From today’s Times:
"David Cameron and George Osborne have won the plaudits for overturning Labour’s lead and stopping an early general election. But it was Liam Fox, the Shadow Defence Secretary, who did the most personal damage to Gordon Brown and left him regretting that he had ever allowed speculation about an autumn election to get so dangerously out of control.
Conservative activists woke up in Blackpool last Tuesday to the sight of Mr Brown gladhanding British troops in Basra. Tuesday was defence-debate morning at the conference and Dr Fox was centre stage. He was outraged at what he saw as Mr Brown’s election stunt. It is always risky to attack politicians when they visit the Forces overseas, and apparently no senior military had any quarrel with Mr Brown’s trip. But Dr Fox dared, and won. He took to the airwaves lambasting Mr Brown for using soldiers as election pawns.
When the news of the Tory attack trickled back to Iraq, the reaction in the Brown team was shock and fury. The trip had been planned for some time to help Mr Brown to make his Commons statement on Iraq and neither he nor anyone with him was ready for the Tory onslaught. Mr Brown had spent three months building up his patriotic credentials and here they were being torn to shreds.
The Times understands that it was at that moment that the Prime Minister began to harbour very serious doubts about the way he – and he knows that the responsibility is his – had allowed the build-up of hints about an autumn election to go unchecked."
Bruce Anderson has his own take on the Iraq trip: "A strong leader does not grovel in the small print of the opinion polls. An honest and caring leader would not have done what he did over the troop movements from Basra… The mothers, wives and girlfriends of serving soldiers are condemned to long periods of strain. The men in the field have duties to distract them, comradeship to sustain them and hard days to ensure that, when there is time to sleep, it comes easily. The women at home have little to protect them from long, anxious hours followed by turning and tossing sleeplessness, interspersed with bad dreams. The doorbell rings: pray God it is not the chaplain. So when the waiting women heard that a thousand men were to come home for Christmas, there would have been widespread joy. Surely my Johnny will be one of them? Then it turned out that 770 out of the thousand had either been notified of their departure or were already back in Britain." Read the full article in The Independent. For Mr Anderson it was Cameron’s speech – "no party leader has ever delivered a more successful speech than Mr Cameron did on Wednesday" – wot stopped it.
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