As Michael Portillo so succinctly pointed out, the Tories have been deluding themselves that Gordon Brown would be an easy target for them. Having blundered at the election with their ‘vote Blair and get Brown’ strategy, you may have thought they’d learnt their lesson. But no, they are now finding out how formidable Brown will be, and even before kissing the Queen’s hand there has been a big ‘Brown Bounce’ in the polls.
The media speculation about an early election was not a result of the latest opinion poll showing Brown miles ahead of Cameron, but came as a result of his ‘coronation’ speech in Manchester. Ordinary voters will be bemused as to why all the headlines were about an election, but his throwaway line that Douglas Alexander will be his election organiser wasn’t lost on the press and it wasn’t meant to be.
The thing I learned above all else from Gordon Brown is his obsession with the opposition. He is always looking at ways to weaken the Tories, and talk of an early election will put them in a panic. Despite what they say, it is the last thing they expected or want.
Hardly anyone expected Harriet Harman to be elected either, but Gordon Brown turned this to his advantage too by appointing her to the relatively junior post of Party Chair, showing just how ruthless he can be. No Deputy Prime Minister’s job for Harriet, even though she was his preferred winner.
Brown hasn’t spent the past ten years just running the Treasury – he’s been planning for the day he becomes Prime Minister. His offer to Paddy Ashdown was part of this plot and not only proved he meant what he said about using all the talents, but put the Lib Dems in a spin too.
What I’ve found most interesting in all the talk about Brown taking over are the doubts expressed by some about how he will stand up in a crisis. That’s until you realise that this talk is all coming from dwindling band of Blairites. Their man hadn’t even been in government before he became Prime Minister, and David Cameron is even more inexperienced than Blair was.
Tony Blair is more generous, saying Gordon Brown will make a great Prime Minister – and he believes it. The Tories had better believe it, or they will be sleepwalking into their fourth consecutive election defeat, and having tried the lurch to the left will have nowhere else to go.