I suppose I should make some sort of comment about last week’s Labour conference in Manchester. There was really only one story for me: the Machiavellian undermining (intentional or not) of Gordon Brown’s keynote speech.
Poor old Gordon Brown. So desperate to become prime minister, to stake his place in history, to step into the position that he sees as rightfully his. This was meant to be his week. He would make a rousing speech appealing to his own base, while reaching out to others, and at the same time demonstrate to the British public that he is not remote, aloof and socially awkward; that he can connect with them, see off that young upstart Cameron and march forward with the great Labour project, minus the spin-machine of the Blair administration.
So he pulled out all the stops in his speech, declaring outright that he would relish the chance to take on Cameron and his rejuvenated Conservatives. With regards to his fractious relationship with Tony, he paid tribute and admitted that they have not always agreed on everything (no shit). Conscious that people know little about him, he spoke of his Scottish upbringing and how his young experiences forged his political values – values that he holds to this day. Describing his vision of the Labour Party, he maintained that it should have more than just a programme, it should have a “soul”. He seeks political office not for fame or celebrity, but to make a difference, to make this country a better place. And so on.
His speech was generally warmly received, he got the obligatory standing ovation (even from Blair) and was probably feeling pretty pleased with himself. No doubt he retired from the stage to handshakes, warm smiles and back slapping from his most trusted colleagues and supporters. A job well done, they all no doubt felt.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg News broke a story that was clearly going to alter the expected headlines in tomorrow’s papers. One of their reporters claimed to have heard Cherie Blair say “well, that’s a lie” while watching Brown (on a TV monitor) talking about what a privilege it had been to serve under her husband. Downing Street immediately issued a denial, of course. But immediately this stole the top story from the beleaguered chancellor. Suddenly nobody was interested in the content of the would-be next prime minister’s speech, what mattered now was what the prime minister’s wife did or did not say.
Predictably enough, Cherie’s comment was on the front page of pretty much every newspaper on Tuesday morning. Was it intentional? We’ll never know. After all, it’s not the first time she’s said something controversial. But either way, it was a brilliant outcome for the Blairites and the “anyone-but-Brown” camps.
Then, as if Gordon’s week couldn’t get any worse, that bumbling cretin John Prescott gives the kiss of death by declaring that he will support Gordon Brown’s future leadership bid.
Coming up this week is the Conservative conference in Bournemouth. David Cameron consistently tops opinion polls when it is a straight choice between him or Gordon Brown, despite the fact that nobody really knows what Cameron’s policies are on anything. The less he says or does, the more popular he gets. If I were Cameron, I would just get up on stage on Wednesday and play my favourite songs on a kazoo. The way things are going, it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference to his political ambitions. It should be an interesting week.