Friday, 25 January 2008

The Late Lunch Briefing

So the dust is beginning to settle, Hain is out and the newbies are in. Well, I say the dust is beginning to settle; actually the truth is it hasn't even begun! This is a story that is going to haunt the Labour party for the next year at least probably much longer. This is just the end of chapter one. The chapters still to come include Wendy Alexander, Harriet Harman and probably one or two other characters that we didn’t realised were in the story. Every day that passes, the Brown administration resembles the John Major government more and more. Something the Labour party must be deeply worried about.

Whereas Blair could shake off the bad news stories, with Brown they just seem to get bigger and hang around like a bad smell. His party is fragmenting (though not on a Tory scale yet). He is being dogged by sleaze. The press is turning on him. He is unpopular and looks dithering and weak. Worst of all: circumstances are conspiring against him. Just like Major, he is taking over at a time of deep economic uncertainty. I strongly believe the best thing that could happen to the Labour party, if they are still in this position in September, is a leadership challenge – it is also the worse scenario for the Tories because someone competent may just take over as PM.

The real question for the Tories in all this is who is David Cameron? Is he the Tony Blair or the Neil Kinnock of the Tory party? One thing is for sure, he has had to modernise the party like Kinnock did. A shift to the right would be an unmitigated disaster for the Tories. What is less clear is whether he is the fall guy, like Kinnock, who has to do the dirty work but ultimately is not accepted by the electorate or can he give us a vision and some hope in times when everything in Westminster seems distinctly flat? My fear is the former, my hope is the latter. It is an absolutely key twelve months. The worst case scenario is come the next general election we have a choice between the latter day Major versus the latter day Kinnock. It will mean another five years of a visionless Britain.

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