Guest slot: Is this the moment for Gordon to shine?

Guest slot: Is this the moment for Gordon to shine?

HenryG asks: “Could Swine Flu Save the PM?”

The rapidly increasing numbers of people infected with swine flu will have a huge impact on the UK in the next year. Forecasts of up to 66,000 swine flu deaths this Christmas will have a devastating impact on communities, public services and also the economy. The UK Government is recognised to have some of the best preparations in the world and the most plentiful arrangements for tamiflu.

By no means am I a scientist, but it strikes me that the threat of a pandemic flu crisis could have a uncertain impact on how people view the health service, authority and the needs of their own family. For many who have grown up in relative peace and prosperity this will be utterly destabilising. Surely this will eventually have a political consequence on polling?

Many remember Gordon’s firm handling of the start of his premiership as he deftly dealt with a series of difficult events including terrorist attacks in Glasgow and London, floods across England and another bout of foot and mouth disease. He temporarily cultivated a ‘father of the nation’ figure and benefited with the biggest poll leads over the Conservatives since before the Iraq war. Could this mood be revived as the threat of swine flu increases?

We all remember the worries about foot and mouth disease which delayed the 2005 general election by a month. This will be many, many times worse. Senior Government Ministers then were concerned about the visual impact of funeral pyres.

Well I understand the ministers of the cloth are now being written to about the potential of mass burials should swine flu reach worse case scenarious projects. Imagine the trauma that this will have. If this is expected to peak in the autumn then surely it will rule out a general election?

The potential rise of the NHS up there with the economy as the top issue of concern could tilt matters more in Labour’s favour. It is one of the few areas that Labour has traditionally led the Conservatives on.

The psychology of it all could be interesting. Once again Gordon Brown will be needed to provide authority and reassurance. If he succeeds then who knows what impact this could have politically for his fortunes and that of the Government. The collapse of Lehman Brothers last year saved Brown during the conference season attack on his leadership from within the Labour Party. This may well firm up his position again.

I can’t help feel that David Cameron is a PM for when times are good and may not be home and dry if this prolonged health crisis develops as many fear. The politics of this issue could be quite unpredictable and people may well ‘cling to nurse for fear of something worse’. In these dire circumstances could Gordon Brown resurrect his ability to thrive in a crisis? If he can, then he may well have one last reasonable opportunity to gain the confidence of the nation at the ballot box.

Henry G Manson is a long-standing PB regular and Labour activist

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