The narrowly averted terrorist outrages in London and Glasgow last weekend have, quite rightly, dominated the news, casting most other considerations aside.
Before then, Brown’s approach was pretty obvious. A new Prime Minister has a number of weapons at his disposal: goodwill, for a start; changes to the Cabinet; and the ability to tinker with government departments. Brown wants us to believe he will be different, and he has used all the tools in the box to get this message across.
His inaugural speech on the steps of Downing Street used the ‘c’ word – change – no less than eight times; more often, and less harmoniously, as one wag put it, than David Bowie. If the message of change still hadn’t got through, Brown used his Cabinet reshuffle to ram home the point. Every single position changed and each move was carefully choreographed to send out a specific message. So we had the youngest foreign secretary for 30 years; the first woman home secretary; a balanced ticket of Blairites and Brownites; and even a Cabinet place for a Tory refusenik. Not content with this, Brown invented entirely new departments to get across his priorities: the plain-speaking Department of Children, Schools and Families is now headed by his closest confidant, Ed Balls.
If this was not enough, the man who stopped Paddy Ashdown joining the Blair government ten years ago has suddenly discovered ‘big tent’ politics. With more of a ham fist than a clunking fist, various approaches were made and rebuffed, until two obscure Liberal Democrat peers – a retired admiral and a former businessman – came on board. Of course the media love this stuff and there’s the added bonus of throwing the Lib Dems into complete disarray.
The final seasoning to this heady mix is the message that Brown is ushering in a ‘new, serious mood’. So there were no cheering crowds in Downing Street and Parliament will now be told first about all major announcements (although, ironically, the media were briefed in advance about this). Lighthearted Brown is not, and this approach probably seemed sensible to him.
How to respond if you are a Tory? If Brown really is serious, and wants inclusive government, let’s put forward some serious proposals. I am sure he will treat them with due consideration and give credit where it is due. Won’t you, Gordon?
Ed Vaizey is a Conservative MP and was formerly a PR consultant
• Charlie Whelan is on holiday