OPINION: Labour’s conference gaffes give Tories hope

We have just emerged from the most intense PR month of the year - the party conference season. It comes appropriately in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Through a fog of words, all the parties try to portray themselves as being pregnant with promise. The winners were the Nationalists - Welsh and Scottish - and the Conservatives. The losers were ’New’ Labour and the UK Independence Party, which sacked its entire 16-man executive. Nobody takes the Liberal Democrats seriously anymore, even with a new leader, now that they are Blair’s Poodles.

We have just emerged from the most intense PR month of the year -

the party conference season. It comes appropriately in the season of

mists and mellow fruitfulness. Through a fog of words, all the parties

try to portray themselves as being pregnant with promise. The winners

were the Nationalists - Welsh and Scottish - and the Conservatives. The

losers were ’New’ Labour and the UK Independence Party, which sacked its

entire 16-man executive. Nobody takes the Liberal Democrats seriously

anymore, even with a new leader, now that they are Blair’s Poodles.



The Nationalists are riding a wave created by the contrary forces of Mr

Blair’s urge to devolve while at the same time maintain centralised

control. Alex Salmond, SNP leader, reckons he will have his independent

Scotland within seven years. He may well be right, given the early mess

the Labour-Lib Dem coalition is making of Scottish government. And if

Scotland goes, can the Welsh be far behind, even if their enthusiasm for

devolution was initially tepid? We can no longer rule out the break-up

of the UK.



That prospect will tend to help the Conservative and Unionist Party,

which last week turned the corner on a very long road of decline. And

the man who has survived everything anybody and everybody, including the

Conservatives, could throw at him, can take the credit. William Hague

has shown how stupid it is to assume a determined, phlegmatic

Yorkshireman will be put off by critics. The Tories are back in

business. What is more, it’s Hague’s business.



Of course, part of the reason is good luck as well as good - or bad

Labour - management. Labour’s conference week was a shambles. It began

with a fresh outbreak of Blair-Brown rivalry, induced by Alastair

Campbell’s careless talk about Mr Blair’s intending to go on and on and

on, to coin a phrase. It was overshadowed by the stupidity of John

Prescott’s celebrated attachment to his car, while urging us all to walk

or take public transport, and Michael Meacher’s crass contemplation of a

curb on second homes when he himself has three.



But it was compounded by Mr Blair’s chillingly arrogant and vacant view

of minorities and the evil nature of the ’forces of conservatism’ which

we all thought he had espoused to get elected.



The result is that Hague is seen to be on his way up and Blair on his

way down. This does not mean this historic turning-point will win the

Tories the next election. To start with, they have to show they have

really rediscovered their political purpose - to oppose. But it does

mean the scales in British politics are tilting the Tory way for the

first time since perhaps Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 victory. Who would

have thought that would have been this autumn’s outcome? A week is,

indeed, a long time in political PR. A month represents a geological

age.



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