Monday, September 25, 2006

Blairite Strategy and Brown's Response

Jackie Ashley in the Guardian says that: “The truth is, in his heart, Blair would love to see Brown beaten and humiliated”. Too true. The elements of the Blairite strategy are now clear:
· Prolong the succession crisis in the hope that a credible stop-Brown candidate can emerge.
· Depict Brown as “Old Labour”, or weak on “reform”.
· Emphasise the need for a “fresh face”.
· Depict Brown as over-ambitious, disloyal to the Leader, and therefore untrustworthy.
· Argue that Brown is not “good box office”, and won’t appeal to the voters (this was Mandelson’s theme last night).
The tactics? Unofficial briefings; speeches and interviews attacking Brown by “outriders” (Milburn, Byers, Hutton, Mandelson); the mobilisation of “friends in the media”.
Browns counter-move seems to be:
· Praise Blair (through gritted teeth) and say that he must be allowed “to make his own decision”.
· Emphasise his New Labour credentials and say that there can be no going back to Old Labour (tricky one this: the unions want to hear something about setting some limit to marketisation).
· Talk a lot about an inclusive “government of all the talents” (a hint that Johnson, Reid and perhaps Clarke will be given Cabinet posts: but Hutton, I think, is toast).
· Emphasise the need for party unity.
· Emphasise the “economic achievements” of the last 10 years (throw in something about “social justice” to try to assuage centre-left critics).
· Talk about “combating world poverty” and the like to try to give a “moral vision” to the “Brown project”.
Brown is disadvantaged in so far as the succession crisis damages him more than the Blairites. Knowing this, Brown has tried to restrain his supporters. In the Marr interview Blair stuck to the “vow of silence” line and tried to present himself as “above the fray”. But Blairites such as Hutton and Mandelson are not adhering to the “vow of silence” position. Expect more of the same.


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