Friday, September 14, 2007

from Moltrasio

Here we have the Telegraph comment column regaling us with the deeply-considered thoughts of Iain Dale, Tory blogsmith and man-about-the-hamlet. A bit curious that: Dale's own blogsite is in the hands of a caretaker (Shane Greer) while he is on holiday on Lake Como (see left).

And very nice it must be there, too.

Dale's theme is:
Gordon Brown is out to destroy the Tories

Gordon Brown's political strategy has finally been exposed. Tories have spent the past 10 weeks wondering if they had misjudged the Prime Minister, but now he has unwittingly revealed that far from adopting a "new kind of politics", he's using classic old politics to try to skewer the Tories.
Well, that's as well to know. It would have distressed Malcolm greatly had Gordon Brown been in the business of promoting the Tories. And that "classic old politics" sounds very tasty indeed.

Yesterday's regal and be-fuschia'd visit of Thatcher to Downing Street was one of the neatest skewerings of recent history, and an object lesson (from both parties) in the trade-craft of the spadassin.

If he wasn't so obviously a clueless refugee from the 128th Upper-Class Twit of the Year Competition, Cameron might deserve sympathy for such an efficient dissection.

Well, not really.

Yesterday's outing was a classic. Consider our young fellow-me-lad, coping with foot-and-mouth, while self-evidently himself foot-in-mouth. There he was suggesting:
that pressure had been put on the Chief Veterinary Officer, Debby Reynolds, to declare Britain clear of the virus.

Calling on Gordon Brown to "get a grip" Mr Cameron said yesterday: "I think there is a real question about Government competence."
The Mail's Benedict Brogan had a different take on that:
David Cameron gave the BBC an interview on foot and mouth earlier, but for some reason it was not carried by the 6 o'clock news. In it he suggests Gordon Brown is losing his grip on the crisis and that the Government may have put pressure on the chief veterinary officer to declare Surrey was free of the disease. He's made similar comments to Sky News.

Now, I've just asked someone in Downing Street what they made of Mr Cameron's remarks, and learn that the Prime Minister actually telephoned Mr Cameron earlier to brief him on developments. In fact, Mr Cameron popped up on the telly in the corner of the PM's office while they were talking. I'm told Mr Brown was somewhat mystified to have Mr Cameron berating him on Sky while he was trying to explain to the Leader of the Opposition the dangers of the media jumping to conclusions. I'm not told how the conversation finished, but something tells me all this consensus malarky is about to get the heave-ho.

UPDATE: Sources say that when Mr Brown and Sir Menzies Campbell discussed foot and mouth later, they compared notes on what they believe is Mr Cameron's 'lack of seriousness'.
Malcolm makes a memo: "skewering" and "consensus malarky", both on the same day. Mixed messages there.

Now, the really interesting reaction is the National Farmers' Union, the heartland of the Conservative core vote, Malcolm would suggest.

Complaints that the previous restrictions were lifted too quickly? Not a hint. On the contrary, the NFU is pushing for the restrictions on livestock movements to be more localised. Here is the Surrey NFU Chairman on the NFU's own website:
"This is the time of year when livestock farmers are trading their stock and their income for the year depends on it.
"The Prime Minister was sincerely interested in the issues we raised but the reality is that we have to get on top of the disease first. We did agree that the first priority was to contain and eradicate this outbreak and I am grateful for Mr Brown’s continued commitment."
Support for David Cameron? None too obvious. In fact, the morning BBC News made noises that "farmers' leaders are expressing concern about Mr Cameron's intervention". That's another story that seems to have been quietly and quickly spiked.

Cameron's problem starts by not having a Denis.

Denis Thatcher was a rabid right-winger, and quite happy to play the gin-swilling golfer for the gallery. Behind that bluff exterior there lurked a shrewd business brain, and a discreet occasional nudge on the tiller.

Denis had some grasp of farming. During the 1979 Election Campaign, Margaret Thatcher (and one suspects the media savvy of Gordon Reece played a part) was photographed cuddling a two-day old calf. It was a superb photo-opportunity, and played well to the suburban crowd. Denis, however, and not quite sotto voce, expressed concern for the calf (and that played as well with the real wellie-brigade).

Iain Dale, with whom this entry started, seems to expect Andy Coulson, royal 'phone tapper extra-ordinaire, to be Cameron's Gordon Reece, Denis Thatcher and Angelo Dundee:
Coulson's message to David Cameron, and indeed the whole Conservative Party, must be this: Gordon Brown is out to destroy you. It's no good adopting a defensive strategy. You can't just defend your ground. The best form of defence is attack and you must go in all guns blazing.

Gordon Brown does not yet believe the next general election is in the bag, but among his foot soldiers you can smell the stench of complacency.

David Cameron must demonstrate that they are in for the fight of their lives. The next four weeks, I believe, will determine the course of politics for the foreseeable future.
So far, Cameron's recent form has been very lightweight: an issue a day, and on to the next drubbing. Joe Louis, back in 1940-41, had his "bum of the month club"; so perhaps Dale's metaphors and time-frame should be over-printed with a blue Absit omen.

Because, at the moment, the main sport is machine-gunning the barrel of stinking Tory fish.
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