Will the “Britishness” thing help or hinder Brown’s leadership bid?
Watching Gordon Brown launch the latest stage of his of his Britishness agenda on the bulletins last night I could not help but thinking that he is making precisely the same mistakes that Michael Howard made in the run up to the 2005 General Election.
Then it will be recalled that the Tory leader stepped up the rhetoric and dog whistles against groups like immigrants and travellers in an effort to shore up his right flank. At least Howard had some obvious voter targets in mind when he moved onto this territory.
But what groups of voters is Labour’s would-be leader trying to win over by calling for things like immigrants being forced to carry out community service before being granted British citizenship?
For surely Brown has worked out that the battle-ground at the next general election will be the centre-ground where appearing to be “beastly” to immigrants is likely to turn off voters rather than win support.
For I have observed before here that there are two big groups in the electorate that Labour needs to appeal to if it wants to hold onto power – those Tories who moved over to Blair in 1997 and the Labour supporters who switched to the Lib Dems in 2005.
Whatever you might think of Cameron the new Tory leadership has figured that out and it doesn’t take too much of a reading of the polls to work out that it is amongst these groups that the party is making the most electoral progress. For Brown now to be talking tough on immigrants seems designed to help the Tories to take the centre ground. It is just plain dumb.
And Gordon has not sewn up the Labour leadership completely yet. According to the Guardian this morning “Detailed assessments have been made suggesting between 60 and 90 MPs are committed to Mr Brown, and as many as 60 are opposed to him. This leaves about 200 in the centre willing to look at another candidate if the polls continue to suggest Mr Brown cannot defeat Mr Cameron.“
Each day the Brown price in the betting markets seems to ease out a little further. It’s now at 0.28/1. So in just nine days the return on a winning Â£100 Brown bet has moved from Â£19 to Â£28.
Unless there’s a significant turnaround in Labour’s position in the polls during March you can see a panic starting to set in and the notion of finding a leader other than Gordon might just get some traction. Labour feels it owes Brown the leadership – but not at any electoral cost.