David Cameron has been handed the easiest job in politics this week in Bournemouth as he makes his first annual conference address to the Conservatives as their leader. All he needs to do is stand there, smile and sound reasonably sane. The public can do the rest.
Manchester was a freak show, a horror story.Gordon Brown, cast as the evil plotter, with his “psychological flaws”. John Prescott, the Les Dawson of British politics apologising to everyone except his wife for his trouser-dropping and cowboy antics. John Reid, the thug’s thug, setting his jaw for a square go with anyone who wants a piece of it
Labour ministers were congratulating themselves on the success their conference. Can’t think why. The party has destroyed its reputation for discipline, unity and responsible leadership. We’ve seen a party driven mad by seething rivalries and animosity, presided over by a charismatic crowd-pleaser who can’t let go.
If Tony Blair had wanted to help Cameron on his way to Number Ten, he couldn’t have done better. The Prime Minister delivered a tear-stained farewell only to reveal that he’s staying on because he can’t trust his likely successor. His wife called the Chancellor of the Exchequer a liar.
There will be months more of this uncertainty, backbiting, plotting and snide asides before Blair finally goes. It is an impossible situation, a purgatory. Is Blair going to give another tearful farewell to the Scottish Labour conference ? And then another to the Spring conference? And when he finally goes?
And what of the Scottish elections in May? They will be against a background of division and confusion as the old regime tries to ensure that the new regime sticks to the script written by Tony Blair in his departure address. There will be no “Brown bounce” because the Blairites have resolved to destroy the Chancellor’s image. They have fed public perceptions of Brown asa grim and humourless back-stabber who can’t work with anyone except his Scottish cronies.
This is manna for the Conservatives. David Cameron will have another year to establish himself as the agreeable leader of a relatively intelligent and united political party of the centre right. Certainly, there are concerns in some opinion polls about his policies - he doesn’t really have any. He has postures instead - on the environment, on human rights, on Iraq and not being too close to the Americans. This is post-modern politics.
However, the Leader of the Opposition really doesn’t need to worry about policy right now. The government has been reduced to a rabble of malcontents, who no longer know which end of the political spectrum they belong to. Tony Blair has served notice on them that they must support his discredited policies on Iraq, health, civil liberties - or he’ll make sure they lose the next election.
The thought crossed my mind that perhaps Tony Blair had become a kind of political double agent. Having decided that Labour no longer deserved him, he’d decided to do his best to wreck the party before jumping ship top his natural home, the Conservative Party. However, we know this is fantasy because the Tory party is now far to left-wing for Blair.