09 April 2010

Memo to Mandelson: Friday 9th April

Dear Peter,

Yesterday was a good day.  John Humphrys got nowhere with Gordon and the press conference went well.  You were friendly to the hacks; Brown was relaxed and dealt with the questions about Sarah without getting defensive. 

You have taken the correct decision to drop the word “deception”.  Do keep using the sound bites: "The Conservatives are basing every policy on a myth."; “plan with the strength of a house of cards”; and “back-of-an-envelope calculation”.  They are very effective.

As luck would have it, there are are a few nuggets that should help over the coming days:

  1. You will be pleased to know that NI isn't a tax on jobs.  Chris Dillow has the evidence;
  2. The IpmosMori/Reuters poll of marginal seats has some good news about Brown’s leadership.  Although taken in Labour held seats, there is lots of useful stuff that should be used against Cameron;
  3. Your old mate, Ken Clarke, is not convinced about the Tory party’s marriage tax policy; and
  4. The Tories have began to frighten the horses over public sector job cuts

A few other matters:

  1. You need to be a little careful about sending out signals to the LibDems advising them how to vote at this stage of the campaign.  Although this is shrewd tactics, the media will conclude Labour have given up winning the election outright.  It will also upset Nick Clegg, who you need keep on friendly terms with until the election;
  2. For the moment, keep Paxman at arms length from Gordon.  Let’s see how he performs during the first of the TV debates.  Besides, the interview will only benefit Brown if has something new to say during the final stages of the campaign; and
  3. Brown gave a good speech, without notes, last night with much humour too.  This is good news and hopefully these events will get wider media courage during the campaign.

Keep your spirits up.  This campaign has a long way to go.

Best wishes

Events Dear Boy, Events

PS. Nearly forgot.  If you get asked about the story on the front page of The Times, use Harold Wilson’s classic response:

No comment.

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  1. "You will be pleased to know that NI isn't a tax on jobs."


    "Labour’s plan to hike National Insurance will cost jobs, a senior Treasury minister admitted last night.

    Financial Secretary Stephen Timms acknowledged the rise would have an ‘impact’ on employment, in a major blow that overshadowed Gordon Brown’s fightback."


    "hopefully these events will get wider media courage during the campaign."

    Oh dear

    "it remains true that Mr Brown has remained London-centric, like a dictator who fears leaving the capital in case he gets putsched."

  2. You can either lap up Ben Brogan's propaganda or deal with the facts. Brown gave a speech last night after spending the afternoon at a meeting finalising the manifesto.

    I will go with Chris Dillow rather than Timms any day of the week.

  3. The trick is sifting through the propoganda from both sides.

    "Yesterday was a good day" - for the tories maybe, judging by the increase in their poll lead.

    The reason why the NI cut works politically is because people realize that they have less money in their pockets and the Tories plan would give them more, not because of arguments over job cuts.

    To quote Chris Dillow:

    "And with capital powerful and labour weak, higher employer NICs are highly likely to be passed onto workers in the form of lower wages than they would otherwise get."

    Which means that the workers end up paying both the employee and employers rise.

    I think the correct answer to the NI policy was for Labour to ignore it. Labour harping on about it is just keeping it in the news, which works in the Conservatives favour and is why their lead is increasing.

  4. Memo:


    Enjoy it while you can. It's great fun running an election campaign, everyone listening as you speak to the cameras and microphones in a purring silken voice, occasionally showing a flash of claw.

    But begin your disengagement strategy now. You made a catastrophic blunder by escalating the NI argument. This ground is dominated by the Tories, who won the first skirmish last week, and although they may not make a breakthrough on this single issue, Labour certainly will not. This has wasted the first week of the election campaign and it will only get worse.

    Contrary to some of your other advisers ;-) Brown's performance has been poor. He cannot engage with hecklers, preferring to run to his motorcade. On the Today programme, he was stonewalling, confrontational and uncompromising in contrast to Cameron's far more agreeable tone this morning. The TV debates will be an utter disaster.

    So, it is time to gently disengage. Be a quitter, not a fighter. Let others step forward - Balls, Whelan - to fight to the bitter end. Return to the elder statesman role in the hope of a plum job under a concilatory Conservative government. But you need to start making this subtle manouevre right now, before the first TV debate. Then it will be too late.

    Kind Regards

    Jess The Dog,

  5. Jess, the Conservatives already owe him one for keeping Brown in office. Maybe his NI strategegy is just a reminder of how usefull he can be to them.