What a joy to turn on the BBC this morning and see Michael Howard on the Andrew Marr sofa. More, more, more please.
Looking at twitter it’s clear I was not alone in thinking that the former Tory leader is a good reminder of what Tories are really like as David Cameron poses round the place as being something different, nay ‘pro-gress-ive.’ Yeah right. And all that progressive blue blood was running through his veins five years ago when he was helping to write Nasty Mr Howard’s Nasty Manifesto.
Howard – I saw Rory Bremner do him brilliantly as a Bond vilain recently – was on with Neil Kinnock and Paddy Ashdown for a former leaders’ debate about this week’s current leaders’ debate on TV, which will be an important moment in the campaign.
They were asked how they thought their successors would do and, all of them being loyal party types, they all thought their men would do well. Howard was however the least convincing or credible, said a spokesman for Objective Observation.
Neil made much of GB’s character and resilience and how that quality was required in abundance for the tough times we had been through, and now it will be needed even more as we seek to secure the recovery. I felt it was what we call a ‘nod-along’ point for the fair-minded viewer. Say what you like about GB but my God, he is resilient.
Paddy Ashdown, who I have always liked, and with whom I had a really interesting chat about the political scene at a conference in Germany a few weeks back, had some excellent observations to make on the Tory campaign.
Anyone who has ever heard my standard speech on strategy may have heard me cite my favourite examples of strategic failure. Close to the top of the list is the McCain-Palin moment. John McCain did not exactly articulate it this way but his basic strategy in the US Presidential elections was ‘I am experienced unlike Obama and I am not George Bush.’. Worried by his position with his Republican base, he chose Palin as his running mate. True, she injected excitement into the debate and cheered up his troops. But at one stroke she took away any potency in the inexperience attacks on Obama, and she quickly emerged, political spectrum wise, as George Bush in a skirt.
It was as crass a clash of strategy and tactics as can be imagined and for all the attention she still attracts, the only winner out of it was Obama.
So when Paddy described the Tories’ sudden reversion to type, spraying round tax promises without a clue as to how to pay for them, as their ‘Sarah Palin moment,’ I found myself having my own nod-along moment.
The main question for this campaign is whether people think Cameron, Osborne et al are ready and able to govern Britain? McCain’s Sarah Palin moment undermined his credibility. I continue to argue, as I have since they made the move in the first place, that the Tories’ National Insurance gambit is having a similar effect, which is why Alistair Darling has moved back to the top of the ‘best Chancellor’ ratings. Roll on the real debates.
The Tories will also be getting a bit jittery that despite firing some of their biggest shots, and despite the more than fair wind given them by the media, they have not moved further ahead.
Deep down there is something that holds back decent fair-minded people from switching to the Tories. We should be grateful to Neil, Paddy and Michael Howard for reminding us why.
*** Buy The Blair Years and help raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.