Point two on Peter Watt's book, Inside Out, was made by Iain Martin, now a must-read blogger at The Wall Street Journal. The main point of the first part of Watt's serialisation was the full chapter and verse on Gordon Brown's marching the party machine up the hill of preparing for an election, only to march it down again. The detail, including the £1.2m bill and pulped direct mail, was damning of Brown.
But Martin makes the essential point, that the preparations were for an election that was already too late.
Instead, Brown waited, let the speculation build, delivered a stinker of a conference speech and then gave the Tories a chance to mount their fightback in Blackpool. The polls reversed and Brown pulled out in a panic on the Friday (only going public on Saturday).
Several further observations:
1) The Tory revival that autumn was not just about George Osborne’s platform announcement of a pledge to cut inheritance tax. That was the big moment when their fightback coalesced, but there was more to it than just that.
2) Liam Fox’s ferocious attack on Brown’s trip to Iraq during the Tory conference was also critical. It really motivated his own side and played brilliantly for them on TV.
3) Cameron’s fightback had started weeks before conference with a series of initiatives on “Broken Britain” and crime. He was very fired up by the time he arrived in Blackpool.
It is fascinating to read Watt’s account of how Brown cancelled the election. But everyone involved in Labour seems to have missed that the time to strike was missed by at least ten days. They allowed the Tories their conference and let their opponents get back in the game. When Brown sat down with Andrew Marr on that fateful Saturday he was already up the creek without a paddle.
Photograph of Peter Watt by Allan Milligan