He was always Maggie’s favourite. She loved him. He adored her. But as in most hot romances, there was a cooling. And finally the embers died. Essex Man had found another. In slightly less than a decade a Tory majority of 17,000 in Braintree had turned, incredibly, into a 358 majority for Labour. Braintree, with an electorate of 82,000, is now the second most marginal majority in England and may well hold a clue to how the rest of the South votes.
The reputation of Gordon Brown has never stood higher than it does this election weekend. The Chancellor has pulled off a double which has eluded virtually every chancellor in history: he is hailed simultaneously as a political genius and as an outstanding manager of the British economy.
Politically, this reputation is well enough justified. The general election has granted Gordon Brown the prize he has sought for almost two decades.