Thursday, October 11, 2007

What kind of week has it been?

Bloody awful.

It took a few years for the 'Blair's Worst Week' headlines to appear. Gordon's done it in a few months.

Now, I don't believe that this is anything like the end for Gordon. I'm confident that he can recover and that when the next election comes, we will defeat the Tories. It will take some work and some time for the public memory to subside, but today's headlines are but tomorrow's chip-wrappers. If he can return to the pre-conference helmsmanship, the ship can be steadied and steered away from the rocky shoals.

The Tory conference - Gideon in particular, but rounded off by the fine performance from Cameron - killed off the chances of an election this autumn. They haven't had a week that good in years, so full marks to them for that return. Everyone was expecting a Tory implosion at the conference, but the election speculation forced unity upon them. They've done well, but they had a series of open goals left for them - opportunities that they have missed consistently over the past decade.

The culmination was PMQs this week, where Gordon was given a thorough kicking by David Cameron, a very bloody affair, with the Tories in full cry in pursuit of Labour. I thought we'd banned blood sports. It wasn't an edifying sight, with Dave in full-on Bullingdon mode taunting the oiks across the chamber, putting the lie to a Cameron commitment to a more mature style of opposition
If David Cameron wins the Tory leadership on Tuesday, he is seeking a less adversarial style of politics, he says. The yah-boo is so yesterday. And not just at Prime Minister's Questions..

Gordon's treatment of the press over the past week has been unwise - he only took a couple of journos with him to Iraq and gave Andy Marr the exclusive on the election postponement, with the result that the media pack turned on his misfortune. If this isn't sorted, we'll be in real trouble - we can cope with a neutral media, but we don't need the press opposing us and helping to set poor political weather.

There are good things to draw from the week. Darling knocked the Tories' inheritance tax plans firmly on the head - they are now the party who want to extend an IHT tax cut to the almost-millionaires. It also seems very clear that the Iraq mess is going to be consigned to history over the next twelve months.

While the Tories have had a good week, their success is fragile. Remember how rapidly they fell to pieces under pressure over grammar schools? Can this new-found unity be sustained over the course of the next eighteen months in the run up to the election? Can they sort out some policies?

And then there's the Lib Dems, who have seemed but a minor irritation this week and are increasingly likely to turn in on themselves as Ming once again comes under pressure from those in his party who think that they would be better served under a new, younger leader. But as I say, they are irrelevant at the moment - their polling figures are swinging wildly between figures that would retur four Lib Dem MPs and others that would see a complete wipe-out.

So, let's take a step back from this superheated explosion. Things will calm down in time. Gordon can recover this situation and for the sake of the party and the country, I hope he gets a grip quickly.

4 comments:

Freddie said...

Poor old PH! So depressed and stunned by the debacle he has watched unfolding around him over the last 2 weeks, he has to write himself a 'pep myself up' memo.

All your bright-side thinking however, fails to recognise that your man has contaminated his brand. He'd spent months culitvating the steady statesman image, only to blow it with cowardice and, far worse, opportunism and cynicism - all the things the punters hated Blair for.

Everything depends now on how bad the economy gets before polling day.

Richard Allen said...

It speaks volumes that in the aftermath of the election fiasco the tories only got a 3 point lead in todays MORI poll.

While it is clear that Brown has suffered heavy damage he is a long way from being done for.

skeal said...

Once again, I refer PHUK to my exclusive comment on his blog from 30 September.

"(i) Dave always looks good on TV and his standing is very likely to have been improved by the end of the week [of the Tory conference]."

So, perhaps some lesser pundits were predicting a Tory implosion, but not I. I really am rather prescient.

Mike Ion said...

The past weeks have proven that a week really is a long time in politics. A couple of weeks ago the Sunday papers were speculating about the demise of the Tory party, bets were being placed on Cameron's likely successor. A week later and... well the least said the better.

Brown will continue to take a hit or two (or twenty) and his reputation as a master political strategist has been damaged. However I do think that we all need to calm down a bit and recognise that things can - and probably will - change just as quickly. The polls will stabilise and we will soon get back to 'normal' politics.

For me there are some key lessons that, as a party, we need to learn from the past few weeks:

1. Don't underestimate Cameron - the more media coverage he receives the more favourable the polls are for the Tory party as a whole.

2. We need to be careful about the image we project. At times I worry that some Labour Ministers conduct themselves as though they are taking part in a sixth form debating society and want to demonstrate how fiendishly clever they are, how they can 'best' their opposite number who is also a bright young thing. Being bright and being clever are not the same thing and we need our senior Ministers to be clever as well as bright.

3. Candidate selection should be completed for all vacant seats by early spring and we need to have a much sharper focus on exactly how we resource and campaign in marginal seats.

We have lost this skirmish - it was not really a battle - we now need to re-group and look to the future.