Friday, September 26, 2008


How Much Has Has Conference Changed Things?

Much has been written about Brown's much better than expected conference performance- in this high tech media age the spoken word is still crucial-but I wonder if anything fundamental has changed? The Sun's opinion poll showed a merciful reduction in the Tory lead to 10% with better personal ratings. At last something to prove Brown can improve Labnour's political position, through his own efforts. But what about the wider perspective?

1. Distrust of Gordon's aides has been sustained by Ruth Kelly's leaked resignation. She was thought to be someone ready to jump ship with other Cabinet members, so disillusioned with Gordon had she become. By leaking her plans to leave for family reasons, she was 'flushed out' and any rebellious intent pre-empted, say those who hate Brown's backstairs operation.

2.The Evening Standard ran a story a few days ago suggesting the expected reshuffle would come in a 'fortnight's time' to 'stamp his authority' on his party; it would also have, said the paper, a 'loyalty test' attached to ensure support for the PM. This last would be a pathetic condition -and I'm sure this is just partisan nonsense- but we shall see.

3. The reshuffle will cause some pain of its own. Brown's intention to make Nick Brown, his long-time ally Chief Whip has not gone down well with Blairites who recall his earlier stint 1997-2001 when he was ruthessly partisan in the conflict with Blair. Moreover, it is said that he has acted as a 'shadow whip' or 'Brown's nark', feeding information about his colleagues direct to Gordon and thus bypassing Geoff Hoon.

4. Brown still faces acute government finance problems which have, if anything got worse over the conference period. Government borrowing will inevitably break Brown's 'Golden Rule' of 40% of national income and restoring any kind of equipoise to revenue and expenditure is likely to take years and increased taxes as Major discovered, to his political cost in the early nineties. Recession, of course reduces economic activity and hence Treasurury income. Expect much more on this in the new year.

5. Brown's vaunted expertise on the international economy was news which had not apparently reached Washington where he found it hard to find anyone to listen to him, though Bush, it seems, has come to his rescue.

I fear only those politically blind supporters of Gordon Brown can pretend everything has changed. It's back to business as usual for this troubled government, and we haven't even had the Conservative conference yet.

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