OPINION: ’Tis the season to be politically relaxed...

Another Christmas is fast approaching and for Gordon Brown, Christmas Day will be about the only time of the year when politics does not take centre stage.

The holiday period is normally a time for our leaders to take time off and recharge their batteries. This is an eminently sensible approach. Voters do not want to hear about policies and campaigns when they are trying to wrap their presents and decorate their homes.

I fully expect David Cameron to take stock as well over the Christmas break. He would be wise
to keep the champagne on ice given that he is polling 40 per cent, but should be about ten per cent higher in light of the Government’s recent problems. He is realising how volatile the electorate is just now.

Cameron should be worried that the media ons­laught Labour recently faced could easily turn in his direction. There is a sense in Westminster that Brown has turned a corner and whatever anyone says he is still ahead in the polls. This week’s trips to Iraq and Afghanistan will only have strengthened that perception.

Despite the best efforts of some Blairites there is still a remarkable unity in Labour’s ranks and most MPs were uplifted by Brown’s address to the Parliamentary Labour Party last week.

Next year the media focus is almost certainly going to move towards policy and so Cameron needs to look at ways to make new announcements. This will be difficult given the fact that all his new initiatives were announced when they thought an election was around the corner.

Here Labour has the advantage with Ed Miliband working tirelessly behind the scenes on the manifesto and new policies.

Media focus will soon be on the Lib Dems’ new leader, and as it is essential for him to make an early impression, he too should take Brown’s relaxed attitude to the holidays.

I still expect Nick Clegg to win the Lib Dem leadership race, announced next week, although Chris Huhne had a sudden burst of energy when discussing Labour’s funding crisis recently.

Whoever wins cannot do any worse than poor old Ming. Simply having the new guy will help the Lib Dems re-establish themselves and at the exp­ense of the Tories. It is the Tories and not Labour they face in the key seats.

I will have no hesitation in turning off the Blackberry until 2008 and on return I expect my emails to show that it is still all to play for in the new year.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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