Could they really have planned it like this?
An interesting theory is put forward by James Blitz in the Financial Times today suggesting that the the Brown-Blair row might be part of a “cunning plot”.
He notes First, it helped to get the prime minister over a very bad start to election year. The idea that Mr Blair had misjudged the public mood over the Asian tsunami – staying too long on holiday – had begun to crystallise in the minds of voters. But then he staged his monthly press conference last Thursday at the same moment the chancellor made a keynote speech on Africa. In a trice, the misjudgment over the tsunami was forgotten in a rush of “Blair-Brown split” headlines.
Secondly, the latest outbreak of “TeeBie-GeeBies” has helped to get the government some way through the difficult period leading up to Iraq’s election on January 30. Recent news out of Iraq – violence by insurgents and a wobble by the Iraqi leadership over whether to hold the elections – has been bad. It should have made the front pages, compounding the dismay of core Labour voters with the decision to go to war. The Blair-Brown row helped to ensure it did not.
Above all, the Blair-Brown rivalry gives Labour one critical advantage: the impression that Labour dominates the debate on future policy. The Conservatives are desperate to define themselves as a credible ideological challenger, but how can they when the media never stops telling us that the main issue is the division over the future of public services between Blairite “modernisers” and Brownite “consolidators”? It may make Labour look divided, but it also makes Labour look relevant.
Clearly what Blitz describes has been the effect of the “feud” and there’s little doubt that it has changed the news agenda so the Tories and the Lib Dems have not been able to get a look in. But that happens to everybody – Gordon Brown’s great African tour and his initiatives on debt relief for the developing world have been knocked off the front pages by Prince Harry’s choice of costume at fancy dress party.
There’s also the massive hostage to fortune created by the Brown quotes on Tony Blair and the truth. That could come to haunt both men during the election.
Add these ccomments to the quotes from the book on David Blunkett and you have some pretty strong rhetoric.
We are not convinced of the Blitz theory – but it does underline the total irrelevance of any other parties than Labour.