Monday, October 02, 2006

The Mancunian Way

What to add to the Labour Conference last week?

Blair's speech was another verblessly classic delivery - although it felt to me as though he is much closer to standing down than everyone thinks. He won't make it to next summer and I strongly believe he'll be gone before the May elections. I half expected him to bid us an immediate farewell at the conference, such was the valedictory nature.
The USP of New Labour is aspiration and compassion reconciled. We reach out not just to those in poverty or need but those who are doing well but want to do better; those on the way up, ambitious for themselves and their families. These are our people too. Not to be tolerated for electoral reasons. But embraced out of political conviction. The core vote of this Party today is not the heartlands, the inner city, not any sectional interest or lobby. Our core vote is the country.

They know there isn't some fantasy Government where nothing difficult ever happens. They've got the Lib Dems for that. Government isn't about protests or placards, shouting the odds or stealing the scene.

Gordon gave a solid, policy-based speech. He's not a performer, like Tony - but then, as I have observed, there's nobody else currently on the scene who can match Blair. Despite a bid from Dr John Reid, I don't see any other big hitter with a sniff of getting the leadership. Doubtless, the Blairites will put forward somebody to oppose Brown, with Reid being the front runner to face that all-but-certain defeat. I've spoken to a fair few activists in recent months and nobody seriously expects the next leader to be anyone but Brown, but I can't say that casting their vote for Gordon will be done with any sense of joy.

I suspect that the Chancellor has a suite of policies ready to unveil. He's a student of American politics and I suspect that we'll be impressed by his first 100 days. I just hope that he's able to get his deeply-held passion for tackling issues like poverty across. He's strong on the nuts and bolts, but a PM has to be able to provide the over-arching narrative that structures policy - can a naturally shy leader do that effectively?

The fact that he's not Blair is a weakness in that respect - he doesn't have Tony's skills in that regard. However, that's also a strength - Blair has stretched his credibility to the limit to get some policies through parliament and convince the public. Brown needs to win hearts and minds by transmitting his passion to others.

And one other thing - when Brown takes over, I hope that the Blairites do the decent thing and shut up. Mandy gave a magnificent interview to the Today Programme, a fine example of supporting the next leader and then slipping the knife between his shoulder blades so finely that you would hardly feel the pain.
The chancellor might have all sorts of flaws but his inner strength as a politician came through.

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