Monday, October 01, 2007

Reflections on Day One

What an odd day. Every person had only one subject on their mind - is there going to be an early election or not? Strangely, there seems to be a mood of erie resignation to the fact that Gordon Brown will indeed call one.

However, there was one dissenting voice today that I encountered on this - and one I have a lot of respect for. It was a private conversation so I won;t say who it was with, but it was one the country's leading political journalists. He's convinced Gordon Brown won't risk an election and thinks the polls are massively overstating the Labour lead. He reckons the lead could disappear as quickly as it arrived. The name of Ed Balls then came up. I remarked that I thought Balls was the most overrated politician in British politics and reminded me of Alan B'Stard's hapless assistant, Piers Fletcher-Dervish. No, no no, said the political journalist. "Ed Balls isn't the most overrated politician in British politician. That's Gordon Brown. He's a second rater." I picked up my jaw from the floor and was about to ask him what he meant by that when someone interrupted the conversation.

Can it be true that we have all overestimated Gordon Brown? I described him in my Telegraph column last week as the greatest machine politician of his generation. Was I wrong? Perhaps we shouldn't all be so intimidated by him.

It was a stellar lineup on the conference floor today with speeches by William Hague, Michael Heseltine, Boris Johnson, Michael Bloomberg and a video from Arnie. Apart from the cock up over sound, I think the day went well. There were lots of good policy announcements and by the evening I detected a bit of a conference buzz. No one is complacent about the task ahead, but there's a real optimism that by the end of the week people might see the Conservative Party in a slightly different light.

Let me say a word about Sayeeda Warsi. She comes in for a lot of unfair stick from Conservatives and non Conservatives alike. Much of it is unfair. Some of it isn't. Today she was on the front page of the Independent on Sunday for having the temerity - ad let's remember she's a muslim woman of Pakistani descent - to talk about immigration. She said that people who thought about voting for the BNP did so for a reasons and that their legitimate concerns should be addressed. Naturally the IoS did it's holier than thou act and castigated her for even thinking about the subject, let alone verbalising it. She said nothing that any non politically correct person could remotely find offensive and those that have criticised her have probably not even read what she said. Part of the reason the BNP succeeds is precisely because the mainstream parties are seen as failing to address their concerns. Is it really such a crime to point that out?

The big worry for me about today is not how we see ourselves at the conference but how the outside world sees us. And I haven't a clue about that. Enlighten me in the comments.


Prodicus said...

I think your journo pal is bang on, and it won't be too long before others agree with him, right out in the open - and Gordon knows it. Just a matter of time. I am feeling quite cheerful today, regardless of what Gordon does. And the conference looked very good on TV. Forgive the personal plug, but I really am feeling extremely chirpy, despite Radio 4 making their lead news item (all day) the Blackpool AV failure.

Daily Referendum said...

It all came across as very positive. Good speeches, good policy and an upbeat and interactive audience.

Anonymous said...

Iain - Someone has said the unthinkable, which I have been thinking for around, oh, eight years or so - Gordon Brown is not very bright.

The people around him promote him as formidable. Personally, I have always thought he is autistic. And disconnected.

I cannot imagine any senior French or American politician sitting in their debating chamber picking his nose, knowing he is on camera, eating the fruits of his labour and wiping his fingers off on the underside of his tie. Knowing he was on national TV, yet somehow thinking it didn't matter? No one would notice?

It signalled such a want of connection.

I've always thought he may have a genetic disposition to mental weakness. I think he's autistic, which is why he is so oddly attached to numbers.

This individual has been managed by other people since Labour got into power 10 years ago. He goes with the ones he trusts. He has done bugger all to prove he is intelligent, or even tethered.

The man is not normal.

Anonymous said...


Brown has often been labelled as autistic, but 'autistic' is a broad term, covering everything from severe disability, offering no chance of a decent life, to the fortunate few with Asperger's syndrome: severe lack of social skill but a compensating ability -- if these people find their ability, they end up as Fellows of All Souls, their behaviour taken as the lovable eccentricity of an absent-minded professor.

I have Asperger's syndrome and earn my living doing something deeply technical that I could explain to you for an hour and you still wouldn't understand what I was doing. (And I am glad not to be normal; so boring.)

Reasoning only from my own experience, if Brown has Asperger's, he feels outside and detached from what seems to him the pointless maelstrom of emotion experienced by normal people. He can observe and understand their behaviour, but does not share their sentiments, and indeed is likely to despise them and view them as weakness.

Such people are good at forming intricate plans -- not necessarily workable ones, mind -- and at applying them ruthlessly, and at controlling and intimidating people. They are impatient and easily angered and, when thwarted, may become depressed to the point of inertia.

They often have obsessive habits and are bad at repressing them in public situations, which they find pointless and boring anyway.

Other people with Asperger's I know are gentle, moral people. But if you have Asperger's *and* ambition, and the necessary skills to exploit it, you are just the kind of person who can fight his way to the top of a political party by shafting everyone in your path with detached skill.

One of the worst things about the present political system is that the killer instinct that takes people to the top of a party and a premiership is quite different from that required to run a country, or even to be a successful chancellor. Few people have both.

Tapestry said...

Gordon Brown is sending British politics back to the 1970's.

The Thatcher Revolution, and the Blair aftermath lasted from 1979 to 2007.

Brown has gone back to somewhere around 1970-1974...runs on banks, unnecessary elections caused by dubious opinion polling, deceptions about Europe, asking the unions to accept below inflation pay rises, appointment of minnows who will not compete, the past deleted from memory.

Let's face it. Gordon Brown is pure Edward Heath.

Imagine a world where Blair and Thatcher never happened, and you will find Gordon Brown. He grew up at that time, and he hasn't moved on since. Mike Smithson yesterday was looking back to the same era to find the closest parallel he could for Brown's strategy. (link via my blog)

I'm delighted the conference is going well. Why wouldn't it? Iain, you must stop believing all that tripe in the media.

When will Tony Benn be announcing his defection? My VCR is ready and waiting. You see, Iain you've got a 1970s echo going on in your head too. 35 years of history have simply disappeared.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your Journo pal, but if the pal is the excellent Matthew Parris I'm afraid it's not new news as Matthew has been saying this in his Times columns for several months. However if your journa pal is a 'labour-leaning' journo, that could be very interesting ! Enjoy the conference Iain

Anonymous said...

Matthew Parris' column this week was saturated with contempt of Mr Brown and his little cabal.

"The new Brown Government on display in Bournemouth last week. Pale, weak personalities who have waited too long in the dark, led by a man who has waited too long in the dark. The substitutes, the understudies grown bitter through frustration, hauled blinking from the dressing room."

"They looked like a shadow administration, muscles wasted, minds soured, lost for words, reaching for the comfort of old clich├ęs: second-raters surprised by the light."

"Pull back the curtains guarding this latterday Wizard of Oz and you will find a crafty but unimaginative 20th-century Labour politician: a bully with a big ego, a yellow streak and nothing to say. Whenever the election comes, the message to Conservative representatives gathering now in Blackpool was whispered last week on every sea-breeze in Bournemouth: this man, this Government, is so beatable."

For what it's worth, I don't think Mr Brown will call an election this year. He doesn't need one, and has little to gain from one. HOWEVER, I think the Conservatives could and would win a 2007 general election.

The only reason the Labour gov't has lasted this long is that the Conservatives didn't look up to the job. I don't think that's the case anymore.

Anonymous said...

I was watching a News24 broadcast yesterday afternoon and during an exchange that took place between James Landale reporting on the conference Charles seemed completely at a loss why the Conservatives were so upbeat in view of Labour's "command" in the opinion polls. This pretty well sums up the present mindset on the left and in the BBC.

I've been banging on for weeks. The election,if it's called will be a lot closer than people think. There's been some good headway made in the key seats that the Conservatives need to win. A lot of this has passed under the radar of the MSM. They are so infatuated with Gordon they think the majority of the country is too. Part's of it maybe but there are certain parts that aren't. A lot of voters haven't actually made their minds up - one way or the other- such is the volatility of opinion that the 11% lead in the polls shouldn't be taken as gospel even Peter Kellner whose organisation polled one of those polls for YouGov admitted as much and put the result down to Brown "convention bounce" and the true lead was probably nearer 6% that lead can and will vanish in an election campaign)

The speeches yesterday were excellent. Hague's comments about Brown "fawning at the feet of Margaret Thatcher" just one of the priceless soundbites which even the "impartial" BBC played several times over in their News Bulletins. The Party just needs to keep it's nerve; face Brown down and keep rolling out policy iniatives.

Brown may well rue the day he actually allowed his "young turks" to hype up the election fever rather than dampen it down

Anonymous said...

You asked how the outside world sees us - the world's view is obviously heavily influenced by the media, and I would like to give you a graphic example.

The Sunday Telegraph appears to be rather bi-polar about the Conservative Party. Last week, it cited my constituency, Ilford North, as a key marginal - lost to Labour in 97, regained by us in 05.

We have an exceptionally hard-working and honest MP, who has also made a good name for himself in the House. The Telegraph spent some time interviewing him on Friday, listening to his upbeat and frequently amusing comments, as well as an honest assessment of prospects. In the ST's article on the constituency yesterday, it did not make a SINGLE reference to the MP, nor his views. This was because, I am sure, his positive outlook did not fit the Telegraph's negative position of 'we're doomed, we're all doomed!'

Time and again posters here bemoan the fact that Tory MPs are not fighting back - and time and again I know for a fact that they are, but the MSM do not want to know, and so do not publicise that fact.

I was heartened just a little, however, to hear the Westminster Hour last night, when Caroline Quin actually managed to refrain from sneering at or patronising her interviewees, Michael Gove, Tim Montgomerie and Ben Brogan. But then, how many of the general public, other than anoraks like you and me, listen to the Westminster hour?

Anonymous said...

Iain, many of the tv reports included the sound problems. The live BBC Parliament part was made far worse because you could watch warts, warts and more warts. It was one thing to get the sound so badly wrong but then to allow news feeds to keep the cameras rolling rather than go dark was the second error. It makes us look incompetent. Organisation and systems are something we need to run in a modern efficient way, yet these have less emphasis than green stunts.

Later in the day excerpts from William Hague's speech were shown and he came across very impressively.

Anonymous said...

The BBC are following conference topics with a New Labour comment. The Today programme 01/10/2007 was negative about the conservatives.
Darling is planned to upstage Osborne today with his safety net for depositors.

Anonymous said...

I also read the Independent article on the BNP and everything she said was absolutely correct. In short, she pointed out that people are concerned about the speed and amount of immigration, and communities are really struggling to stay together.

Bang on, if you ask me.

Man in a Shed said...

On the late news on BBC Nick Robinson had found a delegate to quote to fit the BBC message. Something on the lines of the party being the only condemned man to be asking for his execution date to be brought forward.

I have to say I'm surprised Nick Robinson would stoop to such depths , as he's been one of the better BBC commentators.

Personally I'd like the election now - as it may be our only chance to get Gordon out before 2010. He got a clunking fist, but a glass jaw.

What worries me is that all the costed and popular policies that our announced will be re-announced by the shameless Gordon Brown in the near future. Its not like he doesn't have form.

Anonymous said...

Why is Warsi alarming/racist when she speaks the truth about immigration, but it's OK for Blunkett to talk about being 'swamped' by immigrants, and it's OK for Margaret Hodge to (belatedly) wake up to voters' concerns on the subject?

Labour are bloody hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

I'd put money on it being Michael White.

Chestcracker said...

I maybe biased but I think that positive buzz you mentioned is reflected in the pieces on television. Popular Policies are also prominent in the transmissions unlike last week or the week before that. Positive vibes from conference need to carry on right up to Dave's speech so as to positively influence the light the speech is seen - a kind of feel-good mood musical preamble?!?!

Anonymous said...

Asperger boy, your well-intentioned 'apologia' for your 'condition' doesn't explain why we should elect a person with such personality disorder to Parliament, yet alone allow him to run the country, does it? You may find that offensive and I'm sorry about that but as Prime Minister we need a balanced, sane, visionary leader. Sadly, modern politics attracts only the careerists, failures and misfits - can anyone, hand on heart, name a single normal, sane, decent human being on either front bench? Thought not.

My guess is that the mysterious anonymous 'journo' is Peter Oborne, whose books The Political Class is just published. It's just his schtick - and I for one agree with him. Brown is autistic, dangerous, mendacious (that's posh for liar) and seriously bad for Britain. Yet the fool electorate will blindly elect him for another five years of incompetent spendthrift adminsitration because Cameron is entirely un-credible as a PM in waiting. And I say that with sorrow in my heart.

Oscar Miller said...

Organisation and systems are something we need to run in a modern efficient way

When Gordon Brown managed to have his face obscured by an autocue for his first big speech to launch his leadership coup it was spun by the media as endearing evidence that the man is Unspun and not concerned with image. We've since learnt that nothing could be further from the truth. The media is protecting this incompetent man to such an extent that there is no cock-up that they won't cover for. And - adversely - there is no Conservative success story that they won't try to spoil by any means necessary. Gordon shows no signs of real intelligence in my book - but somehow he seems to have brainwashed some pretty clever and influential people around him to virtually worship him. In fact I thought last week's Labour conference was like witnessing a cult (well satirised by Andrew Neil) which contrasts greatly with the open, lively atmosphere of political ferment in Blackpool. Despite the black arts of the media, the Conservatives are doing well - sharpened by adversity - George Osborne gave a very good, convincing interview on the Today programme and got in a delightful dig at James Naughtie (you know the PM much better than me ...). I think there's all to play for.

Oscar Miller said...

by the way I just discovered that postal workers are planning to go on strike this week - that would make a great start to Gordo's election campaign.
From the Royal Mail website:

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has announced further strike action, in the form of two 48 hour strikes, from lunchtime on Thursday 4th – lunchtime on Saturday 6th October, and from the early hours of Monday 8th – early hours Wednesday 10th October
This will be followed by an unspecified programme of weekly strikes, starting w/c October 15th, until the resolution of the dispute.

Could wreak havoc on postal votes ....

Anonymous said...

I really don't think that Brown is playing this at all cleverly.If he calls an election now then it would have to be in November after the clocks have gone back.Add in the strong chance of rotten weather at that time,then the turn out will be low on a dark and wet day.The undecideds will not bother to turn out for an unnecessary election.However if he does not call an election after all his own party's hype then he will appear weak or fearful.He has dug a hole for Cameron but is in danger of falling in it himself.

Chris Paul said...

Baroness Warsi was indeed right on message. One of the cleverest examples of the old race dog whistle I've seen for years. Multi-layered. Truly brilliant Tory strategy to pull the right wing voters back from UKIP and the BNP. I reckon Dave, George, Boris and Maurice were all in on this. Far from her being the naive maverick she is doing the required role brilliantly. In the Independent? Masterstroke.

It will of course backfire. But there's no getting away from the essential brilliance of this spin.

Chris Paul said...

Oh, did I say Iain? The election will be in June 2009 to swamp Baroness Warsi's soulmates in the BNP if for no other reason. The election fever is however coursing through Labour veins at all kinds of levels. This is the only way to maintain the illusion and keep Dave-id spending and making policy commitments. Brilliant Brown Monsters Tories.

Oscar Miller said...

It will of course backfire. But there's no getting away from the essential brilliance of this spin.

And there's no getting away from the essential imbecility of your spin Chris.

Oscar Miller said...

This is the only way to maintain the illusion

Yes Brown is a master of monstrous illusion. If he is playing games as cynically as you suggest Chris - then the man who came to power promising trust would be restored to politics has well and truly blown it. It's been one stunt after another since he got the keys to no.10. It's obvious that his emotional flaws continually get the better of his judgement. He's done a wonderful job of dismantling any 'illusions' that he's a decent, straightforward, unspun guy. The nauseating 'Britishness' shtick, the Thatcher show, the 'have a go' hero' volte face and the shameless election game playing have let everyone know loud and clear what kind of man he is - a particularly nasty kind of charletan - and actually not a very clever one at that.

Praguetory said...

Gordon is a moron.

Anonymous said...

asperger boy [2.09 AM] Your character analysis of Gordon Brown is compelling. I believe you have hit the nail on the head.

You add, "One of the worst things about the present political system is that the killer instinct that takes people to the top of a party ... is quite different from that required to run a country ... Few people have both."

I agree. Moreover, administrative skills, in particular the ability to get a government department working efficiently, are hugely underrated.

How many members of the present cabinet are good administrators, or indeed have any real interest in the nuts and bolts of sound government? I suspect many of them are simply slaves to their red boxes, puppets of their Department's own agenda.

Anonymous said...

Iain, don't you find the Independent's attitude to Sayeeda Warsi's views profoundly depressing? The intolerance of the left, and the PC brigade, is ... intolerable!

David Lindsay said...

Even Question Time is coming from London rather than Blackpool this week. And there are many far more engaging things for pensioners to do in Blackpool than listen to David Cameron and his ridiculous courtiers.

So, by the time of Dave's speech, will anyone even turn up? What would happen if nobody did? And what would happen if nobody at all voted in a pointless General Election this year?

It is psephologically impossible for the Tories to win the next General Election. The swings required are off the chart, they would need an eleven point lead to secure an overall majority of one, and level pegging with Labour would deliver a Labour overall majority of ninety.

But if the Tories actually cannot win, then what is the point of the Labour Party?

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone should underestimate Broon! I believe he is shrewd politician. He is playing games with the conservatives, trying to push them in to confusion by his 'will he won't he tatics' over an election. He's waiting to see how the conference goes, and to see if the conservatives can be pushed into revealing what their manifesto would be.....then he'll decide.

He's very canny.

Anonymous said...

In respect of Sayeeda Warsi, it is only a fortnight since you castigated Miranda Grell for her ill-judged comments, and said that Labour bloggers were 'treading a well-worn path' in defending her. You also said, 'let's just recognise that all parties have their bad apples, shall we?'

I agree with you that Miranda Grell's remarks were inexcusable and she is a bad apple alright. Chris Paul seems to have launched a one man campaign to save the poor woman's reputation and bemoans the fact that right wing bloggers have it in for her just because she got her facts wrong and was quoted out of context.

Now I happen to think that Chris Paul is a first-class idiot, but the trouble is you sound just like him when you defend Sayeeda Warsi's comments. You're defending some very risque, right-wing, dog-whistle comments. They are of the half-assed, can't-really-be-bothered-to-say-it-but-you-know-what-I-mean, nudge-nudge, wink-wink type. And it is not enough to say just because she's BME origin, she can say it. At the end of the day she is legitimating certain policy proposals of the fascist, homophobic BNP, and you are defending her right to do that.

And really that's fine, if you think that message needs to be sent out. But consider that every Labour blogger and activist can then turn around and say: oh, there's that Iain Dale, typically Tory, treading a well-worn path, why can't he just disassociate himself from such racist claptrap and recognise that every party has its bad apples?

It does nothing to shed the nasty party image. Which is shame because I know you're not nasty, Iain!

Anonymous said...

Let me say a word about Sayeeda Warsi too.
She is a MUPPET with homophobic views - and I hope she gets the sack.

Thatcher's Child said...

Do you really know what is so wrong with the Tory party?

Its a London party and it ignores the will of everyone outside London.

I visited London yesterday from opp North, and it is staggering to me that the rest of the UK is being managed by policies which are designed for an area only covering 1405 sq miles of the UK.

I had never been to a MCDonalds which didn't have at least a few white people in it before, I did yesterday - and I was in Kensington! Then I realised what the problem is. The ruling classes of London do Sushi, not McD's so they don't mix with the major population of this country.

On the trip home, I saw so many non Brits, it was like visiting a different country. Actually, that is a little simplistic. The reason it was like a different country is because the rest of the UK is not like this. And politicians don't realise this.

Oscar Miller said...

He's very canny.

October 01, 2007 2:03 PM

Straight out of Labour HQ thinking Daisy. The sad thing is you think this game playing is canny. Not arrogant, slippery, devious, totally untrustworthy and altogether rotten behaviour from a man who's supposed to be a simple soul with a moral compass. It's the story of the budget writ large - Broon thought he was being so clever and he'd briefed all the media to report Cameron's humiliation. Except it was Broon's trickery that ended up making the headlines. And the election will be the same. These underhand tactics will rebound on him. And anyway how weak does it look to hang such an important decision on the speech of the opposition leader, who he's supposed to hold in such contempt?

Anonymous said...

Iain - for fuck's sake stop allowing posters here using 'autistic' as an insult. For many years there were strong rumours that Brown was 'queer' - presumably you'd be unhappy if that adjective was used here?

For anyone who has had to deal with real autism, the thought that a and deeply serious condition can be used by the attack poodles who line up to post here is deeply offensive.

So far as the Brown/Cameron issue is concerned, my guess is that most people will see the chinless wonder as an ineffective, dithering twat - adored by Notting Hill set and few else. Be honest Iain, can you really see him doing a good job in No 10?

Gavin said...

Iain, you ask a very serious question in your final paragraph, and it's worth a serious reply, so I'll try and give you one.

I am a natural conservative-voter. When I first came of age, I voted Labour in 1987, as I was a naive teenager who believed in socialism and the whole "social justice" thing, and I read and believed what the NME wrote about Thatcherism at the time.
But I soon grew up and grew out of my necessary socialist phase. It's a phase that you have to go through as a naive teenager. I started to learn about political systems and ideologies, and I naturally became a conservative. I voted conservative in 1992. However, I became deeply disillusioned with John Major's government and I admit I voted Labour in 1997, just because I felt it was time for a change. I voted UKIP in 2001 and Con in 2005, as I identified with Michael Howard's straightforward campaign. Howard was a good leader of your party, he had integrity.

OK, enough background. Iain, if there was a general election next month, I would vote for Gordon Brown, and definitely not for David Cameron. And I would urge all fellow conservatives to do likewise. I am sure that Mr Cameron is a very nice man, but he is not a conservative, and he does not have the qualities of a future Prime Minister. He is taking your party in a direction which bears no resemblance to my idea of conservatism. Barking on about "green" issues - for heaven's sake, who gives a stuff about all that? What we want to see are the REAL issues being addressed! Law and Order, unchecked immigration, an end to the welfare/benefit-scroungers, lower taxes, stronger defence, and above all, the reclaiming of every area of our sovereignty from the claws of Brussels.
Mr Cameron is delivering NONE of these things, and the reason is that he is at heart an EU "yes-man". He's just as much a traitor to the UK as Gordon Brown. Well, Iain, although I am a Conservative at heart, I will not vote Con while Mr Cameron holds the reigns; indeed I will vote Labour. Because I think the Conservative Party needs to taste utter defeat and death, in order for it to re-emerge once more as a real conservative party.
Don't get me wrong - I realise that David Cameron is just one man, and that his views do not represent the views of every member of the Conservative Party. I know that the Conservative party is a broad house, but you must rid yourselves of this insincere leadership and get back to true conservative basics, in order to win an election again.
I feel that you will probably disagree with me on this, but that's OK. And I do understand that ALL political parties operate on the basis of "we have to win the election first, then we can take the gloves off and show our true colours. But first, we have to WIN". I see that. I just feel that the Con. party is too easily ditching its principles in order to try and appeal to this mysterious and elusive "centre ground" at the moment. I think that's a flawed strategy.

Anonymous said...

Tom Tyler, I am NOT a Conservative, never have been and never will be - BUT i will probably vote for David Cameron's party if there is a general election.

How could you want another ten years of Gordon brown and deceiptful Labour? How?

I think the Brown bounce has ended - and he will be exposed as a liar - and a creep. Gordon Brown is a CREEP.

Cameron is our ONLY chance for a better future. He really is.

Anonymous said...

deceitful too :)

all this quick typing at work ! sheesh