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25 September 2007

Confidence floods back

Martin Salter passes a hectic if alcohol-free conference, pausing to reflect on how Brown seems stre

By Martin Salter

I think Labour delegates are in a state of sceptical euphoria, almost not daring to believe the opinion polls, the talk of an early election and the strong position the Party now finds itself in after just three months with Gordon Brown at the helm. How different the political landscape now looks from 12 months ago with a resurgent Tory Party under Cameron, the tearful long goodbye to Tony Blair and the sense of uncertainty as to what the future held for us as a Party of government.

Gordon’s speech was a tour de force of public policy and political positioning. It also answered the question as to what Gordon the Prime Minister is about, what motivates and inspires him and what his passions and priorities will be. You could feel the confidence flooding back into the Party and talk of an early election is being taken increasingly seriously. Mind you, I don’t envy the job of Douglas Alexander this weekend in advising the PM as to whether or not to go for it in October. This will be the toughest call of his political career.

In some ways Gordon has ripped up the political rule book by getting stronger with each passing crisis that comes the government’s way. Conventional wisdom has it that governments need to avoid choppy waters and risk being destabilised by ‘events’, and that the Opposition normally makes advances at such times. Not now it seems, as the Brown government appears steady, confident and sure footed under fire, and more than capable of taking those necessary tough decisions which are the bread and butter of public office. By contrast Cameron looks weak, vacillating, unsure of himself and his Party, and nothing like a Prime Minister in waiting. The Tories will have a tough time next week and the election fever is focusing the minds of both the public and the press on the issue of fitness to govern. This is not a question that David Cameron will be able to answer convincingly.

My own Conference has been hectic and remarkably alcohol free but it is only Tuesday morning. I’ve been getting to grips with my new role as Vice-Chair of the party with responsibility for campaigning on the environment with fringe meetings on Climate Change and the Marine Bill and lots of meetings with the green NGOs. Mind you, I draw the line with being summoned to a breakfast meeting with Harriet Harman in her bedroom but I suppose these are the burdens of office that have been thrust upon us!

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