Monday, 22 February 2010 INDEX

It was Mandelson what done it....

Despite all the Punch and Judy politics about bully boy Brown, it is pretty obvious that it was the Labour Party and specifically Peter Mandelson who leaked the story. He was not stabbing Brown in the back but acting under the instructions of the PM.

The reason the story was leaked was that focus groups were showing that people did not warm to Brown because they saw him as a speak your weight automaton. The back room boys put on their thinking caps and designed a strategy to make Brown look like a colourful, flamboyant character... or at least the nearest they could get to it.

First we had the unedifying spectacle of Brown talking about his despair on the death of his child, then we learned that he bullies Downing Street staff. Most recently we have had the transparently fake story about the Brown/Darling row. All three stories are calculated to make the Prime Minister look emotional.

But surely you say bullying staff is a bad story for Brown? Well, up to a point Lord Copper...

It would be possible to form a society to prevent ill treatment to rats in this country, if you wanted to do it. But it would not be possible to raise 5p in a save the Whitehall Mandarin collection. You would be lucky if you got your collecting tin back.

Brown is hardly likely to be seen in a bad light for bullying aparatchiks. Brown cossets and supports his Downing Street staff... now that sort of a headline really would get him in trouble.

Politics, like comedy, is all about timing and it is quite clear that Peter Mandelson decided to keep his powder dry until the start of this year.

His first stunt was the Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt rebellion. This had two objects (1) to see if there were any potential rebels out there who might break cover so that they could be dealt with when the mock rebellion collapsed (2) to reveal that anyone planning a coup would get precious little support so they might as well abandon the project.

Expect more stunts, partly designed to move public opinion and partly to deny the Conservatives the oxygen of publicity, until the formal election campaign starts in April.

The irony is that this strategy is almost certainly misplaced. For a long time the mood in the country has been that it is time for a change. The Tories as the most credible agent of change (the only party who can defeat Labour and win the election) are heading towards a landslide victory. As they say, the election is Cameron's to lose.

Strangely, given enough rope to hang himself, Cameron does seem capable of doing just that: losing the election. Crackpot schemes like the Conservative proposal to give publicly employed workers the right to form self managing teams so that teachers could get together and sack the head if they didn't like him or her, unwound almost as soon as they were revealed.

Denied the spotlight, Cameron is also denied the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As the wicked witch of the west says when she is liquidated by Dorothy: what a world!
Monday, 22 February 2010INDEX