I found Gordon Brown's speech a bit lacklustre to be frank, but he got through on the astonishing advantage that derives from not being Tony Blair. The 'not Blair effect' will, in my view, carry Gordon and the Labour Party through the November election which now looks VERY likely, probably with a majority of around 100. After talking to a number of people, none of them very important or influential, at 'Conference' (where does the definite article disappear to at this time of year) I am convinced that an election will be called in the next fortnight. The only person who thought it was unlikely was The Guardian's Michael White, who told me to "remember Harold Wilson in 1970". A very valid point, but if I'd been quick-witted I'd have retorted with "remember Jim Callaghan in 1978." But I'm not quick-witted so I went "uh-huh."
The Jim Callaghan parallel deserves closer examination. Uncle Jim was widely expected to announce an election at the TUC Conference in September 1978 after a series of opinion polls showed Labour several points in front of the Tories for the first time in about 3 years. Instead he did a weird kind of music hall song about a guy who "can't get away to marry you today because my wife won't let me." I wish this was on Youtube: it's one of the truly bizarre moments of 20th century politics and makes Ming Campbell or Iain Duncan Smith look like Bill Clinton in terms of their communicative abilities. I think it is on the BBC site somewhere but I couldn't find the footage. If Callaghan hadn't suddenly decided to do an audition for Monty Python, who knows? He might have won an election and maybe we'd never have had the Thatcher government or any of the rest of the 80s b.s. that we all went through.
But that is A Long Time Ago, and Gordon unsurprisingly kept quiet about any electoral moves last week. He's probably waiting to see how "Dave Cameron's Conservatives" do this week in Blackpool. The general betting now is that the outcome of this conference will be somewhere between a meltdown and a controlled continuum implosion for Dave. The Tories will probably manage to stage-manage the conference set-pieces well enough - not hard when your delegates' average age is about 78 - but the fringe will be broiling. Dave has been under attack on so many fronts recently, e.g.:
- extraordinary attack by George Osborne on the "ultra-modernisers" in central office (isn't George supposed to be one of those? Ah I see - he's actually a hard right winger just on the bandwagon to get into power. Sorry for being stupid.)
- Norman Tebbit effectively saying "vote for Gordon". Tebbit is - and always has been - a wanker, but carries surprising traction amongst the (still surprisingly large) quasi-fascist electoral constituency in "middle England".
- increasingly disastrous poll ratings (despite a weird dip at the end of August where it appeared the Tories were actually reeling Labour in).
I'm looking forward to rolling giroscope into "election mode" any day now.