OPINION: Centred Brown has Tories in a right spin

It is interesting to see that Gordon Brown was keen to accept an invitation to attend church with the Queen recently, but wild horses wouldn't drag him to the Braemar Highland Games. It shows, again, how keen the PM is to appeal to Middle England.

Whelan: ‘Cameron seems to be losing his nerve, moving back to the old Tory issues of tax, crime and Europe’
Whelan: ‘Cameron seems to be losing his nerve, moving back to the old Tory issues of tax, crime and Europe’

More importantly, however, Brown had extra time to prepare his speech on ‘new politics’. Having already appointed the former CBI chief Digby Jones to the Government and upset the unions in the process, he’s now appointed a Liberal and a ­Tory to key policy committees.

It is a clever strategy because both opposition parties were more or less forced to support the PM’s initiative, and as Tory chair Caroline Spellman pointed out, the British public love to see politicians pulling together. But the upshot is that Brown is parking his bus right on the centre ground of British politics.

The pace at which the PM is implementing these devastating changes has led many commentators to argue that we are heading for an early election. The point they miss is that my former boss is always in election mode, and right now virtually every move he makes is designed to destabilise the ­Tories. And it is working.

David Cameron seems to be losing his nerve and moving back on to the old Tory issues of immigration, tax, crime and Europe.

OK, this might have helped Cameron allay some of his internal critics but he’s now exactly where the PM wants him to be – lurching to the right.

The word on the street is that former red-top editor Andy Coulson, the new Conservative media guru, believes positive tabloid headlines on old Tory issues will help Cameron win the election. It won’t. All it will do is undo all the good work he has done to shift the Tories away from the old agenda and the centre ground, where all elections are won.

The former chancellor also seems to be panicking the shadow chancellor. I certainly can’t believe that George Osborne’s decision to appear on the Today programme earlier this week, to announce that he now accepts Labour spending plans, was part of a long-term strategy. Even if it was, he should at least have waited for a less packed news day: British troops leaving Basra, and the PM’s big ‘new politics’ speech were always going to create more headlines than another Tory economic imitative.

Brown may be making a slightly different speech to the TUC next week but, trust me, nothing will shift him from the ­centre ground.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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