28 February 2010

Cameron's speech: He didn't slip up

It was above average, but it wasn't the game changing performance that he delivered in 2007.  He made a nervy start but his confidence grew as the speech progressed.  It was a speech to the country rather than to his party.

He had to sound and come across as the Prime Minister–in-waiting.  There has to be some doubt that he achieved this.  There was a little too much Brown bashing.

Finally, If Brown is thinking of calling the election, and nothing has been ruled out so far today, then there was little in Cameron's speech that would stop the drive to the Palace.

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Election fever Part XI: “Let’s get on with it”

Tom Harris on his blog:

The view of my agent, campaign manager and activists is entirely uniform: the sooner Gordon calls the election, the better. Let’s get on with it.

If is view is shared by constituencies from across the country, the decision will surely be to call the election.

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The unchanged Tory party

As the Tory party wakes to digest that poll, these small matters will not help one bit:


Last night, the party's frontbench was forced to distance itself from the hard-hitting material, which was put out under the name of Cameron's home affairs spokesman, Andrew Rosindell. It bears a picture of both men, says that immigration has caused a population explosion, and declares "we simply cannot go on like this".

Circulated in Rosindell's Romford constituency, it also suggests that the Tories would impose new transitional controls on the right of nationals of the new EU member states to work in the UK. Such controls already exist for Bulgaria and Romania, but retrospective limits on other eastern European states, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, would be illegal under EU law.

Meanwhile, Loanna Morrison, the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, who is black, posted a controversial piece on the political blog, Conservativehome. "Britain is full, declares Nick Griffin at every opportunity, and he is right," she wrote.

Then, there is the report in the Indy that speaks for itself:

The Conservatives would abandon Labour's belief that "pumping" money into the most deprived areas is the way to solve Britain's social problems, a rising star of David Cameron's team says today amid signs that the panic-stricken party is turning to the right to curb a fall in the polls.

This is a party that is unchanged, ill-disciplined and doesn't have a coherent strategy to fight the election.  It’s solely dependent on one man and a speech later today, that may well be superseded by events.

The Tories election slogan is:

Vote for Change

The irony is that the voters are indicating that it’s not the change they want.

Cameron may still scramble across the line, but will he have a mandate to govern effectively?

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Election fever Part X: Is it time for Brown to see the Queen?

Everything else can wait.  This is the bombshell that will cause the Tory party to go into meltdown:

CON 37%(-2), LAB 35%(+2), LDEM 17%(+1)

Not only has the Tory lead has been cut to 2%, but Labour’s share of the vote has increased.  Mike Smithson comments:

This is a fantastic poll for Labour who, almost unbelievably, are now only per percent down on what they were at the 2005 general election when they got 36%.

Anthony Wells make this important point:

It could just be sample variation – or it could be a further narrowing of the lead. With just a single poll, it’s impossible to tell. All I can say is what I always say when a poll shows sharp movement – until we see some more polls that support or contradict the further narrowing of the polls – be wary.

The Sunday Times has further details:

Today’s poll suggests recent claims about Brown’s tantrums and his intimidation of staff may have actually helped him. Just 28% of people believe the prime minister is a bully and 50% agree he has a “strong sense of right and wrong”.

YouGov have delivered the perfect storm that will break over Brighton this morning.  Brown doesn't need any of Wilson’s tricks now.  This poll has done the job for him.

Today, Brown has to take the decision whether to call an election on 25 March.  He knows that the Tories have lost momentum and the initiative.  He knows Cameron is making mistakes.  He also knows that he has no control over any unknown unknowns that could bubble up if he waits until April or May.

He should forget about Chilcot, the local elections, about whether Labour has enough money to fight the campaign or if the party is ready.  Mandelson is on hand, with his management skills, to resolve all the little details.

It’s the big picture that Brown must look at today.  He must have the confidence to trust his instincts and judgement.

He will be doubly aware that Cameron is to get to his feet at 2pm to make a speech without notes.  The last time that happened, Brown dithered and called off the non-election of 2007.  There must be no repeat of that little episode.  That would be fatal.

He could take the decision by 2pm and tell Cameron before he speaks that he is seeking an audience with the Queen.  He may even choose to leak the news while Cameron is on his feet.  The Tory conference would disintegrate before our very eyes.

Perhaps he should be reminded of a quote from Mark Twain:

I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.

Today, Brown has an opportunity that may never repeat itself.

Go on Gordon, pluck up the courage and give us all a Sunday to remember.

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27 February 2010

A new Tory poster for the Westminster village


Will this be understood down at The Dog & Duck?

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Election fever Part IX: The weekend rumours begin

Two little nuggets to start the ball rolling:

Paul Waugh’s tweet:

Pre-election clue? Al 16 of Labour's NEC are meeting in Soho restnt now, with Jesse Jackson special guest, spy tells me.

Except there are 32 members of the NEC.

The Telegraph has the details of leaked e-mails from Downing Street indicating that an earlier election is being considered.

Gordon Brown has remembered Harold Wilson.

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So far, a Tory fail

Sorry to disturb.

We were given the impression that the Tory party spring conference would set out their vision for the country and convince us all to vote for Our Dave.

What has happened?

All we have had so far is a lot of Brown bashing.

Oh, there is new Cameron video.  What does it all mean?  How does a government make a country family-friendly?

Please send your answers on a postcard.

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Senior Tory says, “Not the best campaign”

The Times highlights the organisational mess the Tories are in.  Cameron is refusing to get involved, while Steve Hiton, his director of strategy, is “concentrating instead on how to implement policies in government”.

A management consultant would have a field day with this:

George Osborne, the election coordinator, George Bridges, and Andy Coulson, the party’s communication chief, are running the campaign day-to-day.

Mr Bridges is dismissed as old-fashioned by youthful staff at the headquarters — a reference to his reliance on dossiers. Mr Coulson is blamed by some for pursuing short-term media coverage at the expense of a wider, coherent message, while Mr Hilton’s interest in the workings of a future Conservative government dismays those who want him to concentrate on delivering an election victory.

The Tories have had four years to settle on their strategy and to organise an election winning team.

Instead of behaving like a Prime Minister-in-waiting, we are now going to have Cameron asking the voters why they would want “another five more years of Gordon Brown”. 

Labour, of course, could easily turn this on its head by announcing: ‘Should we win there will be an orderly transition to a new leader in the next parliament’.

A senior source neatly sums were the Tories are:

Whatever we do we can’t be seen to be changing tack again. Whatever campaign we fight now is not the best campaign we could have fought but we have to choose one course and stick to it.

Let’s see if they do.

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Have the Tories just announced Labour's pre-election budget?

Traditionally, one would turn to The Telegraph on the morning of any Tory gathering to see what was happening to the unchanged party.  These days we have ConservativeHome.  At the moment of crisis for Team Cameron, their main concern is the sale of Ted Heath’s former home.  That one is easy.  Give Michael Ashcroft a call.  Problem solved.

We do, however, have to turn to The Telegraph for a few little insights to what is going on.  The front page is just wonderful stuff.  The paper leaks the contents of a 12-point plan that will form the basis of George Osborne’s first budget.  This will make Gordon Brown’s day.  We can now expect most of these proposals to be adopted by Labour before the election.

Then we move to Simon Heffer, who is no great lover of Osborne, calling him Little George.  Not to worry, Michael White likes the chap and tells us so in 1,188 words.

It’s when you get to the conclusions of Heffer’s diatribe that he not-so subtly gives the game away over the 50p tax rate:

I am told that the Treasury is now convinced, and may even have convinced the present Chancellor, that the 50p rate is going to cost money, not raise it. How better to drive more nails into Dave’s coffin than for Mr Darling to announce in a pre-election Budget that he has suspended implementation of the 50p rate, and that he supports incentives for bankers to enable them to earn more money for Britain? It sounds mad: but the way things are going, and given Labour’s ruthless desire to win, anything could happen.

That is exactly what will happen.

Meanwhile, over at the Times details emerge of what Liam Byrne is doing in his spare time.  A programme of cuts are being quietly put together for the pre-election budget in an attempt to wrong-foot the Tories.

So, there we have it.  The Tories have started their weekend by the sea by passing their policies over to Labour, with Simon Heffer adding to the mix.

Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling will be smiling over their cornflakes this morning.

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26 February 2010

Cameron makes another mistake

Cameron’s crisis management has established a special unit to prepare for a hung parliament.  It is something that should not be in the newspapers. 

A shadow cabinet minister comments:

What's going wrong with our campaign?  Are we just making the odd mistake, or is there a deeper problem?

The answer to the first question is here.

The answer to the second question is yes and yes.  The deeper problem is the Tory party that will be on display in Brighton this weekend.  It hasn't fundamentally changed.

Just what did happen to that Clause IV moment?

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Election fever Part VIII: A March poll? Hold the front page

Apologises to John Rentoul and Iain Martin, but there is a way that a dissolution can still happen on Monday.

The Boiling Frog has kindly left a link to this document:


This states:

4.12 When the Prime Minister announces the date for the election he must also decide when Parliament will be dissolved. He can, if he so wishes, seek the dissolution immediately in which case any and all outstanding legislation is lost. More likely, there will be an interval between the announcement and the dissolution.

4.13 During this interval, usually referred to as the “wash-up” period...

The earlier post assumed that the ‘wash up’ had to take place, which may not be the case.

As discussed, this leaves the problem of his Chilcot evidence, which Brown said he will give before the election. 

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The polls, the national mood and Team Cameron

Both the YouGov and the MORI polls will darken the gloom that will hang over the Tory spring conference at the weekend.  All the polling organisations, including Angus Reed, are showing a narrowing Tory lead.  To put this context, when the Tories met last spring they were 18% ahead of Labour.

There is no need to revisit the reasons, but this is a failure for David Cameron and the team that surrounds him.  A successful opposition leader, with all that has been happening on the other side of the despatch box over many months, should have ‘sealed the deal’ by now.  The Ming vase that Blair effortlessly held in 1997, and was handed to Cameron on a gold plate, has been smashed.  Our Dave may still stagger over the line, but it shouldn't have been like this.  It was not what was foretold.

Even if Ashcroft’s money is working in the marginals, and there is evidence that it has, the national mood will have its effect in those seats.

James Forsyth kindly highlighted the crisis that is clearly gripping the Tory party.  One interesting point is that David Cameron wasn't at the meeting that the article mentions, which posed lots of unanswered questions as to why the party was doing so badly.  Perhaps a fictional conversation would help:

A: How did the meeting go?

B: Many questions but no answers.

A: Who was there?

B: Everybody but the person who matters.

A: That tells you all you need to know.

It is that lack of direction that does matter.  Team Cameron are clearly not working as one.  What is the point in having a meeting like this when the team captain is somewhere else?

Also, Forsyth mentions that Hague should be used more effectively, but there is no mention of Ken Clarke, who the public can identify with and is listened to. He is also a match for Peter Mandelson.

Once a sense of drift sets in and morale starts to plummet, it’s very difficult regain the initiative, because you have handed this to your opponents on a plate, which is what is happening at present.

Team Cameron need to give clear and concise messages that people can identify with and more importantly remember.

The national mood doesn't change overnight, unless there is a seismic event like the death of Diana.  It happens over a period of time.

And there is precious little team left for Team Cameron to get the toothpaste back in the tube.

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Election fever Part VII: Is there any substance behind the latest rumour?

Guido Fawkes posted last night:

BBC Source: News Team on Red Alert For Election Call

This was then updated:

Guido understands that the BBC political teams have been told not to go away over the weekend.

That rather modifies the headline.

To date this has not been picked up elsewhere, but it worth some comment.

Brown is now locked in to give his evidence to the Iraq Inquiry on 5 March, which cannot happen if an election is called.  It would be a crass decision for this to be called off now.  Moreover, Brown is on record stating he wants to gives his evidence before polling day.

Later this morning the revised Q4 GDP figures are announced.  There is much speculation if they will be revised upwards or not.  Furthermore, the pound took a hammering on the foreign exchanges yesterday.

It could well be that Brown, already aware of the revised figures, has a cunning plan to deflect attention from the bad news.

There is something else that is more likely to be behind Guido’s post, which we discussed earlier this week:

As the story goes, Wilson would make his annual trip to see HMQ at Balmoral to coincide with the start of the Tory conference.  To disrupt proceedings at the seaside, Wilson would feed a few trusted journalists that he was seeking a dissolution.   It worked a treat.

The Tories are holding their unnecessary spring (it’s still winter) conference next weekend.

Brown will want to wrong foot the Tories over the weekend and cause as much disruption as possible.

Finally, The Times confirms that Labour will fight a cheap and cheerful campaign as the party has no money.  A union source tells the paper:

Quite frankly, there is no way the party could pay for another campaign so soon after this one.

That being the case, the party will not be in a position to fight the local campaign if the general election is earlier than 6 May.

We can now rule a March poll out, because the dissolution would have to happen on Monday, leaving no time for the ‘wash up’.  Maundy Thursday, 1 April, can be discounted, so the earliest date would now be 8 April.  But even if Labour had the money, the announcement wouldn't happen in the next few days due to Chilcot.

As discussed above, if Guido story does have legs, it’s likely that ‘the Wilson trick’ is going to be rolled out this weekend.

With short-term tactical Brown you can never be sure what is going on.

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25 February 2010

The Iraq Inquiry: Brown fails to draw to the crowds

imageOnly 323 valid entries were received for Gordon Brown’s appearance at the Iraq Inquiry on 5 March.

When Blair appeared, 3041 valid entries were received.

Does this mean that Blair is nearly 10 times more popular than Brown?

See what fun you can have with statistics!

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The New Statesman and the Spectator



How times have changed.

To Labour's delight, the lead article in the Spectator has the details (presumably leaked) of a crisis meeting that took place between Cameron's closest aides:

It is as clear to the top Tories that the Conservative election campaign is in trouble; that the party seems to be stagnating. One aide puts it like this: ‘A shark has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we’ve got on our hands is a dead shark.’

A senior Tory MP is blunter still: ‘There is a real danger that we might not win this.’ How times have changed.

To Tory delight, the lead article in the New Statesman is positive about David Cameron:

Like the early Blair, Cameron disguises a steely will with winsome charm; like Blair, he manages to float gracefully over the rifts of interest and ideology that divide his country and party. And, like Blair, the veils of ambiguity that shroud him reflect a complex and contested history.

It is certainly true that Cameron has so far produced nothing more than mood music. But mood music matters. It doesn't tell you what the musician will do, but it does give you a window on his or her soul. Cameron's soul seems to me perfectly congruent with the Burkean, Whig-imperialist strand in British conservat­ism. It was Burke, after all, who saw the "little platoons" of civil society as the places where "public affections" germinated; and there is not much doubt that Burke would endorse the vision of a big society, rich in civil associations and governed on a light rein.

I also suspect that it chimes with the mood of a people tired of incessant badgering by bureaucratic busybodies.

One day, maybe, these weekly journals will return to their traditional political allegiance.

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Blair and Brown part company

They say a picture paints a thousand words.


It was taken in May 1994.  They were not seen together much at the time, unless you were dining at a particular restaurant, so it was probably taken at John Smith’s funeral, but that is a guess. 

It is only a few milliseconds in time but the body language is striking.

Blair has obviously spotted something, whereas Brown is looking in the opposite direction.  Both of them, not wanting to have anything to do with the other, give the impression that they are going their separate ways.

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The polls: Follow the money

There are two overnight polls, one giving the Tory party a 6% lead, the other showing a 9% gap.  We can safely say that Brown’s temper tantrums are having no effect.

Now we move to Angus Reed, who published a poll yesterday afternoon.  First, the national picture:

CON 38%(-2), LAB 26%(nc), LDEM 19%(+1)

Then we come to the important stuff.  Angus Reed have been busy in 150 of the most vulnerable Labour seats:

CON 42%(33), LAB 28%(43), LDEM 15%(17)

This represents a 12% swing.

Mike Smithson adds this comment:

I think that overall these are important findings and do support everything we have seen from the marginals from YouGov, ICM, and Ipsos-MORI. The key marginals - most of them seats picked up in Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide are seeing disproportionate moves to the Tories.

This underpins the arguments that Daniel Finkelstein put forward yesterday.

David Cameron has an inconsistent policy strategy, then there is his disunited party, and as we keep noting, he keeps making tactical mistakes.  But he does have Ashcroft’s money, which is working in the seats that matter.

It comes down to the old saying:

Follow the money.

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Blair ‘ruined my life’, says Brown

The revelations from Rawnsley’s book keep coming

The two lads meet for a showdown over the leadership in September 2006:

During their final two-hour confrontation on the issue, the book states that Mr Brown asked Mr Blair:

Who do you think is better than me? Do you think there is anyone who is better than me?" John Reid was "far too rightwing". Alan Johnson was "a lightweight". David Miliband was too young.

Was Blair saying, Brown demanded, that any of them was "better qualified to become PM?"

We know the answer to that one.

It adds that Mr Blair later revealed that the exchanges had been "terrible", saying: "He kept shouting at me that I'd ruined his life."

How much better for Brown to be remembered as a successful Chancellor rather than a tail-end Charlie Prime Minister.  He, of course, will never see that.

There is something else:

On another occasion Mr Brown was driven into an enraged rant by a newspaper article written by Alan Milburn in support of Mr Blair remaining in power. After hearing the Chancellor out the Prime Minister read the article and called Mr Milburn to say how good it was.

Harold Wilson also had a Brown to deal with, George was his name.  After three and half years as Prime Minister, Wilson had had enough and cleverly organised George’s resignation.

How Blair coped with Gordon for ten long years is an achievement in itself.

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The terror of Brown’s ways

A Times online reader’s response (re Gordon Brown and bullying):

It’s not the reign of terror that bothers me. It’s the reign of error.


Hat tip: Matthew Parris

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24 February 2010

Labour should drop this nasty stuff

imageAccording to Mandrake, Labour officials claim that Samantha Cameron is “lazy”:

Briefing against her has already begun.

Much will be made of Sarah’s charity work and journalists will be encouraged to make comparisons with the amount of work that Mrs Cameron does for charity.

Is ‘substance’ to take a back seat?

The election will nasty enough, without bringing the wives into play.

It’s this type of smearing that turns the voters off. 

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McBride: It wasn't me, guv

Following Darling’s outburst and that book, Damian McBride has given an overlong interview to Newsnight.  He denies everything (well he would, wouldn't he) before concluding:

But then again, I've only got myself to blame that Rawnsley wouldn't bother checking things with me. Because of what happened last April people will say he deserves everything he gets, who cares what he thinks, and they'll believe anything that's written about me.

I only have myself to blame for that, but if you sit there and read things that are wrong, you still feel a bit aggrieved, and when I get The Sun turning up at my school today and turning up at my mum's house on the back of what Alistair said, of course you're a bit pissed off 'cos you think I've paid a big price for what I did, I'm trying to get on with my life and yet I'm still being accused of things I didn't do.

Another person who needs some advice.

McBride’s response should have been: “No comment”.

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The challenge for David Miliband

Now, we must turn to the other David.  The Foreign Secretary gave a little speech to Demos yesterday.

In the New Labour corner, John Rentoul thought the speech was fine, while in not-so-Blairite corner, James Macintyre made similar comments.

Over in the blue corner, both David Blackburn and Iain Martin failed to understand a word of it.

Iain goes on to say:

For all that Miliband is still hailed in certain quarters as self-evidently the only choice Labour has for its next leader, one wonders. Can his advocates imagine him connecting with the public and making himself understood by his fellow Britons? Really?

In these “certain quarters” a small debate has broken out:

Second, he took issue with my suggestion yesterday that Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, might be a strong choice as Labour leader if the election produces a hung parliament. He says:

Whatever the result, Labour must rebuild itself.  It needs to look to the long-term rather than choose a stop gap leader that may not fight the following general election ... Win, lose or remain in power as the largest party, there is no alternative to David Miliband.

I yield to no one in my admiration of the Foreign Secretary, but I also yield to public opinion, which is as yet not wholly persuaded of his potential. And I think that Johnson is in a strong position to find common ground with the Liberal Democrats.

The point that John and Iain make is important.  It is to do with image.  That is what gets discussed down at the Dog & Duck, rather than the odd speech that is quickly forgotten.

Robert Worcester turns his thoughts to this topic, where he focuses on how floating voters make up their minds:

It’s a combination of leader image and party image, whether they think the leader is capable, and if they understand the problems facing the country and a host of other less important image attributes, such as being a nice guy or not, or more in touch with public opinion than the other guy. And whether they think the party has a good team of leaders and listens to the views of ordinary people.

Worcester goes on to argue how the image of a leader and their party are closely aligned:

But while just over a third of people say they like Gordon Brown, 35%, some 45% say they like David Cameron, a ten point lead for the Conservative Leader. In January, the average Tory share of the 13 polls taken was 40%, the average Labour share was 30%. Fancy that.

At the present time, Miliband does have a problem with his image, but once he leaves office this could change.  It’s a challenge that he must rise to.  Don’t forget Cameron’s image was virtually unknown outside the Westminster village when he was elected.

Alan Johnson will only be interested, as John has said, if there is a hung parliament.  He will not want “worst job in the world” of leading the opposition.

We can all discount Ed Balls.  His image will not inspire a single voter.

If not Miliband, then who?

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Cameron fails, again

There is little to say.  Cameron had the opportunity at PMQs to create a huge divide between Brown and Darling on how they are going approach the budget.  He failed.

He had an open goal, that he missed because he didn't even kick the ball.

To cap his failure off, Cameron got his facts wrong:

Cameron also messed up his final question. He meant to asks about GDP per head going down since 2005, but he asked about the fall since Labour came to power, and Brown was able to say – correctly – that it has risen since then.

A very tired looking Brown will be very relieved after this non-event.

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Who briefed against Darling?

From Laura Kuenssberg:

Damian McBride denies briefing against Darling.

If we accept that at face value, then there are only two possibilities, Ed Balls and Charlie Whelan.

If it transpires that it was Balls or a combination of both, that could well end his leadership ambitions.

Darling’s outburst could not only determine the budget strategy, but also who leads the Labour party after the election.

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Cameron’s big test at PMQs

A Tweet from Kevin Magure, a Brown supporter, says it all:

Long time since I've seen a political gift as good as Darling's "Forces of Hell" to Cameron who'll open it at PMQs

How Cameron plays this at PMQs is fundamental, especially after his tactical mistake of earlier this week.  He must make no attempt to link Darling’s outburst with the bullying allegations.

Cameron would do well to recall the budget that Roy Jenkins produced just before the 1970 election:

It is though, generally assumed that Labour's defeat in the 1970 general election was partly the consequence of one month's bad trade figures announced a few days before the election and his delivery of a fiscally neutral Budget shortly before the election.

In other words, Jenkins produced a fiscally responsible budget rather than a political one.  As an aside, it is one of reasons why he never became leader of the party.

The debate that is happening at present, similar to the one that happened in 1970 between Downing Street and the Treasury, may well have sparked off Darling's comments last night.

It is that divide that Cameron must concentrate on at PMQs.

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Brown responds to Darling

Gordon Brown has just said this:

I would never instruct anybody to do anything other than support my Chancellor, and I think Alistair will confirm that.

Unless Darling confirms this in a watertight statement, it could well leave Brown in a very exposed position.

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Darling speaks out. Why now?

Let’s be clear about about one matter.  Darling insisted that he had never been bullied by Gordon Brown.  What he is saying openly is that No10 briefed against him.  He could have chosen to make ‘no comment’ about an event that took place nearly two years ago, but decided against this. 

We have a Chancellor of the Exchequer directly criticising the operation of the Office of Prime Minster and First Lord of the Treasury and the contact of staff working within or for Downing Street.

The experience that Darling suffered is similar to that of Nigel Lawson, who resigned.  Darling survived, a point that he rammed home:

Frankly, my best answer for them is, I'm still here, one of them is not.

Whatever the result of the election, Darling is unlikely to survive in his present job.  So, why he has spoken out now, when we are weeks away from a possible budget and the general election:

Is Darling just demob happy?

Has there been a difference of opinion on the budget, whether to have one and how the deficit should be addressed this side of the election?

Whatever Darling’s reasons, it is a very strange time to remind us of “the forces of hell” that were “unleashed” against him.

Darling’s outburst highlights, yet again, the way Gordon Brown has conducted himself and managed those who have worked for him.

The timing of his remarks are without precedent within the lifecycle of any government.

With the information available, it is a curious intervention that Darling has made at this time.

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23 February 2010

Blair gives his heir a lesson

Tony Blair was asked on the BBC World Service's World Today programme about the way prime ministers treated their staff:

Well I think I know what you're referring to and I honestly have absolutely nothing to say about that at all.

Former leaders of the Labour party know what they are doing, unlike the other lot.

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Oh no! The Governor of the Bank of England is an economist

The man who prints our money has said:

It was unlikely that Britain's credit rating was at risk because of the level of government borrowing.

He said he didn't believe rating agencies would be concerned with the UK's 12% budget deficit.

I don't believe the rating agencies are concerned, in the sense that they are not re-rating the UK and I would be very surprised if they were to do so.

It so happens that Mervyn King is an economist, which means the exact opposite will now happen.

We are all doomed!

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Christine Pratt and David Cameron versus Goliath

You have to ask what Christine Pratt, not a women with a clean bill of health, thought she was doing.  The breaching of the confidential information was one thing, but getting involved in the little game of politics is quite another.  Didn't the lady realise that she was going to run straight into the arms of Peter Mandelson.  Perhaps not.

Politics is for grown ups and hopefully Mrs Pratt has learnt a very important lesson.  Don’t mess with those who know how to smother people, especially if you can’t get your facts straight and your story keeps changing.

This also applies to David Cameron, who has made rather a mess of things recently for the same reasons.

The Labour party has a well oiled and very experienced election machine.  The slightest slip from anyone who gets in its way as to motors along and that’s it.

Mandelson is cruising on auto-pilot at the moment, but when he gets going, with Alastair Campbell in the passenger seat, Team Cameron should look out.

The two of them are in the business of politics to win.  Their election machine is built to Rolls Royce specifications.

David Cameron should treat Mrs Platt as a case study in how not to do it.

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Rawnsley has sexed up his own book

Sue Cameron, FT Whitehall watcher, enters the fray over that book.  First, she has some more on Churchill:

Sir Winston Churchill could be difficult. He didn’t turf them off their chairs but he did sometimes hand them his false teeth so they always took hankies with them when they went to take his typing. Oh - and hats. When they were in the car with the great man he often allowed his budgie to fly round the vehicle and the only way to save their hair from the wretched budgie’s droppings was to wear a hat.

Now, we come to the nitty gritty:

It was back in November 2007 in the FT’s Notebook that I broke the story of how moody Gordon Brown had been “tearing strips ” off the Number 10 garden girls and had then turfed one of them off her chair and started typing himself.

Most of the other nationals followed it up at the time and now Andrew Rawnsley is recycling it again along with other stories of GB shouting at people, kicking the furniture etc.

Yes, it’s all getting rather repetitive.

On the inquiry that Cameron has called for:

There is no chance whatever of anyone launching any formal inquiries - daft to even think it.

Now to the important bit:

The cabinet office is strenuously denying that Sir Gus gave GB a verbal warning about his bullying. Well of course Sir Gus would not have done anything so crass!

Would he have had a quiet, oh-so- tactful word about the best way of er… getting things done, prime minister? You bet.

Which is a million miles away from what Rawnsley is alleging. 

He has been rather uneconomical with the truth.

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Harold Wilson knew how to it

Having dominated the airwaves for a day, the old master’s reputation appears to be improving.  John Rentoul has been reminded of a quote that he made:

When Harold Wilson thought it inadvisable to say anything, he would say: "No comment." If he were pressed by journalists eager even then to fill space, he would say: "No comment, in Technicolor."

The important point is that Wilson made this comment when the Profumo scandal broke.  He just refused to get involved.  Cameron could learn much from the four-times-election-winner.

As an aside, Wilson’s former press secretary, Trevor Lloyd-Hughes, died the other day:

Lloyd-Hughes was not a committed Labour supporter, but Wilson wanted to continue the tradition of an apolitical No 10 press office. As such, Lloyd-Hughes operated in a context worlds away from that of the proactive and abrasive Bernard Ingham (who served Margaret Thatcher) and Alastair Campbell (who served Tony Blair).

Wilson just did the spin himself.

As a reminder, this is one of Wilson’s more famous quotes, made at the time of an attempted coup:

May I say, for the benefit of those who have been carried away by the gossip of the last few days, that I know what's going on. [pause] I'm going on, and the Labour government's going on.

It killed the plot stone dead.

While we are on all matters Wilson, there is something else.

As the story goes, Wilson would make his annual trip to see HMQ at Balmoral to coincide with the start of the Tory conference.  To disrupt proceedings at the seaside, Wilson would feed a few trusted journalists that he was seeking a dissolution.   It worked a treat.

The Tories are holding their unnecessary spring (it’s still winter) conference next weekend.

Cameron should be aware of this old trick, because there is little doubt Mandelson will be preparing something for the weekend.

Harold Wilson was A Class Act.




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Two polls, with the correct figures, that bring relief to Brown

The pre-temper tantrum poll:

CON 37%(-2), LAB 30%(nc), LDEM 20%(nc)

Now we come to the second poll, which has caused Mike Smithson, and one or two others, much heartache overnight.  The original published figures were wrong or was a deliberate leak.

Anyway, here is the first post-temper tantrum daily tracker poll, with the correct figures:

CON 39%(nc), LAB 33%(nc), LDEM 17%(nc)

The figures speak for themselves.  Rawnsley’s allegations are having no effect.

Tom Clarke’s analysis of the pre-temper tantrum poll is important.  However, it makes you wonder if Brown has made the right call about a March poll.

We do need to know what is going on in those marginal seats.  With luck we should find out at the end of next week.

Hopefully, the published figures of that poll will be correct.  Mike Smithson will then be able to get a good nights sleep.

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A columnist that Brown doesn't like

Rachel Sylvester adds to the third hand information that is doing the rounds about the Prime Minister:

I was once even told that he had broken a chair after reading one of my columns.

Gordon should start a blog.  It is a much better way of taking out your frustrations.

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22 February 2010

SOS to David Cameron: What has happened to the sofa?

After another bad day for Team Cameron, Our Dave is to have a little meeting:

David Cameron had called a shadow Cabinet meeting for tomorrow which will be held at CCHQ and is scheduled to last for two hours.

Neither Thatcher or Blair would have bothered with such a gathering.  Both would have summoned a few trusted colleagues and sat them down on a sofa.

He’s forgotten about all that free advice that has come his way.

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Gordon Brown and Winston Churchill have something in common

Down the years other Prime Ministers have had problems with their interpersonal skills.

Here is a letter that Clementine Churchill penned to her husband during the Battle of Britain:


Source: Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills By Mary Soames, Page 454

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Whatever the election result, Brown will have to go

A few weeks ago, this little gem popped up:

The other day, a Cabinet minister had lunch with a journalist. "What happens if you win?" enquired the hack. The minister looked astonished. It was clear that this possibility had not occurred to him. Having regained the power of speech, he replied: "There'd be an immediate leadership challenge"

Wind the clock forward to today and that Cabinet minister’s predication becomes deadly accurate.  With Rawnsley’s allegations neatly wrapped around Brown’s windpipe, he is finished as leader once the election is over.

Let’s look at the different outcomes.

The Tories win with an overall majority – Highly likely.  If this happens Brown will go quickly.  Can you really see him sticking around to ask Cameron questions at PMQs?

Labour win with an overall majority – Highly unlikely. Brown may stick around for a while, but because of the latest revelations it will not be long before he steps down or is challenged.  That Cabinet minister is right.

There is a hung parliament and Labour stay on in government as the party with largest number of seats – Whatever the polls say, our electoral system is designed to avoid this happening, but fate may intervene.

We can assume that the minor parties will not support Labour if Brown is still leader.  They will look for someone with a more consensual approach.

Harriet Harman will become leader while the Labour party elects a new one.  However, she is on record as saying she doesn't want the job permanently.  Moreover, she would be unacceptable to the minor parties.

Ed Balls and Ed Miliband are closely connected with Brown, therefore they both rule themselves out.

John Rentoul had this to say in his column yesterday:

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, might be a player….he might be interested in the more immediate challenge of multi-party politics. It cannot hurt that he has recently repeated his support for proportional representation.

Hmmm.  Whatever the result, Labour must rebuild itself.  It needs to look to the long-term rather than choose a stop gap leader that may not fight the following general election.

Only someone from the Blairite wing off the party can recapture the centre ground.  Without that, a long period in opposition awaits.

Win, lose or remain in power as the largest party, there is no alternative to David Miliband.

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Urgently required: Cameron needs some new advisors

David Cameron has said this:

These are very serious matters and I am sure Number 10 will want to have some sort of inquiry.

He suggested that the Prime Minister's independent advisor on ministerial standards, Sir Philip Mawer should look into it.

He described the episode as "another unseemly mess at the fag end of a government that is tired and discredited" and said it was "just another reason why we need a general election."

As discussed earlier, Cameron should not get involved.

Similar advice comes from Jonathan Isaby:

David Cameron should avoid getting involved in the row. There are plenty in the media, the blogosphere and on the Tory backbenches who can comment and ask awkward questions of the Prime Minister on this subject. But the Tory leader should resist any calls for him to go on the offensive.

Well, he just has and it is a huge tactical error.

Cameron should be sitting above the fray and demonstrate he is the Prime Minister-in-waiting

These allegations are Labour's problem, not his.

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The allegations about Brown: The voters will decide the Prime Minister’s fate

Perhaps we should start with a positive comment about the Prime Minister.  Here is Rawnsley on Brown’s role in the banking crisis:

One very senior civil servant, in many ways a sceptic about Gordon Brown's leadership skills, gives him much of the credit for bold action in this crisis.

He quotes the civil servant as saying: "Gordon was prepared to say, 'We need to bail them out' despite the political risks. He took the lead, then allowed Alistair to do it."

Obviously, that fact is going to get smothered by the allegations about Brown’s bullying.  As events unfolded yesterday, Nick Robinson had two posts, here and here, that are well worth paying attention to:

Some will, no doubt, argue that how prime ministers behave matters much less than what they achieve.

Others will argue that bullying - if it took place - is different from other personal behaviour. It is simply unacceptable.

Overnight, the story has moved on:

Labour has gone on the offensive over Gordon Brown's temperament after an anti-bullying charity said it had been contacted by staff from his office.

The prime minister's Parliamentary aide called for evidence of the calls from the National Bullying Helpline.

We shall see where this fast moving story goes from here and how quickly Labour is able to close it down.

However, it should remembered that these rumours about Brown’s behaviour have been around for years.  They go back to Labour’s period in opposition, when Brown was pivotal, alongside Blair and Mandelson, in reshaping the party.

A running theme that has run through this blog has been Brown’s unsuitability to to be Prime Minister, mainly due to his poor communication and leadership skills, both of which are proven.  His interpersonal skills have also been questioned.

As discussed, Brown resembles Anthony Eden, a point picked up by Bruce Anderson:

There is a parallel with Eden. During Churchill's last government, when Eden was the inevitable successor, a number of senior Tories knew that Anthony would cock it up. They did not know quite how; they did know that he would find a way. But they could not think of an alternative. For Eden, read Gordon Brown; for senior Tories in the early Fifties, read Blairites from 1997 onwards.

The small matter of Brown’s personality will be a running theme throughout the election.  Labour can do nothing about this now.

The message to David Cameron is that he mustn't get sucked into the allegations surrounding Brown.  He has to behave like, and prove that he is the Prime Minister-in-waiting.  He also needs to keep in mind that when he stands up at PMQs, he is not only attacking Brown but the office of Prime Minister, one he may hold in a few weeks.

No doubt further leadership speculation will do the rounds, but it is too late and not appropriate.  Brown should face the electorate, defend himself and Labour's record.

At the end of the day the most important jury in the country will decide Brown’s fate.  It is time the electorate passed judgement on Labour’s policies and Brown himself.

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One last word on those pictures and Iain Dale

Having posted on Iain Dale’s decision to publish the photos comparing Gordon Brown to Hitler, we must return to the subject this morning.

Mandrake has an article on the photos.  It is important to note that Iain’s blog is not mentioned as Mandrake's source.

Lord Janner, a barrister, Labour Member of the House of Lords and former President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews has this to say:

I have known Gordon Brown for well over 20 years as a parliamentary colleague and as a friend and can categorically guarantee that these allegations are totally unfounded.

I think we have some laws on defamation that could and should be used where those defamed want to.”

On Iain’s regular Sunday night Podcast, The Seven Day Show, he briefly returns to the subject.  Iain admits (6mins 30 secs in) that his post has caused controversy.  He goes on to say that he probably would not have published the photos if he had been already selected as a Tory candidate.

One last point.  Perhaps the artist and Iain are not aware of Godwin’s Law.

Let’s leave it there.  It’s up to Iain how he handles this matter from here.

Please note: Should anyone come to the wrong conclusions, this blogger holds no religious beliefs whatsoever.

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21 February 2010

Iain Dale’s error of judgement

For reasons best known to him, Iain Dale decided to post pictures of Gordon Brown and Hitler that had been sent to him by an artist, who made a direct comparison between the two.

There is no evidence to suggest that Gordon Brown is anti-Semitic or resembles Hitler in any way whatsoever.

Dale made no comment on the original post, but as the post went out under his name, this infers he approves of the comparison made.  Moreover, he is responsible for what is posted on his blog

After receiving many unfavourable comments, he updated the post.  This not good enough.

Dale is one of the leading political bloggers with a high media profile.  It is an error of judgement that he has chosen to associate himself with this artist.

To compare the Prime Minister with Adolf Hitler is, at the very least, repugnant.

We all enjoy having a rigorous debate and the rough and tumble of politics, but not when it sinks to this level.

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Are we heading for a repeat of the 1964 election?

After pleading with the Daily Mail yesterday to support the Tory cause, Tim Montgomerie has an additional problem on his plate this morning.

The Telegraph, once such a loyal supporter of the ‘blue corner’, leaks remarks Michael Heseltine made at a private function:

If I was a betting man, my money would be on the election resulting in a hung parliament with David Cameron as Prime Minister.

Just why these comments are the lead story is rather a mystery.  The Tory party, after their performance of recent weeks, don't need to be warned about complacency .  In any case, Heseltine has said it all before.

Such is life.

Rather more significant is the latest YouGov poll:

CON 39%(nc), LAB 33%(+1), LDEM 17%(-1)

The point here is that Labour's share of the vote is creeping up.

Mike Smithson makes this point:

The 33% share means that Labour has only lost one voter in twelve since the 2005 general election.

More worrying for Team Cameron are the various noises off from within his own party:

One senior MP said last night: “The inner circle can crow all they like about how well they are doing, but the elephant in the room is the polls. Cameron spent last week talking about sexualisation of children and nine-year-old girls in suspenders, when there are much more important issues he should be talking about.”

Another backbencher said: “Cameron and his team are panicking. We are not over the line yet. They are trying to mumble their way to the general election, playing it safe, when what people want is real passion.”

Iain Martin makes the point that part of the Tories problem is their lack of experience in fighting elections.  Up to point, Lord Copper.  There is a wider issue.

The reason why Cameron, unlike Blair in 1997, doesn't have the election won before the campaign starts, is that the public’s perceives that the Tory party hasn't changed.  The recent foolish remarks by  Nicholas Winterton’s demonstrate this.

Cameron has had four years to sort his party and supporters out.  He has failed to do this.  They should be united at this time and not having pointless debates about cuts.

The other day we discussed the historical parallel with the 1970 general election that Gordon Brown needs to avoid.

Perhaps, though, the 2010 election will mirror 1964, when the Labour party had to overturn a large Tory majority.  Labour narrowly won, in the main due to the political skills of Harold Wilson, leading a disunited party against the worn-out Tories, who had been in power for 13 years.

It would appear that Cameron will have to attempt to repeat Harold Wilson remarkable single-handed  achievement of all those years ago.

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Gordon Brown: The sum of all Labour’s fears

image Source: Sunday Times

Just in case you haven't read it:

Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, became so alarmed by the prime minister's behaviour that he launched his own investigations when he received reports of Brown's bullying of staff. O'Donnell then gave the prime minister a stern "pep talk" and ordered him to change his behaviour. "This is no way to get things done," he told Brown.

A far more interesting titbit from Andrew Rawnsley’s book is the revelation of Jack Straw's failed plot against Brown:

According to The End of the Party, a new book by Rawnsley, the veteran cabinet minister – who ran Brown's campaign for the Labour leadership in 2007 – told Charles Clarke, an arch-critic of the prime minister, of his plans over lunch in the summer of 2008. He said that Brown "had to go" and declared that "something will be done".

As usual it was all talk:

The plot never developed further, however, because after a long summer holiday Straw and Hoon changed their minds. The justice secretary concluded that the risks outweighed the benefits and that there would be a bloodbath if Brown refused to go. Rawnsley reveals that Straw was also reluctant to lead a coup attempt if this might mean handing the crown to another cabinet minister.

Hoon's change of heart was believed by other plotters to have come about following an assurance from Brown that he would be appointed as Britain's next commissioner in Brussels – a promise never kept. Rawnsley reveals that Straw has since debated with himself over and over again whether he was right not to act and try to remove Brown in 2008.

Jack is not alone.  Some of us are still debating with ourselves whether Brown should have been removed.

Rawnsley says this:

To some of his enemies – and by enemies I mean people within his own party – the prime minister's conduct towards colleagues and staff has at times been so appalling that it raises a question mark about his fitness to hold his great office.

It clearly matters how a leader works – or cannot work – with his colleagues; whether he responds to crises and setbacks calmly or in a hysterical fashion; and how he treats his staff.


The Good Gordon and the Bad Brown co-exist in the clever, proud, sensitive, raging, tearful, tormented, complex man who has ruled Britain for nearly three years and now asks for his tenure to be extended for another five. Before they make their choice, the public deserves to be fully acquainted with both Browns.

It's uncanny.  Brown’s personality so much resembles that of Anthony Eden.

R A Butler, who was rather indiscreet on all matters, once described Eden as:

Half mad baronet, half beautiful woman.

Eden destroyed our damp islands status as a world power.  Brown has just left us with no money.

How ironic that Brown asked the electorate to “take a second look at us”.

We just have.

This morning Peter Mandelson has to go on Marr and put the toothpaste back in the tube, all over again.

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