One week ago…
Sunday 23rd September 2007, Gordon Brown appears on Andrew Marr’s show and explicitly rules out the possibility of a general election this year. Labour go in to their conference and take a 10 point lead over the Tories. The Tories are in serious trouble. They can not keep the snap election debate going, they have been told there is no possibility it will happen. If they do say anything then Brown just tells them that he is not running scared because he is leading them in the polls by a massive 10 points. The Tories continue their infighting. There are defections across the house led from Tories to Labour. Osbourne is derided for not letting out any tax cuts policies. Cameron is derided for not coming out with any serious policies.
Tuesday 9th October 2007, Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling give the Comprehensive Spending Review and Pre-budget report to great applause from the media. Labour announces the securing of funding and gives the go-ahead to Crossrail. Gordon Brown announces the withdrawal of more troops from Iraq. The Tories are no where to be seen in the media whatsoever. Brown is hailed as not pandering to spin by being honest about his election intentions and releasing a series of policies to the electorate with no sinister agenda. He has shown himself to be truly above party politics and just interested in the business of government.
The Brown myth has been destroyed
Hindsight is a glorious thing – but all it would have taken is a small bit of foresight for Brown to realise that by allowing election speculation to spiral out of control it was likely to backfire on him. And boy it has backfired. Why did he suddenly get so pre-occupied with the opposition? The message from his conference is that he was not worried about what the Tories were saying or doing. He didn’t mention them once in speech, yet he then pursued a stupid strategy of toying with the Tories. Time will tell just how big a mistake it was for Brown not to be honest with the electorate, but we are measuring this in damage limitation terms, because this has caused lasting damage. The Brown myth has been destroyed in about a week and whether he can ride out this storm or not he has just made David Cameron a much, much stronger opponent.
The real losers
While the events of the past few days have seen Cameron et al as the real winners it has also seen the Lib Dem vote squeezed so far that I am not sure it can go any lower. Most interestingly out of all this is that while Brown has been made to look pretty stupid the Labour vote has managed to hold reasonably firm in the high 30s. The Tories have been getting most of their boost from the Lib Dems. This will be of concern to Ming – surely he can not last until 2009 now?
When the blue euphoria has died down a little the Tories would do well to remember all they have done is stop an election they probably would have lost – a remarkable feat but they have by no means won an election. The Labour vote held steady in it’s most testing time and a change of Lib Dem leadership or even just a quiet few weeks for the Tories will see their share drop again. The road to the election has only just begun and the Tories are still very much the underdogs with it all to do.
In less than two weeks Gordon Brown will be under heavy fire again from the media if he doesn’t play the EU Treaty issue very well. A committee report out today has shown what we already knew – this treaty is almost identical to the constitution that was rejected by referendum in France and Holland. My position on Europe is that we need to be part of it, but when a government isn’t honest about an issue such as this one it does make you wonder why. If the treaty is now so different to the constitution, why does everyone apart from our Government say it is not? Why is Gordon Brown so against a referendum on the issue? If it smells like a rat, it probably is a rat. Get this wrong Brown and a certain Mr Murdoch will not let you forget October 2007 in a hurry.
Stretching the Truth
This week Gordon Brown has claimed that he was not swayed by the polls in his decision not to call a snap election. I suspect this was Brown not wholly telling the truth. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first politician to stretch the truth. How about some of these…
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman” – Bill Clinton
“Now is not the time for sound-bites. We can leave those at home, but…I feel the hand of history on our shoulder” – Tony Blair
“Peace for our time” – Neville Chamberlain
“If nominated I’ll decline. If drafted I’ll defer. And if elected I’ll resign.” - Alex Salmond
“The document discloses that his military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them.” – Tony Blair
“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” – George W Bush
“We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories … And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.” – George W. Bush
“I was not lying. I said things that later on seemed to be untrue.” – Richard Nixon
I am not so sure this one is a truth stretcher rather than just complete ignorance…
“I heard somebody say, ‘Where’s (Nelson) Mandela?’ Well, Mandela’s dead. Because Saddam killed all the Mandelas.” –George W. Bush