This is an original cartoon by Marf for LondonSketchBook.com
Is a Shadow Cabinet re-shuffle the best way to manage a lull?
The dramatic return to our shores of Peter Mandelson
belies bespeaks a steely pragmatism – that an historic personal conflict has been tossed aside for either the national interest or the benefit of electoral mastery is no meagre move for a man derided as an egotist by his critics. To welcome back ‘the Prince of Darkness’ to the Cabinet, and reward him with a seat in the House of Lords, is a Faustian bargain that, whilst it invites risk, demonstrates that Brown is adamant that he will face the next election, and do whatever it takes to win.
After the news had sunk in, I could not help but wonder how David Cameron would respond. I found myself looking through the Shadow Cabinet, and wondering if Mr Cameron would repond by reshuffling his own front-bench team. Some have suggested that he would use this opportunity to move Caroline Spelman in light of recent allegations, or to promote rising stars such as Justine Greening into one of the junior positions in the Shadow Cabinet. He may yet do this, but I wonder if the example from the United States recommends restraining himself from responding too dramatically to all the Government does, and to embrace a lower-profile course.
Mike Smithson has been very clear that we cannot draw definitive conclusions from the polls until we are well beyond the vissicitudes of the Conference seasons. Even with that in mind, and even if we return to the polling positions of early September in a few weeks time, I find it implausible that there will not be any lull in Conservative Party support between now and the next election.
Managing the inevitable lull in exuberant momentum will present Cameron with a new challenge, and I think the lesson to learn from the Obama campaign is to lower the profile, and shrug away the slight changes in the political weather until the filip of an unpredictable series of tactics employed by his opponent has run its course.
When Sarah Palin was announced as VP nominee by McCain, the term ‘game-changing’ quickly became a PB.com cliche. I think the return of Peter Mandelson, the re-appointment of Nick Brown, and the blossoming of new faith amongst Labour activists (justified or not) would be best countered with the same sort of reserve that Obama and Biden employed through early September. The unveiling of the GOP nominee, the paring down of the Republican Convention, the suspension of the McCain campaign – these have all been shown to be tactical successes that have done little to bolster the strategy of the Republican campaign for the White House. This is, I think, attributable to the preparedness of Obama-Biden to successfully manage the lull in their momentum.
There is no need to attempt a stroke against every ball from an increasingly erratic bowler. Indeed, in the longer term, I think it is perhaps better to allow the weaker party to throw their final punches against little resistance. There can be no winning knock-out blow for the challenger with so long to go before the final bell – engaging consistantly is merely tiring. Sitting tight, lowering the profile, and not responding in kind to every reshuffle and change might just be a smarter move for Cameron.
Note from Mike Smithson: This story is illustrated with a cartoon by Marf which is the pen-name of London-based cartoonist Martha Richler, who has drawn for the Daily Express, the Globe and Mail, London’s Evening Standard, and The First Post.