Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Gordon's team may be found wanting too...

I didn't actually post on the whole 'will-he-won't-he' debate - not because I didn't have a view but because I didn't have the time. For the record I was in the 'he will' camp so there's a yardstick for you should I be rash enough to predict anything else! Nonetheless, had Gordon decided to go ahead with a poll next month I think we'd probably have seen the most presidential election in UK politics yet, and for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the 'Gordon v's David' theme has preoccupied the media for almost two years now (long before one of them was even in the job) and it was still the defining narrative as the conference season opened. The timing of Brown's ascension and the parliamentary recess meant we haven't actually seen a tremendous amount of direct face-to-face time between the two men and so the allure of how they'll square off remains strong for the media and the public in general. Whether or not this factor will hold true when there actually is a poll (possibly two years away) depends on the other reason why I think an immediate poll would've been very presidential - the relative weakness of the government front bench.

Disregarding policy issues or personal differences I think most people would accept Blair's cabinets were quite substantial in terms of intellectual weight and public profile - names such as Reid, Clarke, Blunkett, Cook, Mowlam and of course Brown himself were all national figures whose standing, if not their performance, matched the job description. Surely nobody but the most myopic party loyalist would contend that Darling, Miliband, Smith, Browne or Johnson is a list with anything like the same cachet - at least not yet? The irony of course is that this is Brown's own fault because his supporters continually talked up his superiority over every other member of the Cabinet before he became leader (with the aim of making that outcome all the more certain of course). The result is that Gordon and his supporters spent the 18-months or so before he became PM talking down the quality and substance of the very people he nows forms a cabinet with.

This presents an opportunity for the Conservatives - the fact that most of Gordon's team lack any real weight or standing in the public eye should cheer a shadow cabinet that can count the likes of William Hague and David Davis as members. In the case of those last two there's a clear gulf between them and the relative newbies they shadow (Miliband and Smith). I think a similar gulf in quality exists between Johnson and Lansley at Health, Hutton and Duncan at Business & Enterprise and Browne and Fox at defence (particularly given recent events!)

That said it's important they don't get too cocky following last week's events because the volatility of the polls is well documented and no longer being seen as a joke isn't the same thing as being seen as a government in waiting - the key thing is just to recognise that unlike 6/7 years ago they're not facing a formidable 'first XI' anymore so it shouldn't just be Brown the Tory election machine targets...

**Update** Via Iain Dale a video (see right) that demonstrates just how poor some on the Labour front bench are - Ed Balls making a bit of an idoit of himself and being taken apart by IDS.


At 4:24 PM , Newmania said...

It can only be Brown . he is the only thing that has changed

At 10:25 PM , Anonymous said...

Ed didn't like being touched by IDS, did he? If only he had a silly surname that people could make fun of ...


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