The Spectator

Politics gets personal

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Andrew Rawnsley’s column in today’s Observer on quite how much Brown and Cameron dislike each other is essential reading. As one Brown ally tells Rawnsley, 'Gordon could only be more contemptuous of him if Cameron were a lawyer.'

How the two sides handle this enmity is going to be key to the next election result. To go back to Gore v. Bush in 2000, which to my mind is the previous campaign which most resembles the Brown-Cameron showdown, there’s little doubt that Gore’s disdain for Bush ending up hurting his election effort. His desire not only to beat Bush but to humiliate him, to expose him led to Gore’s over aggressive debate performances. While Gore’s clear irritation at having to run against someone like Bush allowed Bush to appear as more moderate to voters and paint Gore as worryingly obsessive.

Brown also needs to be aware that the Tories will try and goad him into losing his temper. George Osborne spent much of his time as shadow chancellor winding up Brown and almost succeeded in luring Brown into an eruption of anger.

The danger for the Tories, and we have already seen this to an extent, is that they underestimate Brown. Brown might not have the natural charm and presentation skills of a Blair or a Clinton but he compensates for this with phenomenal strategic planning, just look at how he is setting the Tories up over housing.

Both camps would do well to bear in mind one of Matt’s favourite phrases from the Godfather trilogy, “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment."