Wednesday, September 19, 2007

All rather depressing...

Well, things aren't precisely going wonderfully for the Tories at the moment are they? The polls look grim, the near-collapse of the financial sector appears, perhaps bizarrely, to be redounding to Gordon Brown's favour and David Cameron appears beset simultaneously from left and right for being either a red-fanged reactionary or a limp-wristed lefty depending on to whom you are listening. Is there any hope for the Tories, or is the nation doomed to an interminable Brownite terror?

The answer lies more in the nature of Gordon Brown than in anything the Conservatives can do over the next few months (assuming there is no Autumn election). Key to the revival in Brown's personal ratings since he became Prime Minister has been the way in which he has sought to negate all the areas where he was perceived to be weak. So the closed-off schemer has sought to broaden his horizons through a series of lateral hires - Williams, Bercow, Mercer and Eliasch. The arch-centraliser has introduced (ish) the ghastly 'citizens juries' to prove that he is really listening.

But there is an inherent flaw in all these things - Brown doesn't truly believe in them. Mercer, Bercow and the rest haven't been hired for the perspicacity of their opinions but for the embarassment that their employment causes Cameron. Does anyone truly think that the citizens' juries will cause policy changes? Brown's tactics have been very effective - but there will come a time when they are shown to be hollow.

Is that any comfort for the Tories? Possibly not. It is beginning to look as though their best asset - Cameron himself - is becoming, if not actually a liability, then at least less of an asset. He seems to have lost that most significant of all attributes: the benefit of the doubt. The Tories have even reignited their latent regicidal tendencies - which is proving far more damaging than anything Brown can do. 'Labour attacks Tory' is barely even a story, 'Tory attacks Tory' is much better.

The story will change. 'Brown the wonderful' simply doesn't have the wheels to last indefinitely. If the Tories can prevent implosion, then they ought to be in good shape to reap the benefits of a 'Comeback Kid' story. If they're not lucky, however, you can almost see the Lib Dems seizing the initiative with a shiny new leader of their own.

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