Daniel Korski

The ex-factor

The ex-factor
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One of the interesting features of this election campaign is the near-absence of ex-leaders in national election roles. Tony Blair has been stuck in the Middle East because of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and has, at any rate, been “Gored” by Gordon Brown, who is as keen to have his predecessor canvassing for Labour as Al Gore was to see ex-president Bill Clinton in the 2000 election. The former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has been more active.

For the Tories, Michael Howard is standing down and has not been particularly visible. When I saw him recently in Portcullis House, he looked chipper and relaxed – not like a man about to electioneer for all he is worth. William Hague has played a part in the election, but not because of his previous post as Tory leader, but as his current job as Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Former leader Iain Duncan Smith has had a tremendous impact on Tory social policy and, if the party wins, may become a sort of second Deputy Prime Minister, with Hague being first Deputy PM. But he has not been particularly visible in the national campaign. Tory strategists are also keen that Lady Thatcher is nowhere to be seen during the campaign – they prefer not to conjure up memories of the 1980s when David Cameron worked for Norman Lamont and the LiberalS and Labour were more closely aligned than they are today.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party that has rolled out its former leaders -– or, more accurately, one former leader. Paddy Ashdown a prominent role not only as the party’s vanguard in southwest England, but also as post-debate spinner. Countries, I believe, really only have ten or so top-flight politicians from all the parties, retired and serving. Only ten. Paddy Ashdown, who I worked for, is clearly one of them. The Liberal Democrats are right to use him. But a less charitable explanation may be that they don’t have as many top-tier nationally-recognised people to use.