“There I was waiting at the Church….”, James Callaghan uttered this infamous quip at the Labour Party Conference in the Autumn of 1978.
Then, as now, a Labour Prime Minister who had guided the Party through some very rough waters in the wake of his slippery predecessor and emerged ahead of the Tories in the polls, was on the cusp of announcing an Election date, decided against and was swept from power by what Macmillan would have described as; “Events, dear boy. Events!”
I happen to think however, that the parallels between Sunny Jim and Big Gordie are pretty spurious.
In 1978 Callaghan, although personally popular, led a Government that had been forced to negotiate a humiliating deal with the IMF resulting in savage cuts in the Public Services and, more importantly an unfair perception that the Labour Party couldn’t be trusted with the economy, a legacy that took until John Major’s nemesis with the ERM to reverse.
This time around Brown is the steward of the best economic conditions for a generation, leads a Government that has turned the country around in every measurable sense and faces a shambolic Opposition.
I am disappointed that we aren’t now preparing for an Election, and the presence of Rupert Murdoch at Number 10 recently leaves me wondering who is in charge. I hoped we had left the media obsession behind.
The Tories temporary bounce in the polls is just that. Transient, as Dave’s smarmy performance contained no substance, and once the his tax proposals have been forensically examined it will all unravel.
The Tories propose; “abolition of Stamp Duty for first time buyers”. Define please. If someone has paid off their mortgage and then decides to purchase, how do you check if they have had a loan in the past? Would a non dom tax exile qualify if it’s their first home in the UK. What happens if a new couple buy and only one of them has never been a home owner? Etc, etc.
But I do worry that Brown will now be perceived as a ditherer and not capable of being decisive. That’s one thing that Tony Blair could never have been accused of but his greatest strength ended up being his Achilles heel, the result being the Iraq disaster.