David Blackburn

Last man standing

Last man standing
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That Gordon Brown is still the prime minister proves that it isn’t only Peter Mandelson who is a fighter not a quitter. It became clear this week that Brown will fight to the bitter end, and that Labour’s election strategy has emerged through him. Labour depicts the Tories as Bullingdon boy toffs and crazed Thatcherite cutters; Brown is the stern, serious figurehead, the still small voice of calm at the vanguard of Labour’s arguments on immigration and the economy.


Matthew d’Ancona’s Sunday Telegraph column details how Brown has returned to the fore this week and delivered policy statements aimed exclusively at maintaining Labour’s core support. Why else did he humiliate himself before the G20 by declaring that a Tobin tax would be a Good Thing? Or break the habit of a lifetime and use the word immigration in a vaguely negative context?

Labour’s counter-attacks are a defensive manoeuvre, the finest indication that the party realises this is an election it simply cannot win. Why then does Brown, who is now more pitied than loathed, bother? D’Ancona answers the question:

‘Because, even if electoral defeat is overwhelmingly likely, its complexion is very far from decided.’ 

After the Norwich North by-election, a Tory landslide seemed a foregone conclusion. Now the electoral picture is opaque. With a slim Tory majority or even a hung parliament looking possible if not yet probable, Brown, through luck rather than judgement, may have done enough to ensure that Labour avoid the calamity that befell John Major.