What we are being offered is no longer Prime Minister Blair, but the Blair-Brown axis ...there is a widespread desire to turn Britain into a No-Smirking ZoneWho is Labour's man, Blair or Brown? In the course of a largely inglorious 1997 election campaign, I had one moment of canvassing magic. After weeks of hesitation, my team of crack Tory troops finally decided to mount an operation in Rhosllanerchrugog, an old mining village in Clwyd South, the seat I was then contesting. Rhos, as it was known for short, had an awesome reputation among the Conservatives of that region. The few scouts who returned reported that it was full of savage anti-Tories. So bitter were local feelings about Conservative policies towards Welsh mining villages, I was told, that it was doubtful there was a single Tory in the place. The view was that we would be lucky to get out in one piece. So we canvassed in more promising areas until one morning, not long before polling day, there was nothing for it. After a certain amount of deep breathing, we poured out of the battle wagon in the heart of Rhos and began to work the streets. It would be fair to say that we had a pretty cool reception. One man offered half-heartedly to "brick" me, and everyone else declined, with varying degrees of asperity, our invitation to vote Tory, until I saw a young woman pushing a buggy up the street. "Hello!" I cried, in the approved Central Office manner, thrusting out my hand. "I wonder whether I can count on your vote?" The poor woman looked tired. She was wearing tight jeans and white socks, and I had that panicky feeling that her baby was about to cry. She pulled her cigarette out and screwed up her eyes. "Which party did you say you were from?" she said. "I'm the Conservative candidate," I said; and at once it was as if the sun had come out. She beamed at me. "Oooh!" she said. "The Conservatives! Yes, I'll definitely be voting for you. Count on me!" I was stunned, and in my confusion, I did what good canvassers should never do in this situation. "B-but why?" I asked. "Oh well," she said. "You'd never catch me voting for that John Major and his Labour Party!" Thinking fast, I withdrew the leaflet I was about to give her, featuring a picture of John Major, gave her some more general Conservative advertisement, and I still believe, with the help of that innocent semi-deception, that we secured that woman's vote on the day. I mention this because today, after a long period of Labour government, there must be thousands of Labour candidates and canvassers flogging the streets of Britain who wish they could do the same with their own party leader; who wish they could quietly banish Tony Blair from their party literature. Everyone who has been out canvassing in the past few days will know what I mean: that sudden sense of weariness, irritation with Blair, sometimes bordering on hatred, that spills from the mouths of people who hoped for so much. There is a fed-upness, a lack of trust, an unwillingness to buy his act, and a widespread desire to turn Britain into a No-Smirking Zone. You can tell the Labour people have clocked the problem, because they have entirely changed the way the party is presented. It has gone, that Blair chipmunk grin, axed from the manifesto; it has been wiped from most of the Labour bumf; and Blair himself - once seen as the consummate televisual operator - is no longer trusted to do a party political broadcast on his own. Oh no: Labour has ceased to be a monarchy, or a presidency. It is a partnership, and Gordon has been brought in to rescue the show. It's Brair; it's Blown, and in this partnership Brown is wearing the trousers. Brown sets the agenda, and his creature, Balls, spouts off about how Labour will sort out the mess it has made of pensions, while poor Milburn - Blair's creature - is shoved to the back of the press conference. What we are being offered is no longer Prime Minister Blair, but the Blair-Brown axis, and it should be said at once that this is a monumental fraud on the electorate. We are being asked to vote for Blair, with the subliminal reassurance that he will at some stage step aside and make way for the older man. It is an outrageous deceit, not just because Brown is a high-taxing, interfering, over-regulating zealot, but also because he is a Scot. We are being asked to vote for Blair when it is highly likely that in the course of the next few years (in the event of a Labour victory) the party machine would create a Scottish prime minister to lord it over England, at a time of gross constitutional inequality between England and Scotland. It is infamous that I, as an English MP, can be outvoted in very controversial questions by Scottish MPs, when I have no corresponding say over those questions in Scotland, and when those Scottish MPs themselves have no say over those questions insofar as they affect their own constituents. It is unthinkable that we could have, in these circumstances, a prime minister who sits for Dumfermline; but that is exactly what Labour is proposing, and it is a scandal. We know some things for certain about this proposed Blair-Brown partnership. We know that it will mean higher taxes - much higher, says the IMF - whereas the Tories are actually pledged to cut tax by £4 billion. We know that it will be a continuation of Brownian economics, by which 850,000 jobs have been created in the public sector and a million lost in manufacturing. We know from the Labour manifesto that the pair of them have run out of ideas. There is just one question they won't answer, and we should keep asking it until they are straight with the public, because it is the hole at the heart of their prospectus. Who is your candidate to be prime minister? Blair or Brown? It can't be both and it's time we were told.
Huzzah! fresh comment from Boris in the Daily Telegraph today