Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Politics Decoded: The Greatest Confidence Trick ever? Lucky Brown & PM Trivia

For those of you who haven't already read it, below is my weekly column "Politics Decoded" that I write every Tuesday morning over at the Wardman Wire.

The ultimate con trick

Is Gordon Brown just about to pull off the biggest con trick since bottled water? The Tories have finally got some big and encouraging headlines. Announcing that inheritance tax will only apply to millionaires is a sure fire winner. Increasing the threshold of stamp duty is another real vote winner. The electorate love it when the Tories talk about tax cuts because all they’ve had for the last ten years in tax increases. But now the cat is out the bag – and I’m sure the Tories have a few more cats to set free before Thursday ends as well, to the delight of press editors and voters alike everywhere. And that could well be just what Gordon Brown is hoping for.

He wouldn’t… would he?

Since the Labour party conference last week, even the most sceptic of us (including me) have softened on the idea of an election being called for November. It seems that only those with more pride than sense are not backing down and admitting that an autumn poll is going ahead. All we are waiting for is Brown to say the word. But what if all Brown is waiting for is for the Tories to spill out all their big ideas that they have apparently been keeping under wraps for two years? What if Cameron finishes his leadership speech on Thursday to rapturous applause after spelling out his manifesto, leading to a bounce in the polls for the Tories? What is Gordon Brown is playing us all for the fool and actually he has no intention of calling an election any time soon? It must be a very tempting, though devious, strategy.

Tories have nowhere to hide

Any delay would give Brown as long as he wants to pick apart the Tory position without having to actually set out his stall. It would be pretty textbook New Labour and Gordon Brown to even go and take on the good ideas and claim as his own or at least use the “big tent” politics excuse. This would leave the Tories with nothing. Nothing to excite the electorate with as anything they did have would be so well known by the opposition that the party would be putty in Brown’s clunking fist.

You have to feel for the Tories – they have been out manoeuvred by Brown at every turn since he came to power. Now there are in a position where if they don’t say anything they will be destroyed at the polls for having no policies and looking irrelevant; if they do come out fighting they could well be fighting shadows. They are in the strange position of going in to this conference with a ten point deficit to Labour, yet will be desperate that Brown does call an election next week.

Brown – the lucky PM

It was only a few months ago that the Labour party were saying it was ridiculous that there should be an election when Gordon Brown takes over as PM. They were elected on a manifesto that they still needed to deliver. The Tories were saying that Brown had no mandate as Blair promised to serve a full term. Oh how the tables have turned. When Brown goes in front of the cameras next week to announce the countdown to a general election (assuming it is not all just a cunning rouse by the PM) I bet he will say something about getting a mandate from the people as the new PM. Brown’s first few months in charge have been charmed – he is a lucky PM. He has had terror attacks, foot and mouth, flooding, Tory in fighting. What new PM would not wish for this sort of publicity? They have all led to him getting a massive lead in the polls and given him the luxury of being able to ask for a mandate – because he sure as hell wouldn’t if he wasn’t sure he was going to win.

Three Months in Office isn’t that bad…

If Brown does, as expected, go to the polls next month and go on to do the almost impossible and lose, he will be one of the shortest serving Prime Ministers this country has ever had. But he wouldn’t be the shortest… not by a long stretch. Spare a thought for the Earl of Bath who, on 10th February 1746 was asked to form a government. However, the poor chap was only able to find one person who was willing to serve in his cabinet and stepped down two days later. The shortest serving PM who actually did serve was George Canning, whose term lasted 119 days from 10 April 1827 until his death on 8 August 1827. However, if it does all turn out well for Brown he will have a long way to go to beat Sir Robert Walpole 20 years and 314 days in office. God help us all if he does last this long – not least himself.

While we’re on PM facts – straight from wikipedia – the tallest Prime Minister is believed to be Lord Salisbury who was around 6′4″ in height, although Downing Street’s own website lists 6′1″ James Callaghan as the tallest. The shortest period between entering Parliament and being appointed Prime Minister was William Pitt the Younger who became Prime Minister two years after first becoming an MP. Seven Prime Ministers have died while in office, though only one has been assassinated - Spencer Perceval.


Prodicus said...

Spot on. There must be something in the air today. Seconds ago, I blogged a warning of sorts, myself.

Garbo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garbo said...

Ah well, you know what they say about great minds...

Ed said...

I agree he won't go for it. He may think he's cleverly wrong-footing the Tories but actually he will just prove himself indecisive and a spinner.

Garbo said...

I still think he will go for it, but it is a gamble. The media are really going for Labour today - whether they will when there is am official campaign on remains to be seen. The next poll is crucial.

If he doesn't go for it now he may well be seen as a bottler, indecisive and a spinner. It is going to be a very interesting few days...