Bruce Anderson

The next election campaign starts now

The next election campaign starts now

There has never been such a dramatic political decline. Three months ago, Tony Blair was full of plans for his third term. Now, he is a corpse waiting for a coffin. Three months ago, the Blairites were blithely dismissive of Gordon Brown. Now, they are frantically sucking up to him.

The PM may have been re-elected, but he has lost all moral authority. The voters are no longer listening; his party is no longer listening. We no longer have a Prime Minister; we merely have Hugh Grant’s understudy. Mr Blair has also lost his political touch. Though he was never good at reshuffles, this one was the botch of botches. There was one positive feature. It reaffirmed the government’s commitment to recycling rubbish. But Mr Blair even managed to sack Paul Murphy, one of his few successful Cabinet ministers, replacing him in Ulster with Peter Hain. It is impossible to conceive of a worse appointment. The choice of Mr Hain suggests that Mr Blair is losing interest in governing, as does the decision to send John Prescott to Moscow. There was a time when that might have been appropriate. Mr Prescott does look like an old-fashioned politburo wife. But to represent HMG at one of the most important celebrations in modern Russian history: ludicrous. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister, as opposed to going through the motions, he would have known whom to send: himself. If he cannot even get that right, he will not get anything right and the quicker he goes the better.

So a lot of Tories are now assuming that the next election is already won. That might sound absurdly rash, yet it could turn out to be true, subject to a few, by no means impossible, conditions. To ensure a victory, the Tories have to take steps, but none of them is that difficult.

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