That Brown Leadership Debate - again!
Guardian online today carries another poll report showing a substantial gap between Gordon Brown and David Cameron, with the Tory leader enjoying a 15 point lead over his likely Labour opponent at the next election. All Labour MP's can do is look and groan as they fail to find a credible challenger to the brooding chancellor. Meanwhile, Tory blogger Iain Dale writes, on the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' pages here, that there is still time for David Miliband to launch a potentially successful challenge to Brown for the Labour leadership and thus remove, in one fell swoop, the gap that has opened up between the two parties. Miliband, argues Dale, can go head to head with Cameron on all of the personal areas that are currently perceived as advantages for Cameron over Brown. All that is wanting, says Dale, is a bit of good old fashioned courage on the part of Labour's young pretender.
A message of doom indeed. In fact, things are not nearly so bleak as they might seem for the chancellor, and the Tories know it. The Tory lead is weak and metropolitan, and for all that Brown may not seem to have a huge amount of warmth he is a chancellor continuing to preside over a long period of prosperity and who just seems, well, much more experienced - in a positive way - than his Tory challenger. Andrew Rawnsley, in yesterday's 'Observer', put the case for Brown and noted, furthermore, that here was someone who knew where all the levers of power were, and wouldn't hesitate to use them to his advantage in an electoral fight. The Tories that he spoke to, said Rawnsley, were by no means over-optimistic about Brown as an electoral 'gift'.
Iain Dale, meanwhile, is surely engaging in a bit of sublime Tory mischief. Nothing could be better for the Tories than a nice old ding-dong within the Labour party, exposing Brown to all sorts of attacks whilst also, usefully, dragging bright new-seeming Mr. Miliband down as well. Miliband's lack of desire for a fight is not for want of courage - it is clear, cold, calculation. He is either figuring a Labour defeat at the next election, after which he would indeed be well placed to emerge as a much stronger leadership candidate. Or, more likely, he is conscious of the Hague precedent - a young, bright seeming new leader crashing before his time.
Labour MP's may be wanting enthusiasm for Brown, but they know they are not going to stop his accession, and some of the brighter ones may even see in it the potential for a surprising rejuvenation that the poker-faced chancellor wouldn't dream of revealing before the time is ripe. Let the Tories enjoy their brief flirtation with poll leads, he seems to be saying - I'll be back!!
[Oh, and if you like the accompaying picture, try the blog from which it comes - the spine - for much more of the same!!]