Andrew Allison

What does the future hold for Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems?

In Blair, Brown, Cameron, Chris Huhne, Conservatives, labour, LibDems, Ming Campbell, Nick Clegg on October 16, 2007 at 4:39 pm

The past two and a half weeks have been the most politically volatile anyone can remember for a long time. The opinion polls are not to be trusted. They are jumping everywhere and yesterday we saw the first casualty of Brown’s ‘non-election.’

Now is a good time to pause and think. This is what the Lib Dems will have to do to make sure their new leader is the right one, and this will give them a problem.

When John Major became Foreign Secretary after the departure of Geoffrey Howe, the country said, ‘John who?’ He was in the cabinet, but the post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury is not a prominent job, but by the time he became Chancellor of the Exchequer a few months later he was a household political name. This gave him the springboard he needed to go for the leadership after Thatcher was pushed out.

Tony Blair was a leading light in the Labour Party long before he became leader. He had made quite a name for himself as Shadow Home Secretary. The electorate – at least those even with a passing interest in politics – knew who he was.

The same can also be said for Ming Campbell. We should not forget his performances in the House of Commons as Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesman. He has a fine grasp of world affairs and he made a name for himself before, during and after the invasion of Iraq.

When it comes to Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg, the same cannot be said of them. They are known to people who are actively involved in politics; but not to the public at large. If you are not well known, you have to be a natural leader, good at getting your point of view across. You have to be able to command a stage. David Cameron wasn’t really known when he became leader of the Conservative Party, but he is proving himself to be strong, cool under fire and has built a very strong team around him who look and sound like ministers; not shadows.

The future of the Liberal Democrats relies on either Huhne or Clegg doing a Cameron. From what I have seen, I don’t think they have it in them. They are both ambitious – which is not a sin – but they don’t stand out from the crowd. For the first time in over ten years the government has real opposition from the Conservative Party. Gordon Brown is right to be worried. What goes through his mind when he looks at his ministers and how they perform, and then looks across at the opposition front bench? Brown has to shoulder the responsibility though.

If he had allowed his ministers more than a few minutes to speak at the party conference, instead of pouring all the attention on his very dull speech, one or two of them may have shone. He didn’t and they didn’t which gave George Osborne, Liam Fox, David Davis, et al, a head start. And they took advantage of this with devastating effect. It was a coming of age for many of the Conservative front bench team and the public can also see that David Cameron isn’t threatened by the talent he has around him; unlike Gordon Brown, who would rather be surrounded by ‘yes’ men. You can see this by his choice of Chancellor of the Exchequer and how he performed last week. We know who is in charge at the Treasury and his name isn’t Alistair Darling.

When all the dust settles and the Lib Dems have their new leader, we will see three party leaders who will lead their respective parties into a general election. David Cameron and his team are the strongest now and I can’t envisage that changing. Gordon Brown’s dithering has cost him dearly and judging by his body language of late, he knows it better than anyone.

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  1. Poor old Ming – too nice a man, I think. I hope none of the backstabbers gets to replace him but of course one will. I also think GB will regret not calling an election this year for the rest of his life.

  2. I agree Welshcakes. Even though Brown was more relaxed in PMQs this afternoon, he still has the look of a man not comfortable at the despatch box, week after week.

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