I was wrong! There, Iâ€™ve fessed up to it. God it hurts but I really am very pleased that I was wrong and I promise not to make the same mistake again. You see I failed to trust my always reliable rule about what to do when I am in doubt about anything (it does happen). And the rule? Well if there is a measure of doubt on some issue of the moment I go to one of the more prosperous watering-holes in the leafy Home Counties, the 19th hole at a membersâ€™ golf club in West Berkshire is a dependable choice, and I just listen to what the imbibers are saying.Â And then I decide that the absolute opposite must be true – and that then becomes my position. It never lets me down.
The subject on which I made my fatal error was none other than that of the likely political survival of Britainâ€™s Prime Minister Gordon Brown. I wrote him off Iâ€™m afraid because I thought that his brand was fatally busted. And it must be said that a few short months ago that did seem to be the case and that would certainly have been the message I would have received in the saloon bars in Berkshire and the rest of Tory blue southern England. But just as a week is a long time in politics so is the old clichÃ© that in politics, certainly early twenty-first century politics, the surprising really does seem to happen.
The latest opinion polls suggest that there is now nothing in it between Labour and the Conservatives. And oneâ€™s political instincts suggest the same. Brown has handled the financial and economic trauma of the past few months in a masterly way â€“ indeed it is no exaggeration to say that he is streets ahead of other world leaders at this time and on this issue. It is his Falklands moment â€“ the issue that will restore his fortunes in the same way that the Falklands restored Margaret Thatcherâ€™s back in 1982. And whilst Brown has been in the ascendant the Conservative opposition has fallen into disarray. The only issue which had given the Tories much colour was their implacable support for private enterprise and their avowed intent to reduce regulations. How foolish that simplistic and morally derisory position now seems. The western world needs less regulation like it needs a hole in the head â€“ it was failure of regulation, and the lack of it, which got us in the mess that we are in!
A Conservative conceit is that they are the Party that believes in â€œfreedomâ€ â€“ a rallying cry that they will sound forth at every opportunity. Well it is â€œfreedomâ€ which gives us corporate greed and incompetence. â€œFreedomâ€ which gave us Enron. â€œFreedomâ€ which gives us the inane and implacable Tory opposition to Europe, the EuroÂ and European regulations. â€œFreedomâ€ which gives us a similar opposition to Identity Cards â€“ and so on. Brownâ€™s resurgence might make the Conservatives realise just how shallow their positions on regulation and so-called pseudo-freedoms really are. I really should have listened to what they were saying a few months ago in those bars in Reading and Sunningdale and Sonning and Ascot. Silly me!Â