Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes

Labour pessimists are starting to contemplate the wreckage of the Labour party they fear will be their lot after the general election, we’re told. Ben Brogan, (restored to the Torygraph after a sojourn at the Mail and once my next desk neighbour in the lobby’s Burma Road offices), is no friend to Labour, and has picked up Labour displacement activity he likens to “ moving the chairs on the Titanic”. The left –leaning think tank Demos had published a paper, The Liberal Republic, Ben notes, written by Richard Reeves and Philip Collins, which sets out “an elegant case for a politics centred on entrusting the individual with power” – the antithesis of what they claim Brown stands for. (The paper is so fresh it hasn’t been posted yet on the Demos website).
Haven’t we heard this before- and where else but from across the aisle? These notions are also linked with their authors’ predilection for a Lib-Lib coalition, a theme now swirling round the Labour back benches. But haven’t we heard all that before too, in 1997 when it was thwarted by the Labour landslide, in particular by Brown who told Blair: “over my dead body?”. Is old Ben conducting a wee spoiling operation, setting a fox running in Labour’s panic-stricken coop and, boldly mixing my metaphors, trying to steal even Cameron’s (pretty threadbare) ideological clothes? A rejoinder to defeatism is quoted by Nick Robinson from Peter Mandleson – who else?

even though many senior Labour figures now expect to lose the next election they are united in believing that an economic recovery combined with a slip by David Cameron means that a turnaround is possible. They believe that the Tory leader has already made a mistake by abandoning sunshine and embracing gloom. Hence Gordon Brown’s contrast in his speech yesterday about the “politics of opportunity and growth” versus “the politics of austerity and defeatism.”

Today Peter Mandelson puts intellectual flesh on those political bones. In a speech to the CBI, the business secretary argues:”We will neither exit the recession as quickly as we can, nor build the future strength we need, if we allow pessimism to descend on us or lower our expectations of what we can achieve.”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London