The past week has offered the Tories a chance to hone their analogy skills on two fronts. The return of Mandelson, “He’s like a rat joining a sinking ship” And Brown’s financial crisis, “He’s like an arsonist who comes with a hose pipe and says look at me I’m putting out the fire”. Some of them have been quite creative, “Like a Tory with endless analogy possibilities”
There had been a concern since before party conference, a concern that has only heightened during Gordon Brown’s global economy tour. At what point do the Conservatives point out who started it?
There are a few MPs who think they could have indicated their disgust with more haste, “How does he have the nerve? For years Brown has hid debt, managed his government by headline, spent money to buy votes and left the bill to be paid by future generations”. But the reluctant consensus is: “It would it be seen as churlish and point scoring, we will do all we can to rescue the country for his error.” The overall feeling is one of irritation.
There are a few camps, 1) “a bit gloomy” 2) pensive and generally pissed off 3) cheer up twits (Boris) 4) Alan Duncan spitting-bullets angry. Duncan, Shadow Secretary of State for Business is on the war path. When I spoke to him this week he was livid, 5 ft 6in of grrrrrrr.
“We are now in a political war, a war where Labour are trying to brand us for their failure. This is Brown’s failure. Brown is the most deceiving politician I have ever met other than Ed Balls. They are performing the most revolting political gymnastics and we will nail it.” Sleep with one eye open, Balls.
Duncan continues, “Gordon Brown and George Bush have fuelled this with massive deficit. Some of us did foresee this. [In 2004 Duncan openly supported John Kerry in the US Elections citing he was not convinced of Bush’s economic record.] I sat in the boardroom of the RBS and asked “Are you worried about debt?” They turned prudent lending into pyramid selling. This has been fuelled by a boastful arrogant Government in the US and the UK. But the UK is the main culprit.”
Give him his dues; Alan Duncan has been talking about this for a while. In September 2007 he wrote on newstatesman.com, “The surest sign that problems are looming is when bankers, institutions and countries convince themselves that they have entered a new period in which economic gravity can somehow be defied. UK conditions are not prepared for the turn in the cycle and worse, with nothing set aside for a rainy day, the pain stands to be greater than it would otherwise have been. Brown mortgaged the country the way that banker have mortgaged banks.”
Accusations of the crisis being a threat to Conservative ideology are batted down. “This is the death of socialist pollution of the free market. If we had had lower spending, lower taxes and traditional banking we would not be where we are now. How dare they suggest it's Thatcher’s fault, if she stood for one thing, it was living within your means” says an MP from the pensive camp.
To be fair, not a day has gone by when a humble Tory has not remembered the roller-coaster of 2007, no one has had any public James Cameron “I’m King of the World” moment. Which is actually quite staggering… considering.
In London and spreading to distant constituencies are small murmurs of this being as good as it gets for Brown, it has canny prospective candidates mobilising and making quiet preparations for a spring election. Whispers are if Gordon is up in the polls he would be mad not to call an election be it to win or damage limitation. The fact is they [the candidates] want it, they were gee’d up like coiled springs last October. From Portsmouth to Witham, they were prepared, and they are prepared now.
The future looks bleak with the country going from over heating to perma-frost in one fell swoop, should we have seen it coming? Historically Labour Governments always run out of money.
Perhaps Boris is right, we have to do something to get away from the gloom, play some records, put up some colourful bunting. A usually chipper Tory MP at a party last night who managed to get out of bed that morning, mumbled, “Brown has left nothing in the kitty. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. The real pain is about to begin”
What now? Gordon appearing in a pinny showing us how to make a Victoria sponge sandwich using powdered egg, Sarah Brown cajoled into doing a public services broadcast advising girls to paint stocking seams on their underfed legs, Lord Mandy helpfully giving “make-do and mend” fashion tips to hard-up city boys. It is after all unpatriotic not to look ones best