Opportunistic Stupidity

Tuesday, 2nd October 2007 at 11:24 UTC 2 comments

Having just got up, and being at home for a couple of days, I switched on News24 to see what was going on in Tory conference land, partly looking for inspiration for today’s blog post. Instead, I’m confronted with the news that Gordon Brown is now in Baghdad, making a statement we were told would come next week, and providing the Conservatives with even more ammo. In their responses to this act of opportunism and upstaging, I watched with some horror as they presented something they have thus far failed to achieve: the kind of opposition politics which can win elections. If Brown were to call an election after this, with the Conservatives now milking it for all its worth, I’d give him maybe a 50/50 change of winning, if that.

Sure, there are reasons why about now is a good time for the statement; parliament is to restart next week, so Brown must be in the country then, and Labour have only just had their conference, during which time a disappearance by Brown would be unthinkable. And obviously, secrecy was required, although the press had already had their heads-up by Sunday according to the shadow defence minister.

But to do this during the Conservative Party conference was just bad. And to do it on the day when the Tories discuss defence policy may be bad luck, they might not have known the order of the debates, sorry, speeches when the diary was fixed. What it has surely done is handed the Conservatives with a perfect line of sight on Mr Brown.

The media have gone to town on this already. Its exactly what the press want to see: a really close election campaign where big sensational statements about the other side are mixed with grand political promises. The promises have been supplied by the Conservatives, but I doubt many people will have been swayed just by hearing about them. A snap election might have worked for back-footing the conservatives in terms of passion and readiness to work the streets, but statements like this are only clearer indications, and better spring-boards.

Supposing, however, that the Election can wait until May. The Conservatives know that Brown will call one within that timescale, I think its pretty much for certain. This will give them months to prepare, and months to begin their campaigning, and this sort of tactical error from the Prime Minister may be all thats needed to get them out there. There won’t be a post-conference slump, there’ll be a rallying cry, and then they’ll go home and start the battle.

There is more and more evidence that the traditionally Conservative press is going back to the Tories, abandoning its 11+ year marriage to New Labour. With the Conservatives now acting pretty much anti-war (they welcome the troop withdrawals, and we even had vague suggestions they should all come home), we see a potential for them to claim so much territory from Labour, and from the Lib Dems, that they could easily string together a majority if they play their cards right, if the press goes with them (its in their interests if they want a good story alone), and if the Prime Minister continues to take his power for granted.

On the part of the Prime Minister, this was stupid. And sadly, the Conservatives seem to be saying enough of the right things, with a line which sounds anti-war enough for most, while maintaining a patriotic undertone big enough for any die-hard Tory to salute, that they could turn around a huge comeback, leaving us with a Conservative government that has made promises that quite probably empty, and which will result in greater, rather than fewer, service cutbacks for the poorest in Britain.

In politics, you have to win every day, or eventually you lose on the crucial day. It might only be lunch-time, but there is probably little that Labour can do to turn this around, and there will be plenty more from the Tories. If Labour think this can frighten the Tories, fat chance. I shall say this with a slight air of resentment, but you have to hand it to them, the Conservatives have done a brilliant job this week, and it now seems, with all the flashiness and all the rallying of troops, that they are in a position where their frontline campaigners might actually believe they can win. Well done Gordon Brown, you might just have given them what they need to show they can win, and to believe they can win; moreover, keep it up, and they will win.

I was politically aware at a young enough age to know exactly how awful a Conservative victory will be for this country; Brown might be implementing her policies much like Blair did, but the Conservatives will be even better at attacking the poor just like they always have been.


Entry filed under: Conservatives, Elections, Iraq, News, Party Politics, Politics.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Greg  |  Tuesday, 2nd October 2007 at 18:09 UTC

    The Tories have indeed been doing well in the last week. Brown, on the other hand, has had a massive honeymoon for free, on the back of the “he’s worked wonders with the economy” myth which everyone loves to utter without supporting evidence. It looks like he’s now come crashing down, and is going to have to pay back every bit of the popularity overdraft he’s run up during the summer. What a good thing, too: I’ve grown sick of his personality cult – posters saying “No Flash, Just Gordon” actually mean precisely the opposite; that they’ve got no policy to announce but want to turn the govn’t into even more of a marketing-driven presidency than Blair did. Everyone in Labour’s been very busy blaming all the country’s problems on Blair and disassociating themselves and their new master from him. Not like Brown ever actually rebelled, of course.

    And now, once we get something concrete, what is it? It’s a transparent attempt to gain popularity through a manouvre which sets aside the welfares of thousands of Iraqi people whose country we’ve messed up, in a cheap move that insults the intelligence of the British voter.

    Quite why you think this is a bad thing, I don’t know. Well okay, I’ll have a guess: you’re still bleating “tories bad, labour good” like an Orwellian sheep. Unable to face the fact that Cameron started working for the Conservative party four years *after* the miners’ strike, you carry on believing that the poor will be better helped by a man who knowingly plundered the pension trough (rich people usually have stuff stashed away elsewhere like big houses, shares etc while poor people are bummed), recently abolished the 10p tax rate, and under whose oversight, the gap between rich and poor has grown steadily. Yes the minimum wage and the independence of the Bank of England have been excellent moves, but then Brown’s government didn’t even have an economically unsustainable coal industry round their necks when they shafted the less well-off half of society with the first three moves.

    It’s time to wake up to grey reality, drop the binary dogma and smell sense. Thatcher wasn’t quite the evil witch you’d like her to be: she was the first PM to take global warming seriously, and she didn’t consume our country with vast new sprawling housing developments, unlike one current PM I could mention. Meanwhile, while the failure to build replacement council housing was stupid, the Right to Buy scheme actually helped people get onto the housing ladder.

    Leftist dogma may claim to help people out of poverty, but it doesn’t exactly help them get anywhere meaningful where they can contribute back into the circle and help other people. I aim to do a job which creates wealth for the country and which is cruelly under-represented in Britain. This job requires four years fulltime training. So what did Labour go and do? It made it considerably more expensive for me to get there. And then to add insult to injury, recently tripled the price. Yes, I can afford my fees. But they’re not exactly condusive to getting someone not too much less well off (and more debt-averse) than I was aged 18, into an engineering job which is good for both them and the country. For me, your talk of “promises that they can’t keep” strikes particularly hard in this respect, considering Labour’s 1997 AND 2001 manifesto pledges. And do you remember the Tory assisted places scheme, which helped parents who wanted to send their children to independent schools? Cancelling that was of of Labour’s first acts in ’97, despite the fact that it helped the kids and SAVED the Chancellor the expense of educating them in a state school! Both children’s educations and the economy were shafted in the cause of appearing leftist and “not giving the toffs money”.

    You may say you were politically aware before 97, but I somewhat doubt it. Certainly you weren’t before Major’s stint, which stank more of incompentence than any actual bad intent. Everyone thinks they’re politically aware aged 11, but nobody actually has either the exposure or the discernment at that age to form any picture of things that is either realistic or anywhere near independent.

    Yes, Brown screwed up. And I’m glad of it. Economically, there’s no difference between the two parties at any level that actually influences policy – difference exists at the grassroots, but look at Westminster – and it’s high time to replace a government which has been in power too long to keep sight of anything but the means of keeping power. Bring on the Blue dawn!

  • 2. Greg  |  Thursday, 4th October 2007 at 20:04 UTC

    To further note: when you talk about the right wing press coming back to the Tories, I assume you mean the Times? The Telegraph have been with them all along – I can’t think of any other party they’d dream of going for – though arch right wing associate editor Simon Heffer* really really doesn’t like David Cameron.

    *He’s the one who wrote the Scouser-bashing Spectator piece for which Boris got impaled.


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