OPINION: My unsolicited advice to Gordon – go for it

Gordon Brown’s conference speech in Bournemouth did nothing to stop the only question being asked by the hacks. When will he call an election?

Whelan: ‘Brown's driving his bus right into traditional Tory territory'
Whelan: ‘Brown's driving his bus right into traditional Tory territory'

The answer is straightforward. No one knows – not even Brown. He hasn’t asked my opinion, but if he did I would tell him to go for it. For one simple reason – he would win.

I suspect that may be the PM’s view too, though he of course will spend a good deal of time with his pollsters because this is the most important decision of his life.

The view of most delegates was the same as mine. What strikes me most about my week by the sea­side is just how hungry for power the Labour Party still is – and this helps its ratings.

Those who came to Bournemouth looking for a row between the PM and the trade unions have been bitterly disappointed. The brothers and sisters may not like much of the New Labour agenda, but they more than anyone see the importance to their members of a Labour government. They also believe that Brown, unlike Tony Blair, will listen to them.

Just as important as the unions’ support has been the complete surrender of the few remaining Blairites. It may be nauseating to hear Peter Mandelson heap praise on Brown, but he had little choice.

The Prince of Darkness may not be genuine in his conversion, but most Blairites are. I spoke to Alan Milburn, former cheerleader of the ‘Brown will be useless’ brigade, and he seemed quite happy to eat his words.

So where does this leave the Tories, who gather in Blackpool next week? I think the most significant comment about the Brown speech was that David Cameron couldn’t have made it because it was too right wing. The Prime Minister isn’t just parking his bus on the centre ground, he’s driving it right into traditional Tory territory.

The Conservatives probably won’t listen to me, but I don’t think they can afford to give up their modernising project. People forget how long it took to change the Labour Party and Cameron has hardly started yet.

Significantly, Neil Kinnock got more applause when mentioned in the Brown speech than
Blair. This is because the party knows just how much he did to make it electable, yet he never won an ­election. Is Cameron the Tory Kinnock?

But I won’t be going to Blackpool to witness the tears. As the newly appointed political director of Britain’s biggest union – Unite – I don’t think I’ll be very welcome.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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