Sunday, October 07, 2007
Never Underestimate your Opponent: in Sport or Politics
The Aussies certainly entered the fray against England yesterday, confidently expecting victory and crashed out to the side captained by Phil Vickery(pictured), undone by a side which for once punched its weight. The All Blacks trotted onto the pitch at the Millennium Stadium, with similar confidence against the French and went the same way. For which northern hemisphere victories I, for one, exult. Who knows the Scots might even make it three in the semi-finals; at least that would help cheer up our Prime Minister after his worst week in politics.
In June this year David Cameron expected Gordon Brown to be a lumbering, grey, extinct volcano of a politician whilst he proved remarkably nimble, steady of nerve and fecund of ideas. So confident did Gordon become, boosted by poll leads of up to 11% that he fancied taking on the still untested David Cameron in a snap election. This was to be a clinical crushing of the kind anticipated by our Antipodean friends with the oval ball; maybe, Labour allowed themselves to dream, it would end the career of the former Etonian. Oh dear! It didn't quite work out that way did it. As for Cameron, Brown's over-confidence led to a similar, but more grievous misjudgement. Ming Campbell has called it 'a humiliating climbdown'; the Observer's
He[Brown] was seduced by the short-term goal of annihilating the Tories. He so craved a mandate from the ballot box that he squandered much of the implicit moral mandate he had from soaring poll ratings. The public had invested in him that crucial and most ephemeral of political commodities - the benefit of the doubt. He has gambled it unwisely on political games.
The worst ramifications of this defeat may not survive the new year but Gordon may have sustained a crippling hit:
i) he has lost, temporarily at least his reputation for strength which so boosted his ratings compared with Cameron.
ii) Cameron has leapt in with confident sounding certainties. They are based mostly on supposition of course but every opposition has to have ready and waiting to unroll and he has done so adroitly.
iii) Brown has lost his reputation for being decisive and for getting things right.
iv) He tried to blame his advisers- Balls and Miliband were the most gung ho for the plan- but everyone knows he deliberately let talk of an election continue until it seemed imminent. It was his call and he must take the blame he could not bring himself to admit to Andrew Marr this morning.
v) Having declined to fight George Robertson in 1978, to stand for the party leadership in 1992 and take on Blair in 1994, Brown's reputation for 'bottling it' has been possibly sealed for ever.
v) the next election is nor definitely off for spring 2008 and we must wait for the long haul in 2009, or even later if, as we are told is likely to happen, things go pear-shaped with the economy.
vi)The Tories already have posted leads in a number of newspapers, much to the glee of the right-wing press. It'll be while before they change and will help Cameron immensely as he ploughs his 'liberal Tory' furrow.
vii)instead of 'finishing off' Cameron's project, he has reinvigorated it mightily and handed the political initiative to the Opposition until such uncertain time it can be wrested back.
These are not the actions of a leader.
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