Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Character Thing.....

Conventional wisdom has so far been that the election will be a battle between the "popular" Dave, with his easy personality and communications skill, but light on policys, versus "unpopular" Gordon, with his lack of personal skills, but with experience and ability, plus policy advantage. That may be changing.

Yesterday, during a rowdy PMQs, the character question, while not exactly dominant, made its public debut as a battlefield embraced by both sides. The interesting thing is that Gordon Brown raised the character issue and he seemed to relish the battle it implies. The question is: what is the calculation behind Gordon Brown's change of tactics and is it wise for him to get into a beauty contest with Dave?

It seems to me that Brown reckons that he can win the battle of policy: the majority of economists, the IMF and the British people seem to buy his/Alasdair Darling's recipe for economic recovery and to reject George Osborne's. Given that the Tories are still ahead in the polls, the battle has to be carried to them, to take them on, on what the regard as their strengths.

And it's not such a gamble as it might have been six months ago. In that time, the Tories have swung this way and that on a number of policy and presentation issues. This is of course important for policy, but it also shows that Cameron is not on top of his agenda or his shadow spokesmen. George Osborne is also a weak link: he's not impressive personally and his policies are not clear or clearly expressed. Today Politics Home is reporting that the City would prefer Osborne's deputy, Ken Clark as Chancellor. Other Tory shadows have made gaffes and outright mistakes. Andrew Lansdley was supposedly untouchable as Health Spokesman until he suggested that health records should be transferred to Google. Chris Grayling was rebuked by the head of UK Statistics after sending dodgy crime statistics to Tory PPCs for use in the election campaign. And of course even Ken Clark is liable to shoot off at the mouth, and he is a euro-enthusiast, which is not popular in the modern Tory party.

Gordon has also benefitted from the sheer nastiness of some of the attacks on him, notably from the Sun and from Tory Generals. This has had the effect of getting more people "on his side" out of sympathy at the injustice of the attacks and the strength of Conservative bile directed at him. He has also worked at lightening his public persona and delivery and improving public perceptions of his personality. And the sheer doggedness of his determination in pursuing economic solutions, leading international opinion and opposing the forces that attack him, has induced a kind of respect for his strength and determination, qualities that are not negligible in the current climate.

So, in attacking on all sides, policy, presentation and personality, GB is challenging Cameron to fight on all fronts as well. And given that the Tory machine doesn't seem to be as well geared as it should be with all the cash they have spent on it, or as they boasted it would be, and that policy is a battle they do not want, there may indeed be profit for Brown in the strategy.

With the persistent Tory lead he has to do something, and forcing your opponents to change their tactics can be a profitable move for any successful general.


  1. p.s. @15.25.

    Nicholas Watt posts here

    that General Dannatt's hopes of becoming a minister if the Tories get elected, as he was promised by David Cameron, have been sunk by Lord Guthrie...

    Not good form, shouldn't have come out as a Tory while serving, harrrumpphhh harrumphhh..

    Another Cameron misjudgement. Seems to be a growing epidemic....

  2. I love the hallucination that your guys can still win the election. It will make the trouncing you're about to receive all the sweeter!

  3. Anonymous;

    Labour may win, they may lose, it may be a hung Parliament.

    But you wouldn't want them to give up without a fight, would you?

    Which is another part of the Brown character: things didn't come easily to him they way they did to Dave and George, so he will battle for what he believes in.

    And why not?

  4. PS, I made a reasoble case (I think) as to why the "chaarcter" issue could be played to Brown's advantage.

    I notice you haven't disagreed.