A Future Fair for All, a phrase which echoes the thinking behind some of Labour’s big public policy schemes, seems a decent slogan in these straitened times – not least thanks to the conviction Gordon Brown brought to its delivery at the University of Warwick a few hours ago. He lo0ked confident – even upbeat – as he asked voters to take a second look at his party – his team, as he emphasised – and what he characterised as the dangerous one-man band of David Cameron’s Conservatives. It’s a message with potential resonance – the many above the few, optimism over pessimism, positive prudence versus aggressive cuts. The question, as always, is how willing the electorate are to buy anything from Gordon Brown.
The Brighton and Hove polls performed by Kindle Research offer some good news in this regard; so, too, did the hostility to the Tories – rather than mere disappointment with the Government – on show during Thursday’s Teeside Question Time. But the real question is what’s happening in swing seats – in Dudley, where two swing seats are currently being covered with “I’ve never voted Conservative before but …” posters, or Nuneaton, from where if we’re lucky Laura Kuenssberg might Tweet shortly. This is still difficult to tell.
I’m more Bob Piper than Steve Richards on the issue of James Purnell’s resignation, but, as John Harris points out in today’s Guardian, it doesn’t lo0k good for Labour when big, young names like him throw in the towel. The Tories are just losing their Nicholas Wintertons, after all. So it’s not the scepticism of the Spectator Brown has to worry about; it’s the realism of the electorate – their under-appreciated ability to see when a party is on its way down. This is why he was at such pains in his speech to emphasise the ministers around him – Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson, Yvette Cooper, Peter Mandelson. (No mentions, conspiciously, for either Ed Balls or David Miliband – their post-election leadership ambitions are the elephant in that room – and, honestly, was this Tweet from Miliband deliberately timed?)
The new optimism has real potential; the question is, can Labour present themselves a party still with the forward momentum? Brown did well this morning. There are many more mornings – and many more sleepless nights – before the election. Brown won’t want to look tired on any of them.