Wednesday, 28 April 2010

In the thick of it

Todays events in Rochdale speak for themselves.

Rather than what the Prime Minister said about a lifelong Labour supporter, after he had concluded his discussion with that supporter on returning to the supposed privacy of his chauffeur driven car, it was the Prime Minister's immediate desire to blame his assistants which most interested me: "They should never have put me with that woman, whose idea was that? It's XXX I think. It's just ridiculous".

This jives with the complaints about the Prime Minister's behaviour towards his employees and in the office, and indeed with the Damien McBride affair. Also of interest was the subsequent apology which just had to try to hold something back so it wasn't really a full-blooded apology, with the "I misunderstood what she said" as its preface.

Given that this was just an average election encounter with a voter with pretty everyday concerns, which the Prime Minister appeared to handle well, it is difficult to see why he felt so aggrieved by his assistants having caused him to meet the lady concerned. It is obvious that he can't handle ordinary public interaction. In other words, he may (or may not) be OK as a-behind-the-scenes Treasury technocrat-minister, but he should not be the leader of a government. Surely his fate is now sealed within the Labour party, even if the electorate don't give a majority to someone else.

This is a real life enactment of one of the cock-up scenes in "In the Thick of It": except that the producers of that series would have felt that while people might believe a junior Minister in the Department of Backwaters and Other Establishments might have gaffed like this, no one would have thought it credible if they were to portray the Prime Minister as having done so.

No wonder Peter Mandelson's strategy was to keep a distance between the Prime Minister and the public. This strategy was relaxed to try to get Labour above the Liberal Democrats in the polls, with appalling consequences for them. However, I still fancy them to finish above the Liberal Democrats in votes in the end (no one would think they would finish behind on seats, even with this gaffe).

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