HAMILTON-MILLER: A year that made all the difference

There is a much-used image of Harold Wilson on a beach in the Isles of Scilly in 1964. He is wearing gaping shorts and orthopaedic sandals, smoking a pipe and surrounded by reporters in suits and hats. He looks strangely dignified crouching in the sand dunes.

Tara Hamilton-Miller
Tara Hamilton-Miller

No doubt there will be a throng of snappers dispatched to capture Gordon Brown looking uncomfortable/pensive and David Cameron looking yee-hah/triumphant when they head off to Southwold and Devon respectively.

What a difference a year has made. Will Brown actually be able to relax? What will be going through the party leaders' heads as they holiday? It has been suggested by those close to and not so close to Brown that he should have taken a holiday over Easter.

Cameron's holiday last year saw him return tanned but having to make the speech of his life in Blackpool. Aides are adamant that this year's conference speech in Birmingham is of equal significance, but it is easy to forget just how long Brown's honeymoon lasted.

The roles are reversed this year; Brown will be pacing the beach at Southwold considering what he will say to his comrades at the party conference in Manchester. Does Brown have the support of the close team backing him that Cameron had in 2007?

Cameron's speech will not necessarily be easy. He has to look prepared and ready for government but not complacent or smug. How does he match the 'look no hands' (or notes) walk-around he did last year?

A strategist says somewhat predictably: 'The speech will set the ground for the following 18 months.' In the meantime, Cameron has to decide: Vilebrequin or Boden trunks this year?

Poor Brown - probably desperate to go back to Cape Cod after what happened last year, when he found himself returning to London for a crisis meeting about foot and mouth. At least that made him look like a leader.

This year, he would probably welcome a small, solvable, nobody hurt, agricultural near-disaster. No-one could have predicted such a crashing downfall between summer holidays.

Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and formerly worked for the Conservative Party press team.

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