Show (he was away) may well cause Sir John Chilcot to revise his usual opening statement to witnesses.
There are two sentences from John Rentoul's article in the Indy today that will firmly stick in the mind:
Because one of the interesting questions for history is how Iraq broke the Labour Party. It drove it to the madness of undermining and driving out its most successful leader.
That is the tragedy of it all.
What is going on with Team Cameron? Yesterday, we had a little discussion about the Tory party and the small problem they are having with their policy agenda.
Today, and not for the first time, up pops an article detailing what is going to happen if they win the election. There is a cunning plan for the return of Iain Duncan Smith.
Cameron’s priorities before the election are to demonstrate that he has the right policies for the country. The management of his proposed government are the subject for private discussions with the civil service at the present time.
They shouldn't be in the newspapers and certainly not now.
Finally, after six hours of questioning at the Iraq Inquiry the Blair-baiting brigade got the headline they were looking for when Chilcot asked Blair if he had any regrets. However, the ‘Let’s embarrass the former Prime Minister’ platoon struck gold even before Blair had uttered a word.
Lead by the over-excitable Nick Robinson, this platoon had great delight in reporting how Blair was so nervous as he took his seat in front of Chilcot & Co. Robinson then took to the airwaves and even blogged about it:
His face was stretched taut with nerves. His top lip appeared to be locked solid. As the Iraq inquiry's chairman, Sir John Chilcot, told the world that this was not a trial, the witness's hands opened a bottle of water, his hands visibly shaking.
Tony Blair clasped both hands together in front of him to steady himself as Sir John expressed the hope that the inquiry could go about its business in an orderly way without disruption.
Did we really need to know this pointless stuff? Who wouldn't have been nervous in the same situation?
Robinson has a responsible job to do. There many that are not that interested in politics who probably turn to BBC’s political editor for the odd bit of news. Do they really need to know this trivial nonsense?
A few weeks ago he totally discredited himself over the latest failed coup, much to the delight of many. His reporting is often sloppy.
Robinson will not be best pleased if, on the night of the election, someone reports how nervous he is at the start of the BBC’s results programme.
It is time the BBC replaced Robinson with someone credible, who is able to use his or her judgement before rushing recklessly onto the latest news bulletin.
There is no need to waste time reading up on coverage on A Class Act, what a few other individuals have been saying or how Chilcot & Co have gone about their little task.
Peter Hennessy, who knows rather more than the rest of us on how these damp islands are governed, has two interviews out there. His views are important.
On Politics UK, he says the “legal question was the fault line beneath the Blair government” and the “pivot of the entire story”.
On Today, he says that Blair was rather “shaky in an otherwise very competent performance” on the legal question.
What Hennessy should address (unfortunately he wasn't asked the question in either interview), is whether the Iraq Inquiry, made up of non-lawyers, is the platform where the legal matters should be addressed.
As discussed, Hennessey is going to have to write the definitive account on Iraq. In his view, Iraq is “no end of a lesson”.
Sometimes, but not that often, it worth taking a look at the Daily Mail to see how they are covering the important matters of the moment. Surprisingly, Blair doesn't get the front page treatment. That is given over to the rather complex story of what the England football captain has been doing in his spare time.
No matter, there is always Peter Oborne to give us his objective thoughts on Brown, Blair and everything in between, but not today. Instead, we are treated to a piece on the growing splits between David and George. Things are looking up.
Twelve weeks (or less) from the election, there is a small debate going between the modern day Blair and Brown double act. First, they have fallen out over Tory tax policy on marriage or ‘towards the family’, as Oborne describes it. However, it is when we move on to ‘cuts’ that things become interesting.
At his press conference, when Cameron assumed that the growth figures would be more than 0.1%, he made the bold statement cuts would have to start now. Within 72 hours he has changed his mind:
On Thursday, Cameron conceded in an interview with the BBC business editor Robert Peston at Davos that making cuts too early could have the effect of jeopardising economic recovery.
The truth is that Cameron is significantly more nervous than Osborne about spending cuts. Indeed, his comment didn't go down at all well in his No 2's office because Cameron appeared to be endorsing Labour criticism of the Tory economic policy.
And yesterday, making a speech to British businessmen, he widened the fissure with Osborne by insisting the cuts did not have to be 'particularly extensive'.
There must have been some raised eyebrows amongst our banking friends at Davos when these comments were circulated for discussion. Cameron has got himself into another fine mess.
Then we get to the politics. Brown will, of course, delight in this. More importantly, the latest little local difficulty between D&G, beautifully outlined by Oborne, plays right into the hands of Mandy, who wants nothing better than to isolate Osborne and destroy his credibility.
The Tories can’t afford to be split on this fundamental of policies at this stage, and have their friends in the press highlight their muddled thinking.
We are eight weeks out from the expected start of the election campaign and Cameron is making too many mistakes, because he is not clear in his own mind what Tory policy is.
It is getting rather late in the day to start putting the toothpaste back in the tube. The electorate will start noticing that the Tories do not have a coherent policy agenda.
They can’t all be correct. Perhaps they have been produced to confuse Gordon Brown, as he dithers over the date of the election.
Just what is going on? Who knows. Not the pollsters. Are they are economists in disguise?
Blair, so the story goes, needed a sofa to take those all important decisions with a few close colleagues, but not Thatcher:
It is most important that we get the structure and strategy right and I have already come to the conclusion that I shall have to make most of the important decisions myself.
Except, of course, she didn't. When it came to fighting the odd war, Uncle Harold Macmillan had to be called in to tell her how to do it. She later said:
I never regretted following Harold Macmillan's advice. We were never tempted to compromise the security of our forces for financial reasons. Everything we did was governed by military necessity.
Not only Jim Murphy, but now Jacqui Smith, who is certain to lose her seat at the election. She is speaking to ever-present Andrew Neil on BBC’s Straight Talk (not yet on-line):
Neil: And can we be in any doubt now that Mr Blair was forced to leave earlier than he wanted to because Mr Brown and his people were pushing so hard?
Smith: I think it’s likely that Tony left probably earlier than he might have done had there not been that pressure placed upon him. I sometimes say about my time as Chief Whip that I never lost a vote but I did lose a Prime Minister.
Just weeks before the election is called, discipline is breaking down in that once great Labour election winning machine that Blair built.
Assuming Brown remains in post, there will be more of this as we move towards the election. Labour knows it has lost.
At the end of the day when some of us are left wondering what might have been if Blair had still been Prime Minster, we have the latest poll from Angus Reid:
CON 40%(nc), LAB 24%(nc), LDEM 19%(-1).
Nothing has changed. The electorate have made up their minds.
Mike Smithson comments:
The only conclusion you can draw is that Labour is failing to make up lost ground as the time left for Mr. Brown is running out.
For Gordon Brown time has run out.
Oh dear. On the day the Tony Blair shows us all how to do it (again), Jim Murphy, Secretary of State for Scotland, has said this about Gordon Brown:
Sometimes he is rubbish on telly and that is the truth and I have said it before and in a world where the premium is on a seven-second clip or a soundbite, Gordon and his intellect do not fit into seven seconds.
Then, in hope without much confidence:
I just hope when it comes to the election, people want substance sometimes not with the greatest PR in the world, rather than some airbrushed guy from posters.
I am not saying David Cameron is a stupid man, far from it, but in a contest of intellect, in a contest of substance and of PR then Gordon wins two out of three. The nearer we get to the election, it can’t just be about the packaging; it has to be about the content.
The problem is that an election is not an intellectual exercise.
Blair, of course, understood this and still does.
This is vintage Blair. We have all forgotten how good he is.
Blair is on top of his brief, coherent, logical, referring to documents with ease and always one step ahead of the Inquiry, which he has dominated from the start.
Blair is not there to answer on the details and the Inquiry recognises this. He is there to defend the principles of the policy that he followed and has succeeded with ease. He has not slipped up once.
What Blair has again demonstrated today is why he was such a good Prime Minster. It is all broad, big picture stuff, and more importantly, he has the vital ability to communicate effectively.
This is all bad news for Gordon Brown. Blair makes him look out of his depth and an amateur in comparison.
The more important session is to come when Blair deals with the legal aspects and the post-war phase. This is where Blair is most vulnerable.
Within 30 minutes Blair had stamped his authority on the Inquiry and won the power battle with Sir Roderic Lyne.
Remember what David Miliband once said:
In six months time people will be saying, wouldn't it be nice to have that Tony Blair back.
When Blair delivered his final speech to the Labour party conference in 2006, George Osborne was so impressed he sent a text message along the lines, “Thank God he’s going.
There have been twelve Prime Minsters since the end of the war. Only four have been outstanding, Atlee, Macmillan, Thatcher and Blair.
Whatever your views, Tony Blair rescued the Labour party from itself and three times delivered sizeable working majorities.
Today, he should be allowed a fair hearing. Hopefully, he will be listened to without interruption and with the respect that should be shown to a former Prime Minister of this country.
Let us all watch and listen and not rush to judgement. For whatever is said today, closure on Iraq may not come for some years, and certainly not before Chilcot’s report is published.
Today, Blair will show us all how to it. He is A Class Act.
As Tony Blair returns to the centre of the national stage for one last time, Martin Kettle says what will be running through the minds of a few of us as his evidence unfolds:
The level of hyperbole has been raised so high, and the level of Blair-hatred is so intense in some quarters, that anyone who says "Yes, but" about Blair and his era struggles to make themselves heard, much less have themselves taken seriously.
Yet heard we should be. And heard we probably still are – by rather more people than some may credit – the further one journeys away from medialand self-absorption and the rantings of parts of the blogosphere, I suspect. Only 29% of voters think Iraq was Blair's fault, said a PoliticsHome poll last night. The issue plays less in the hard-grind Britain that elected Blair and his party three times and that – who knows? – might even elect him again if it had the chance.
That is the true tragedy of what has happened, not only for the Labour party, but for everyone else. Blair may well have won that elusive fourth term.
While the focus is on Blair, we should try keep up with other news. This small matter will certainly keep Gordon Brown up until 3am.
Standard & Poor's have had enough of Our Dear Leader and his attempt to save the world. They have dropped Britain's banking system from Group 2 out of 10 to Group 3 – alongside the likes of Chile and Portugal.
A similar fate was suffered by Ireland three months before the country lost its AAA credit rating.
Now, three months takes us to the end of April, just days before we are expected to go to the polls.
A March or May election? Such is the dilemma facing Gordon Brown. Thankfully, he can’t blame anyone else if he makes the wrong call, not that it will make much difference to the result.
As we wait for Tony Blair to give his evidence, Armando Iannucci, creator of ‘The of Thick Of It’, says this about the Iraq Inquiry:
It's gripping television.
Nothing much happens, but that's the beauty of it.
Sometimes the most dramatic thing is not what the characters say, but what they leave unsaid.
Kevin Maguire has taken to exercise his brain in this non-thought provoking piece:
It's proving a busy week in British politics. The economy's limped out of recession. Gordon Brown flew to Belfast to stop Northern Ireland returning to the bad old days. Wednesday was the Yemen summit. I'm typing this while watching a press conference on the Afghanistan talks in London. And the Chilcot inquiry rumbles on, more interesting than its critics predicted.
He goes on:
Could David Cameron handle all this if PM? No wonder the Tory leader's fled to Davos for a spot of R&R.
Silly really. If Cameron was PM and if he had gone to NI, he wouldn't have left before an agreement had been reached. There wouldn't have been a pre-election world summit in London. As for Chilcot; Cameron wouldn't have held another Iraq inquiry so close to the election.
It’s sad that Maquire believes his post helps Labour and Brown. It doesn't.
There is a well argued piece by Steve Richards ahead of Blair’s evidence tomorrow:
Leadership is more demanding and interesting than screaming that someone is a war criminal.
Richards quotes at length from an interview Blair gave him in 2005:
The only thing I would ask people to do is understand that it was a very difficult decision. What I object to is people trying to frame the decision in terms of my integrity rather than in terms of the fact that I was faced with the situation where there were 250,000 troops down there. Saddam wasn't fully co-operating with the UN inspectors, he remained in breach of the UN resolutions and yet I couldn't get a second UN resolution with an ultimatum. I had to decide whether we backed off altogether, with all that would mean, or go ahead still.
It was a very difficult decision in very difficult circumstances and I have always made clear I respect those who disagreed with the decision I took. There are some issues that are a nightmare whichever decision you take ... We must remember the UN inspectors were only there because the troops were also there.
It was the threat of force that got the inspectors back in. Now imagine what would have happened if I had backed away and that the Americans also backed away and the conflict had not happened. Saddam would still be in charge and immeasurably strengthened and there would be no further possibility about enforcing the community's will in regard to UN resolutions.
Some will say that would have been better than having the conflict. That's a perfectly understandable view. I only ask people to understand there wasn't a middle way. So it was a nightmare in the sense that, whatever you did, you were going to get problems either in sorting out Iraq after a conflict or you would get big problems leaving Saddam in charge.
Blair also spoke to Richards about the dossier:
In retrospect, it would have been better to have simply published the Joint Intelligence Committee reports.
There you have it. Blair has said it all before.
As Richards says:
We are about to get the re-released version.
They keep at it. Let us call them, “The Blair-Baiting-Three”. There are others, of course, but these will have to do.
Philippe Sands, giving his unbalanced view on Lord Goldsmith’s evidence, is like a dog without teeth who keeps chewing at the bone. He will never be satisfied until he gets the answer he wants. That is not going to happen. Does he seriously think that Chilcot and his little band of non-lawyers are going to come out and say the war was illegal?
The other day we had Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s lesson in facts and charm. We have already done that one.
Then we come to John Kampfner, who the hospitable Indy gives acres of space to this morning. The piece is full of unproven assertions, for example:
We now know beyond reasonable doubt, for example, that Blair committed himself to joining George W Bush in military action to topple Saddam Hussein when the US President hosted his best buddy at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002.
No, we don’t. Not yet.
Then we get to the conclusion, where Kampfner’s judgement needs to be further questioned:
One man [Blair] bears supreme responsibility for this most ignominious chapter in British foreign policy and political life.
Really. Kampfner needs to read up on some history. He should remember Suez.
It was a far more damaging little episode to Britain's status in the world, where it was proved that Eden lied to the Commons over the collusion with the French and Israelis; failed to inform Americans of his cunning plan; and totally disregarded the UN.
Blair is not guilty as charged by the ‘Blair-Baiting Society’ of any of these not-so-small matters.
There is one other little matter.
Eden resigned after Suez, where ill health was sighted. The truth was rather different. Furthermore, he wasn't persecuted for the rest of his life, was allowed a relatively peaceful retirement, although Suez haunted him for the rest of his days. Yes, there was much said and there were critical books published (Keith Kyle’s Suez is the definitive account), but there was no inquiry. Not one.
Perhaps we should keep the Suez fiasco in mind while the Blair-baiting continues, and reflect on Eden’s damaging misadventure when the ex-Prime Minister gives his evidence tomorrow.
It is not just in those all important marginal seats that Labour under Brown, who is driving the clattering train straight into the buffers, have a small problem.
The Tories, who are still making too many mistakes, have seen a surge in their support among mothers:
The survey of 6,000 mothers by the parenting website Netmums found 34 per cent support for the Tories among mothers, compared with 18 per cent for Labour and 15 per cent for the Liberal Democrats. Thirteen per cent said they were still undecided.
The survey revealed a 13.5 per cent swing among mothers to the Conservatives, enough to put Mr Cameron in Downing Street with a big majority.
Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of Netmums, who carried out the survey, said:
The recession has inspired record numbers of Netmums to take an interest in politics and turn up at the polls. But it may have also cost Labour the loyalty of the "Hovis" mum – ordinary hard-working families hit hardest by the country's economic collapse.
The survey found that Mr Cameron's carefully honed image as a family man has won him popular support from mothers, who find him more than twice as likeable as Gordon Brown.
Without an overarching strategy that still has failed to appear, the polls will just get worse for Labour. And yet Brown ploughs on, attempting to win votes by dancing around on the world stage. Somebody needs to tell him that the electorate live in the UK.
The lead-up to election is like watching a man hanging from a noose above a trap door that fails to open.
Having trotted along to the launch of Peter Watt's book “Inside Out”, John Craig of Sky News provides these snippets, picked up from the Great and the Good:
Well, I didn't hear much support for Gordon Brown in the room.
Hung Parliament? "Media chatter!" one Westminster veteran told him. "Tories by 40 seats!"
But, most memorably, one Westminster veteran of countless general elections recalled a quote from the late Hugo Young, written in The Guardian on May 2, 1997, the day of Tony Blair's landslide victory celebrations.
Under the headline "The People's Victory", Young wrote: "They... quietly did what every opinion poll said they would do: tell John Major and his shabby, busted government to get stuffed."
But it was the prediction of one of Westminster's best informed and most experienced election-watchers of what will happen to Gordon Brown's government on May 6.
Of course, it doesn't have to be like this. If only the Cabinet would act.
Perhaps we should give up on saying what the Labour party must do, but why?
The penny drops over at Andrew Sparrow’s indispensible live blog:
That was the most gruelling all-day session we've had. At times it sounded like a particularly intense law seminar….Personally, I thought he was an impressive witness. Even Sir Roderic Lyne could not throw him off his stride. But, then again, that's what you'd expect from a clever lawyer.
As for Paul Waugh. Oh dear. But then again, he begins to get it:
….it is strange that no anti-war group has to date attempted any legal action.
Answer: No it’s not, because there is no basis for any such action.
As for Chilcot & Co. They are having a day off tomorrow. They need it, because Friday's witness is A Class Act. Let us hope he gets a fair hearing.
Brown stays overnight in Northern Ireland and therefore misses PMQs. Once that is over, he makes a statement and leaves.
A very courageous move.
Perhaps he wanted to rush back to catch-up with what is happening at the Iraq Inquiry, where Lord Goldsmith is giving a brilliant display on how to talk to five people that aren't lawyers.
Lord Mandelson has revealed the shock horror news that Tony Blair, the-three-times-election-winner, will attempt to cover up for Brown’s weaknesses on the hustings:
We want all the party's leadership – past and present – to be contributing to our electoral success. They know what is at stake for the country. Everyone will get stuck in. Everyone will campaign: Tony Blair, John Prescott, David Blunkett. We need the support of these well-known faces.
Cherie as well?
Brown sounds pathetic when he mentions ‘his friend Tony’. He is totally responsible, with Ed Balls, for stopping Blair achieving what he set out to do as Prime Minister.
Just who will believe the show of unity? We all know about their problematical relationship, which we will be reminded of in early March.
Mandelson shouldn't relive the past. That is for the history books.
Lawyers are an arrogant bunch. Put a group of them in a room when you are attempting to work through a complex contract and you haven't got a hope in hell of getting anything agreed. The only certainty is that a huge invoice will arrive, beautifully presented on the finest stationary demanding payment after a short period, so their bonuses can be paid.
Yesterday, we did have a treat. One after-the-other they trooped in to see the five non-lawyers who make up the Iraq Inquiry, and politely informed Chilcot & Co that the country should be run by the legal profession. Even Philippe Sands had to admit on Newsnight that “nothing new” was revealed. Michael Wood had apparently said it all before to Hutton.
Well, there was something new. The shock horror revelation that Lord Goldsmith had changed his mind. Since when was that such a crime?
Without evidence from witnesses such as Tory MPs, Bush officials, Chirac and Blix, our view of Iraq will remain partial.
As the day unfolded, one little saying summed up the proceedings:
Officials advise and ministers decide.
We are rushing to judgement before all the evidence has been heard. Following this, Chilcot will produce yet another report that will satisfy no one. We have all made up our minds.
We need a definitive book covering not just the war itself, but what happened before and after. Only then will we get closure on this episode.
The days have gone when a few of us were able to watch 18 Doughty Street. Peter Hennessy gave an interview to the channel when he hinted that he would write a book on Iraq. He is the only person qualified to do so. John Rentoul should write the forward and Iain Dale can publish. That would be an explosive mix.
Meanwhile, Chilcot continues along its merry way. But, in truth, we are no wiser or better informed than we were before it started.
Philippe Sands, that self-appointed expert on how the world should be run, had this to say on Newsnight during a little discussion on the Iraq Inquiry:
Blair could be arrested for war crimes in Uzbekistan.
Phiippe, how about making a citizen’s arrest at the QEII Conference Centre as Blair enters the building on Friday? It would save us all the bother of having to hear it all over again!
First, Apple gave us the personal computer, then the mouse followed by the iPod and the iPhone. All products that have changed the way we live.
Today, if the rumours are true, Apple will launch a tablet computer, presumably to be called the iPad.
In the months that follow, we will find out if he is right.
A senior Labour figure reveals Labour's strategy should the election be on 6 May, which is after 23 April when figures will be released that may show the economy has slipped back into negative growth.
If it happens, we will just have to take it on the chin.
When has Brown ever taken anything on the chin?
But it is increasingly likely that the small matter of the election will be decided by people in a far away country of which we know little. Bill Gross, the highly influential co-founder of California-based fund mangers Pimco, tells it straight:
The UK is a must to avoid. Its gilts are resting on a bed of nitroglycerine. High debt with the potential to devalue its currency present high risks for bond investors.
It will not matter one bit when the election is if the markets get restless and decide to move. Gordon Brown is fast running out of options.
This is the question that Ben Brogan asks. It is unlikely because it just two weeks before the local elections that must be held on 6 May. He goes on:
The Opposition has been told by the Palace authorities to stand by for a parliamentary announcement at Easter, whatever that means.
An announcement could be made at Easter, but not for an election on 22 April. There has minimum of 21 days between calling the election and the actual vote, making 1 April the last possible date when Parliament would have to be dissolved, which is the day before Good Friday. The dissolution could happen a few days earlier, but then there would be an unwelcome break for Easter.
Brown may very well have discussed possible dates with HMQ to avoid any clashes with her diary and she would have passed this on to her private secretary. However, for this information to leak to Team Cameron at this stage is highly unlikely.
As discussed, Easter and the date of the local elections make an April election problematical.
So, we are out of recession by the narrowest of margins.
Jonathan Loynes at Capital Economics says:
The Q4 GDP figures are a major blow to hopes that the UK economy had emerged decisively from recession in Q4"No doubt some commentators will claim that the figures are under-estimating the true strength of the recovery and will be revised up in time.
That is certainly possible. But it won't change the big picture of an economy still operating way below both its pre-recession and trend levels of output.
Andrew Lilico, Chief Economist of Policy Exchange commented:
These are appalling figures. This is just the preliminary estimate, and the chances of being revised down by 0.1% or more are about evens, so we may well still be in recession. And that is taking account of an inventory bounce as firms restocked their warehouses and the shift of consumption from January into December as households tried to avoid the VAT rise. It now seems certain that there will be a double dip back into recession next year, and that may come as soon as the first quarter. The slip back into recession might be announced in late April, right at the peak of the General Election campaign.
As discussed earlier, all this gives Gordon Brown a huge dilemma, should the Cabinet allow him to lead Labour at the election.
Now back to the day-long Iraq roundtable being held by and for legal novices.
What’s this? Has Polly gone into print with another article calling for Brown to go. Alas, no. The headline is misleading. We get a diatribe about the non-burning issue of the day, the electoral system.
Still, the last sentence is half right:
In the short time before May, Labour can still do one important thing – let people choose a fairer voting system.
We will just have to amend it:
In the short time before May, Labour can still do one important thing – replace Gordon Brown.
Oh dear. John Curtice reports on NatCen's British Social Attitudes and it seems that Gordon Brown - how shall we put this – may not be chiming with the national mood:
There have been two key changes in the public mood. First, voters have apparently come to the view that the increase in spending on public services under Labour should come to a halt. Just 39 per cent want more spending on services such as health and education and are willing to pay increased taxes to meet the resulting bill. This is well down on the 63 per cent that took that view in 1998, shortly after Labour came to power.
Second, in moving Labour on to the centre ground, the New Labour project has seemingly undermined public support for traditional Labour values – such as a more equal society. For example, only 38 per cent now agree that "the Government should redistribute income from the better off to the less well off", far below the 58 per cent who favoured that proposition in 1993, just before Tony Blair became Labour leader.
Just 27 per cent of voters now regard themselves as long-term Labour supporters. As recently as 2005 no less than 40 per cent were willing to say they were members of the Labour tribe. Indeed, at 32 per cent, those who consider themselves "a Conservative" outnumber those who say they are "Labour" for the first time since 1989.
It seems this spring Mr Brown will face a public that is both out of love with his party and out of love with its message. He has a tough task indeed.
You see, it is not just members of the AJ4PM committee that believe Brown’s strategy is wrong .
On the day that the not-suitably-qualified Iraq Inquiry start to consider the legal aspects of the conflict, we get this ludicrous article from George Monbiot.
Shall we remind ourselves what the Iraq Inquiry has been set up to do:
Our terms of reference are very broad, but the essential points, as set out by the Prime Minister and agreed by the House of Commons, are that this is an Inquiry by a committee of Privy Counsellors. It will consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath. We will therefore be considering the UK's involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned. Those lessons will help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country.
It is not a court of law, none of the committee members are lawyers (two are out of their depth) and so the question that needs asking is:
Why are they considering the legal basis of going to war?
The Iraq Inquiry is no better qualified to do so than George Monbiot, a zoologist, or the many others that would like to believe they are legal experts but aren't.
Labour strategists fear that the economy could slow again in the first three months of this year, figures that would be published by the Office of National Statistics on 23 April….11 days before a May 6 polling day.
And if Brown does go for 25 March, the election campaign and the vote itself would take place before the clocks change.
Decisions, decisions. Gordon Brown is hardly a class act in that department.
Barack Obama talking to one-time Nixon aide Diane Sawyer of ABC News:
I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president. I don’t want to look back on my time here and say to myself all I was interested in was nurturing my own popularity.
And Gordon Brown would say….
John Rentoul righty dismisses all the chatter about a February election.
There is just over a 100 days until the most likely election date. There is still time for the Cabinet to act. All it takes is a bit of courage.
The dream team would make a difference. The ‘Bob Hawke scenario’ has not gone away.
Answering a question from Michael Crick on football finances at his press conference Brown said:
Football clubs don't have the income that is necessary to deal with the leverage that they have.
But this is an issue and it's an issue football clubs are facing and it's a worry to supporters. These clubs have high levels of income from the supporters but the debt levels have been too high.
And what he will never say:
The country doesn't have the income that is necessary to deal with the leverage that it has.
But this is an issue and it's an issue I am not facing and it's a worry for you all. The country has high levels of income from taxpayers but the debt levels are too high.
Cameron is a lucky man. Thanks to Gordon Brown still being in post and Sir John Chilcot organising a media scum, Cameron’s little local difficulties are not getting the scrutiny they should be.
The Tories have had a sticky few weeks. Mr Clarke may assert his belief in collective responsibility, but today we are seeing what may be the start of that fraying under pressure that a party in the lead must guard against. David Cameron is in the final furlong and knows he must avoid mistakes. Do his colleagues understand that as well?
None of this is of a concern to Cameron's friends over at Conservative Home. Tim Montgomerie’s big idea is for David Cameron to join Tweeter. Is that really the priority for a Prime Minister-in-waiting?
Cameron has to get his Shadow Cabinet back in line and avoid mistakes. His press conference this morning was a non-event.
Has the heir-to-Blair peaked too early?