Could optimism and praise help him take back the initiative?
We are going through an extraordinary period and Labour supporters are, no doubt, pinching themselves to confirm that Gordon’s first weeks are not a dream.
By all accounts the public response to the way he’s handled his first three big crises has been enormously positive and if this wasn’t the poll-free holiday period Labour would surely have been consolidating the initial big leads.
So what does Cameron do? Each step forward for Brown is seen as a step back for him and nobody seems to have noticed that the other big loser is Ming Campbell.
An idea that’s developing is that Cameron should go along with the grain of the public mood and stop trying to find ways of attacking Brown. In the current context it just looks like carping and reflects even worse on him.
As Iain Dale has been suggesting Cameron should revert to what we have seen him doing so well – optimism and, where appropriate, praise. To work this has to sound genuine. Cameron’s apparent attempt on Sunday to try to make capital out of the Pirbright news did him no good at all. Unequivocal words of praise and support in the crisis would resonate well.
This is critical if Cameron is to prepare the ground for the political battles ahead when any popular policy that his party evolves is going to be stolen by Brown. A tone of support now that does not sound disingenuous could pay dividends. This will make it easier to handle announcements like the one last month when Gordon stole the Tory national border police idea.
Cameron’s got a good nose for sensing for the public and political mood and one of his better moments in recent weeks was Blair’s last PMQs on the day Brown took over. It will be recalled that the news had been dominated by the Quentin Davies defection and Cameron managed to avoid a roasting by astute flattery of Blair.
The media narrative, reflecting apparently the public mood, is so much with Brown at the moment that trying to fight it is pointless.
If he was to be positive about the government’s handling of issues it could make Gordon look churlish if the PM did not respond in a similar way.