Someone texted me late last night to say I should take a look at Peter Hyman’s performance on Newsnight discussing GB and Mrs Duffy with Danny Finkelstein (Tory) and Olly Grender (Lib Dem).
Oh no, I thought, don’t tell me Peter has waded in against GB. If Peter wades in, he tends to do it in a way that is hard not to notice. So I watched – and I was reminded how lucky we were to have had him as a key member of the TB strategy and comms team.
He is not GB’s biggest fan. And he has not exactly hidden that since leaving politics for teaching. But he is someone of independent mind not afraid to swim against a tide.
And with the media tide against GB gushing so hard it is a wonder the PM did not wake up with his 14th floor hotel bedroom flooded this morning, it was great to see Peter saying ‘this is getting ridiculous.’
It was very late and I cannot claim to have taken notes but his main points seemed to be that there was a complete lack of perspective in the media now deciding this was literally the only election story they would cover. That we have all said things in what we believed to be private circumstances which would be hugely embarrassing if they emerged in public. (Indeed TB said exactly that on page something or other of The Blair Years, when he pointed out that if every conversation he and I had ever had had been recorded, we’d have been in real trouble ((see below for further fundraising opportunity))). But he was also insistent – and when Peter is insistent he can be very insistent – that the real story of this campaign was how David Cameron had blown the big lead he enjoyed going into the fight. Danny Finkelstein winced when he was reminded Cameron has led the Tories to exactly the same poll rating as enjoyed five years ago by Michael Howard.
He was right too that the media continue to give Cameron as easy a ride as imaginable. And even though he has seen one or two poll leads widen, and even if the latest brouhaha and its wipe-out of policy debate helps a bit more, Cameron is way short of where he needs to be and where he ought to be. And whilst Olly Grender was right that the Clegg surge from the first debate and the Mrs Duffy encounter were the two big unexpected ‘moments’ of the campaign, Peter was right that the Cameron failure was the real narrative of the campaign and the Tories are right to remain worried.
Gordon knows he has made a big mistake. But he also knows it has upped the stakes for tonight’s debate. It has also probably done wonders for the ratings.
So with a massive audience he has the chance to show why he, with all the experience and expertise he has, is better placed to secure the economic recovery than Cameron or Clegg.
For all the media battering he has taken for months, and for all the problems in the economy, he retains a big advantage here. And tonight he has to press this home like his life depended on it. Because if he loses, the real losers will be the British people who, in part thanks to the nature of the campaign and the media protection DC has enjoyed, have a lot of nasty surprises in store if the Tories get back in.
They have not changed – scratch the surface and they are the same old Tories. Gordon has to remind the public of this. It is true and hurts them.
They also know Cameron is too much for the privileged – his inheritance tax cut for the rich is symbolic of that – and for all his talk of change he will never serve the many.
Cameron’s lack of judgement and substance has been exposed on Europe and on the banking crisis.
The Tories got the most important economic call of the last 60 years wrong
They would make future mistakes because their Europe and foreign policy would lose them alliances, their economic policy is driven by right wing dogma, and because no-one in the country believes Osborne is right for the job.
Mrs Duffy has dominated the campaign for the last day or so. But one year from now, it might be a double dip recession, cuts to frontline services and rising unemployment that plays out across our screens night after night.
And with all respect to all that happened yesterday, it will be largely forgotten.
*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.