Gordon’s Finest Hour?

Forget the financial crisis. “The Navy’s here.” Brown calls up the Dunkirk spirit to rescue some of the 150,000 stranded Brits (Hey sorry about that you Irish passport holders. Or will Cowen send the Deirdre?) By the way can Ark Royal dock in Calais? I hope they’ve worked that one out. Remember that Gordon last topped the polls as Captain Flood, so can he do it again? There are tricky calls to make but does anybody seriously think a governmenrt is going to risk an airline disaster a fortnight before an election? Pity the poor Tories. With 18 days to go to the election, they refused to be interviewed on the Today programme. This simple sentence is the stark measure of the panic that’s seizing the two (former?) main parties. Brown and Cameron still haven’t adjusted. I’ve just been watching Cameron pleading for people “take responsibility in the Big Society” This electionspeak just isn’t convincing. Just now he’s suffered the indignity of being cut off by the BBC News channel attacking Brown in answer to a question fom their own Nick Robinson to go to a shot of the Cabinet Office door. Such is the power of the Prime Minister even at election time. Will the volcano prove to be a political blessing? While statesman Brown refuses to discuss any deal with the Lib Dems, Labour chief strategist Mandelson has been down and dirty, thinking ahead.

Lord Mandelson, who heads Labour’s campaign, criticised some Liberal Democrat policies but made clear that a coalition government would not be a disaster. It is the first time a senior Labour figure has spoken about a Lib-Lab coalition, in which Liberal Democrats would sit in a Brown Cabinet. In a memo to Labour members, Lord Mandelson said: “I am not against coalition government in principle and for Britain, anything would be better than a Cameron-Osborne government.”
The Secretary of State for Business said a two-party government would not be so stable without a “big unifying challenge”. He named that as constitutional change, urging Liberal Democrat supporters in 100 or so Labour-Tory marginal seats to vote Labour to secure reform of the voting system for Westminster.

The next Leaders’ debate on foreign affairs allows Clegg to stick to it to Brown over “ letting our boys down” in Afghanistan. No sign of an Alamein there. While voting for Lib Dems in Labour-Tory marginals means “Vote Clegg get Cameron.” The Clegg bubble is proving as hard to deal with as a cloud of ash in the sky. Could the leaders be faced with the ultimate horror of being forced to debate the full range of choice facing voters?

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