One of the nice things about writing your own blog, rather than a newspaper column, is that you can write what you want when you want, and not be driven by the agenda or deadlines of others.
So when you’re a bit overbusy, and a bit over-tired, as I have been in the last few days, you can just say ‘sod it, I won’t bother.’
It is modestly flattering to get messages, as I did yesterday, from a man on a train saying his journeys to work were boring without my blog appearing in the last few days. But it is a pressure too, in that feeling you ‘have to’ takes away one of the pleasures of blogging in the first place.
But it was a similar message from two of the people in the audience at the Arts theatre last night, when I did an event with Chris Mullin before the latest staging of A Walk On Part, the terrific play based on his diaries, that jogged me into writing this now.
There is a lot to say. It has been a good week for Labour I think, on which more in a minute, and another not so good week for the Government and its constituent parties. Part of my over busy-ness has been too many speeches, some paid, some unpaid, some to a business audience, some to a political audience, but both giving me a sense that the Government is in a very different place to where it was even a few weeks ago.
At most business events, I try (a bit) not to be too party political, and to analyse things as I genuinely see them, rather than just say Labour good, Tory bad. But at the Direct Mail Association lunch, for example, it was the businessmen on my table who were advising me to ‘say what you really think about how useless this lot are.’ So I laid into them a bit, on my usual hobby horse of all tactics zero strategy, and I felt very little resistance from the room.
Then on the tube home after the theatre, sitting looking at Standard front pages spelling out the current Olympics security shambles, I thought that ‘posh and arrogant’ having pretty much settled into the political furniture for David Cameron and George Osborne in particular, ‘incompetent’ has most days now become their regular partner. So last week they announce the sacking of thousands of military personnel. This week they asked them to rescue them from the latest cock-up.
Seb Coe did a good job on the news – he always does – but something like security really is a matter for Government. And have you noticed how David Cameron has gone a little more low profile since the omnishambles label began to stick? Cricketers who only like easy wickets comes to mind.
The other thing I have noticed is how little time business has for Vince Cable. It was easy for him in Opposition, wandering around saying he had predicted everything that went wrong, and being lauded as that allegedly rare thing in politics, a man who says what he thinks.
But the business people I was with yesterday wanted to slap his face, remind him he is in government, and tell him to get fighting for business instead of moaning about the rest of the government the whole time. ‘Bring back Mandy’ was a fairly common theme.
As for Labour, the fundraising dinner at The Emirates was part of the busy-ness too. It went well and again, there was a sense growing that this really could be a one term government, and that though there is much to do, Labour are definitely back in the game.
Ed Miliband has his detractors, and for many members of the public, ‘the thing with his brother’ is still the first thing they mention. But it is to his enormous credit that the Labour Party, unlike after previous defeats, has held together, and it was good to see the old team and the new team working well together to raise good money for the fight ahead; and to hear TB talking up Ed and Ed talking up the TB record as a sign of what Labour can do in the future.
I took a couple of tables, and got business friends to take others, and I will be reporting back to Ed about some of the comments they have made. One is that whilst they support a lot of the criticisms of the government, they think we are now entering the phase of the Parliament where the ‘what would you do?’ questions need to begin to be answered more clearly. Ed is aware of that and the next Conference, and the next year, will be important.
The second point made to me is that the shadow cabinet need to develop a higher profile and to learn how to work a room. It is not just about networking. It is about energy and dynamism, and people having a sense that there is a strong team determined to get better known and to learn from the experience of others, whether in business, sport, science or whatever.
And – you didn’t think I would get through a longish blog without mentioning Burnley did you? – if you want to see energy and dynamism in action, catch up on ‘Bank of Dave’, which started on Channel 4 last night.
Dave is Dave Fishwick, a Burnley businessman who is sick to death of the banks screwing up the economy and failing to lend to small businesses and is trying to start up his own small bank. He is a huge character. He asked me for advice at one point – I think our meeting is in the next episode – and I said to him I felt he might be taking on more than he can chew. But what was apparent last night is that the more he gets that message, the more determined he becomes. If enthusiasm alone can deliver results, then the football team we support will be Champions League winners in three years.
The Guardian says today if there is any justice in the world, he is a star in the making. More importantly he is a symbol of that great human and political truth – change comes when people decide it should, and then just do it. Politics is harder than making a good TV programme. But the same principles apply.
Because they have shown they lack a coherent political strategy, and a real plan for the country, the Tories are in trouble. Labour now need to show they have both, and as they do, the next election could become one of the most interesting of our lifetime.