Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Politics Decoded: Darling Rocked, The Crying Calamity, Lady Luck & the Age old question

And they say 24 hours is a long time in Politics. Well no sooner had I posted up Politics Decoded on the Wardman Wire, then news started breaking about the HMRC announcement. Here is the column, written before the big news of yesterday. I also cover the Clegg/Huhne spat and the relevance of luck in politics:

The Election that never was strikes again

The Northern Rock fiasco has really kicked off again this week. When it all became apparent back in September, Labour were still riding high in the polls and because of Darling’s insurance policy of guaranteeing the debts, pseudo economist, that we all become in these situations, were saying there has never been a better time to invest a bit of money in the Rock. Oh how I am now feeling very smug that I didn’t and even better that I know a few people who did. Darling must have hoped that this snowballing disaster would be history by now. Instead we are talking about him being the first casualty of the Brown era and the election that never was.

Goodbye Darling?

It is amazing that only a few months in to Brown’s premiership and only weeks in to the new parliament session there is already strong speculation over who will fall first from the cabinet. Right now the leaders of the pack are “the three amigos” – Miliband, Smith and of course the latest favourite, Darling. What is most worrying of all for Brown is that these are the three most senior figures in his cabinet. The bad week of the Tory conference turned in to a bad month, that turned in to a bad couple of months and now things just appear to be getting worse. The Northern Rock debacle could well prove to be the worst of the lot. Seeing as the Rock cannot find a buyer on their terms at the moment the only other real options are administration or nationalisation. Neither of which will be very appetising to Brown (where is he when all this is going on, by the way?) and either will seriously threaten Darling’s position.

Darling and Brown stocks are plummeting

Administration will cost thousands of small investors and shareholders serious money and nationalisation would sit so badly with the electorate that it would be political suicide. After all, would you trust a civil servant to manage your mortgage? Darling’s big mistake was to manage the short term pain and forgetting about any long term pain. Remember, when this happened as far as Darling and the government were concerned, they were gearing up for an election – they needed those queues off the streets and a belief in the government and the economy. But it was all for nothing – the election never happened and now Darling is looking like he may have to pay the ultimate price. Not before the electorate have paid £900 a head to keep this mess afloat though – that is a year’s council tax; it is 400 new children’s hospitals; it is 30 Millennium Domes! We didn’t even want one Dome in the first place! It is too early to know whether Darling will be the first casualty of the election that never was, but to steal the Telegraph’s analogy today – I wouldn’t be buying stocks in Darling and I would not be making any long term investments in Brown right now either.


And they’re off! Finally the Lib Dem leadership race has come alive. Well, I say come alive – actually nothing much more has happened. Huhne is still laying in to Clegg and Clegg is letting him sign his suicide note. What on earth made Huhne think that by telling everyone at every possible moment that Clegg is not fit to do the job and he is a liability to the party would make a good campaign? I make no secret that I think Clegg is by far the better man for the job, but up until Huhne gave THAT performance on the Politics show on Sunday I actually thought the Lib Dems were going to once again dump their biggest asset and go with someone who just isn’t quite up to the job, i.e. Huhne. Now I am more confident that the party notorious for making the wrong decisions at the critical moment will finally get it right. For it will be Clegg that attracts the floating voters, not Huhne, even if he is the more popular amongst the more die hard party members. But unless Huhne completely turns round what has been a damaging campaign not only for him but for the “new nasty party”, Clegg will be the first man to win an election by saying absolutely nothing… except…

Calamity Clegg? So much worse…

Why oh why did Clegg then have to make a complaint to the party? Huhne has damaged himself enough without Clegg running to the teacher and telling. Not so much “Calamity Clegg” as “Cry Baby Clegg”. So Huhne is a big bully and a negative campaigner? That is politics my poor little Nicholas. This is relatively friendly fire compared the onslaught that “real” politics will throw at you. What about when the Tories or Labour – or even worse the mass media and electorate – start throwing insults his way? Who is going to run to then? This was unnecessary point scoring from Clegg: let Huhne shoot himself in the foot, don’t do it for him; being a Lib Dem you’ll only end up missing, the bullet will ricochet and land firmly in your own foot. My money is still on Clegg but rather than this weekend’s fun and games making my opinion of Huhne go even further down the drain they have just made me think what a tactical goon Clegg potentially is.

What is going on?

I still cannot quite believe the sheer downward spiral of Gordon Brown at the moment. I always thought he’d never amount to a Tony Blair and in the end he’d be considered just an average PM. But he is having such a terrible run at the moment my draw drops to the floor every time a new story of just how badly he is doing comes out. Right now things are just going from bad to worse. Brown is deeply intellectual, the strongest, if only, leader the party has at the moment and has a pretty good track record as a politician. But I fear Brown is what every PM fears they might be. I fear Brown is an unlucky PM.

John Major was an unlucky PM, whereas Tony Blair was probably the luckiest. Brown started off with some incredible luck – the Brown bounce was quite formidable. But then he was faced with his first real tactical decision and has been treading water ever since. Ironically, it was the Brown bounce that caused all this bad luck in the first place. If the surge hadn’t been so massive, the question of an early election would never have been a serious issue. How unlucky is Brown if even a mass surge in the polls is unlucky?!

Luck is everything

Cameron, on the other hand looks everything the lucky politician right now. Whereas Brown came through the ranks just at the wrong time, Cameron may have timed his rise to perfection. Whereas Brown was seemingly invincible and fell on his sword, Cameron was down and out and is now leading the polls in the low 40s. As if to really rub in Brown’s association with bad luck, people are praying that he doesn’t take a trip to Wembley on Wednesday night in case he jinxes the team – again! On the other hand, right now you get the feeling if Cameron turned up not only would England win but McClaren would probably hand him Owen’s shirt and he’d score the winning goal. How else do you explain a completely meaningless non-policy of every six year old being able to read as getting on to the front page of the Observer. The Observer! While the only stories about Brown are his rift with Miliband and his micro-managing, non-consulting way of doing business.

Very few of the negative stories about Brown or the positive stories about Cameron are particularly quantifiable. A few months ago a Cameron education policy would have been lucky to make the Observer at all let alone the front page and stories of Brown being a dictating leader where being positively spun as a strong leader. The difference is luck and right now Brown is all out of it.

Age is but a number

Ming Campbell, aged 66 – too old for the job apparently and a complete failure. Vince Cable, aged 64 – doing a fine job and, to the detriment of the Lib Dems’ prospects, not standing for the full time job. Age has got nothing to do with and there is the proof – if you can do the job then you’re old or young enough. Ming just wasn’t good enough.


Anonymous said...

An interesting site. Thank you.

Yes, Brown is NOT a Blair, "lucky Blair" or not. HE is the lost leader, whose loss will almost definitely result in the loss of the next election. Brown's just not up to it, brains or not. There's more to inspirational leadership than grey cells.

But you can see where I stand on this:

I agree on Vince Cable too, btw. He is an excellent leader for the Lib Dems, especially after the fisticuffs of the other two!

Kenneth "Ken" Leopard said...

I'm afraid to say that this country is being mis-managed but I'm going to say it anyway...this country is being mis-managed. It was bad enough under the so called "leadership" of Tony Blair but the Brown administration stumbles from one catastrophe to another. I have always thought that Alistair Darling was an individual who was promoted far beyond his abilities even when he was at Transport so this latest fiasco just underlines my opinion. I call it a "fiasco" but that isn't adequate a word. There has certainly been an element of buscuit taking with this latest corker.

Garbo said...

Anonymous - thank you. I have checked out your site. Very entertaining. You are clearly a proud Blairite. Will keep on eye on your blog from now on...

Ken - I agree about Darling. He has lived a charmed existence. It is amazing he has been in the cabinet since 1997. The Treasury really is a promotion too far for the man. I think Brown put him there as he was experienced in government but was weak so Brown could continue to control matters. If he wanted a strong character there to do a good job he would have gone for Straw.