Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jack and Ed: "Rumble in the Jungle"?

The latest YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has the Conservatives on 44% to Labour’s 28%. The Conservatives have been ahead in the polls now since last October. The papers are full of reports of panic on the backbenches as perhaps 100 Labour MP’s contemplate eviction at the next election. The Cabinet is bickering with, amazingly, near fisticuffs between Jack Straw and Ed Balls (who would have thought Straw had it in him?). There are also reports that Charles Clarke is collecting signatures – 71 are needed - for a “stalking-horse” leadership challenge if Labour does badly in the May local elections. There is discontent on the back-benches over the abolition of the 10p tax rate (which is about to kick-in) and it looks like Brown is heading for defeat over the 42-days detention proposal. Brown appears to be consolidating his reputation as a “ditherer”: he will attend the closing but not the opening ceremony in Beijing (He says that was the plan all along. Maybe. But it looks like a repeat of his performance over the European Reform Treaty: both there and not there, neither one thing nor the other). Probably the Blairites are right; Brown was not the man to be PM. Oddly, the “not flash, just Gordon” pitch was wide of the mark. He is a crowd-pleaser (what else is the 42 days about?) but an inept one. Yet I doubt if Brown will be replaced before the next election. Labour does not (despite Blair being hurried towards the exit) have a reputation for ruthlessness vis-à-vis failing Leaders (unlike the less sentimental Tories). Of course, the election is a long way off and recovery is not impossible; but it looks more and more unlikely. The trouble is that Cameron and his coterie are, I suspect, a great deal more right-wing than all his tree-hugging suggests...


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