...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Day 2468: Does one Speech make a Difference?


The media's topsy-turvy view of the world is that Mr Balloon wanted to AVOID an election because he was bound to LOSE, but by putting the Conservatories back in contention he has actually avoided a chance to WIN.

They think that Mr Frown is basing his calculation on whether he will gain or lose seats in Parliament. A simple choice – if he thinks his majority will go UP then off to the Country we will go.

In fact, I think that they are missing a BIGGER factor: if the Conservatories lose this time, it could be FOREVER – so how many seats off his majority would Mr Frown be tempted to trade away to "grind their faces into the dirt"?

The Labour are TORN between GAGGING for an election which they think will give them an easy win and an increase in seats, and GIBBERING in TERROR at the prospect of the same election slashing their majority because they've misread the runes / tealeaves / entrails of Mr Peter Mandelson.

This is not too surprising – indeed it is the story of Mr Frown writ large. Caution mixed with tricks that are too clever by half.

What HAS left me polishing my button eyes in ASTOUNDED-MENT, though, is the reaction among many CONSERVATORY commentators: well, if Mr Frown does make us go though an election now, it will be a bit bruising but we are bound to win the next time around.

The COMPLACENCY evident in this approach FLABBERS my GAST!

Let me just say that, as a Liberal Democrat, I think that this is a MODERATELY BAD time for us to have a General Election. Between them, Mr Balloon and Mr Frown have taken several important points off of our opinion poll ratings just by being "different" to who came before them – that is usually OUR selling point! We have developed a strong new Liberal narrative: Green action, fairer taxes, freedom for people. But we haven't had time to get the message across. The media haven't wanted to give us the space to tell our story and we haven't had time to deliver all the Focus leaflets to tell it ourselves.

On the other fluffy foot, we were FIRST to call for this election – if it arrives – because we think that the people deserve the opportunity to say what THEY think should be the change in government, rather than leaving it to Lord Blairimort and Mr Frown to carve it up between them. We desperately want to put a stop to the erosion of Civil Liberties under this authoritarian government and ought to welcome ANY chance we can get – no matter how slim – to change things for the better.

But it is a VERY AWFUL time for the Conservatories to have a General Election and they know it, which is why there is all the talk of them trying to fool Mr Frown that it is not worth having one.

It would NOT be "a bit bruising" for them. It may very well be the end of them as a Party ALTOGETHER!

What no one seems to be taking into account is the HUGE amount of damage that losing an election will do to "Brand Balloon". You get one chance and ONE CHANCE ONLY at being a "freshman" Party Leader – lose this election and Mr Balloon is CONFIRMED as AT BEST "the Conservatory Mr Kinnock-knock". He won't be the "new fresh thing on the block" anymore; he will be "that toffy windbag who lost last time".

Worse than that, he won't even be the NEWEST new young leader. Sir Mr the Merciless will fight the next election, whenever that is, but The Liberal Democrats will have a new and younger leader to fight the one after that.

And it would be NO SURPRISE if the Labour did too. Mr Frown's plan may have been looking at a SIX-YEAR term, all along – one year from taking over, then an election and then a full term of his own – before handing on. Mr Millipede and Mr Balls can decide who will be the next Lord Blairimort and who will be the next Mr Frown. And THEY no doubt expect to have ANOTHER fifteen years between them too!

But if the Labour have a line of SUCCESSION, it is difficult to see where the Conservatories can GO after Mr Balloon loses an election. He will stay on as leader because he can say – with some justification – that he didn't get a fair chance to finish what he started. (Though some will say – also with some justification – that he got the same two years that Mr Iain Drunken Swerve got!)

But there isn't really anyone ELSE that the Conservatories could turn to. Mr Davis David is looking past his sell-by date: two years ago, his supporters were saying that Sir Malcolm Rifkind was over the hill – Sir Malcolm is two years older than Mr Davis David: do the math, as the saying goes. Fantastic Dr Fox gave a TERRIFIC presentation this week of why he is a swivel-eyed nutter. He is no more fit to lead the Conservatories than I am to join the Olympic Hurdling Team. And Mr Gideon Oboe would be a horrible, terrible joke. HE might think he's going to be the next leader, but really does ANYBODY else?

Anyway, Mr Balloon's SHAM modernisation has poisoned the well for any genuine moderniser. How can you convince a Party that it has to REALLY change, when they've been trying so hard to LOOK like they've changed for the last two years? The Party will have tried that. Actually, the problem is that they will pretty much have tried EVERYTHING by that point.

So, Mr Balloon gave his cosy chat to the Conservatories and the media fell in love with him all over again.

Mr Balloon's mate at the BBC, Mr Nick Robinson, gushed with enthusiasm – "The speech may be as long as an hour so he certainly won't have been able to memorise it all."

(Actually, I have a feeling that some of Mr Shakespeare's plays are over FOUR hours long, and that ACTORS often DO memorise things of that length, but that is by the by. Mr Paul has more on this sort of thing.)

I should not like to do down his achievement – it is not something that I could do. At least, not without Daddy to carry me around on the stage!

But in this day and age are we quite sure that we should be deciding how good a leader someone would make based on how well they can do in the SCHOOL DEBATING SOCIETY? The power of oratory to SWAY opinion (like the Jedi Mind Trick that works on the WEAK MINDED!) should never be dismissed, but ought we not to be thinking about the CONTENT rather than the delivery. After all, haven't we been complaining all along that Mr Balloon is ALL style and NO substance. Or in recent weeks, all MESS and no MESSAGE.

And the content – for all that it was dressed up in fuzzy talk of healing and hugging – the content was all "family values", "cuts in benefits" "tax cut for millionaires", "lock 'em up forever", "environment, what environment?" traditional Conservatory fare though and through.

Essentially, the message is that Mr Balloon has found a nice new way to sell the same old schlock. Heartwarming if you are a Conservatory; mealy-mouthed if you are anybody else.

I keep coming back to the way that Conservatories SHY AWAY from self-analysis. Mrs Teresa May Not: "people THOUGHT we were the nasty party" NO! You WERE the nasty party. Mr Portillo: "we had the APPEARANCE of being arrogant" NO! You WERE arrogant! Mr Balloon's idea of CHANGE is just the same. It is ABOUT staying the same.

Has it done them any good? Well here are the polls for the weekend: YouGov: 40:36:13, ICM: 38:38:16, Populus: 39:36:15. Average lead for the Labour: 2.3% And it looks like Mr Frown will not be popping in on Mrs the Queen for scones and a dissolution this week. Which is, of course, exactly what Mr Balloon wanted to avoid.

Which MAY be why Mr Frown is going to confound us all and go and do it anyway!


Daddy Richard had a terrible, terrible thought the other day, of something TERRIFYINGLY CLEVER that Mr Frown might do. I have locked him in the bedroom with a pillow stuffed in his mouth to prevent Mr Frown from finding out.

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