Over-interpretation of events is a real problem of our novelty-obsessed media. After recent events nearly all commentators within the Westminster village would be well-advised to avoid any rushes to judgement. Me included. At the start of the year there was media-encouraged despair in the Labour Party at the prospect of Brown succeeding Blair. Then over the summer, during Brown’s first 90 or so days, he was unbeatable. Just ten days ago – pre-Blackpool – the consensus was that the Tories were heading for a big defeat. At the weekend, the view was that Brown had badly damaged his brand and may never recover his reputation. But the last two days have seen Labour fightback with big announcements on Iraq and tax. Will it be a credible fightback?
Turning away from the Westminster beltway I rang three members of my family for advice yesterday evening. [I’m the only one of my extended family who has any enthusiastic interest in politics]. I asked each of them ‘what was the most important thing to have happened in politics over the last few days?’
Montgomerie A’s view: "At long last most of our troops are coming out of Iraq."
Montgomerie B’s view: "Gordon chickened out of an election."
Montgomerie C’s view: "The Tory inheritance tax promise has been stolen by Brown so at least we know it will happen."
I suppose the Montgomerie views are as valid as any focus group. My guess (and fear) is that Ratner Saturday may mean a lot less to voters than some of us Conservatives hope. What will matter more, in the long-term, are the underlying changes to the nation’s security and prosperity. It may be that the most significant news of recent days was confirmation that households’ real disposable incomes are now being very tightly squeezed. Tories need to avoid being triumphalist about Brown’s decision not to call an election but we can’t neglect its importance. We need to carefully frame a new image of Brown in the public mind. David Cameron can make an important contribution to that framing at PMQs today. ConservativeHome will be live blogging the exchanges from noon and, yes, will be rushing to an instant judgment on who won the exchanges by 12.31pm.