You know a Prime Minister’s authority is shot when at an event a Cabinet Minister is speaking at, all the jokes from the platform are at the Prime Minister’s expense. James Purnell smiled wryly as they were cracked, but there was uproarious—not nervous—laughter. There was none of the frisson that would have accompanied such a moment a few months ago. No one now believes Brown is strong enough to respond.
Last night’s Demos party was revealing of the new contours of British politics. From the Labour side, the potential leadership dream ticket of Jon Cruddas and James Purnell were having, what Allegra Stratton aptly calls, a “very public date.” The Tories were there in force, revelling in their presence at the institution that so summed up the New Labour zeitgeist. Philip Blond, the Red Tory, had drawn many of the most thoughtful Tories to the bash—David Willetts, Cameron’s policy chief James O'Shaughnessy, Policy Exchange alumni and Tory candidates Nick Boles and Jesse Norman and the shadow Chancellor’s brains trust—Rupert Harrison, Eleanor Shawcross and Rohan Silva.
It is often said of the Tories that unlike Thatcher in 1979 with Hayek, the Tories don’t have a philosophical road map. There’s some truth to this charge. But there is an encouragingly large amount of thinking going on amongst the Tories about domestic policy, certainly more than there is on the Labour side. What we wait to see, is whether the Tories can translate this thinking into policy.