“I think you guys are going to get a majority of 40,” one veteran Labour adviser told me, and I did not disagree
There are all sorts of reasons for voting Tory this week. It is a chance to strike a blow against over-regulation and over-taxation and political correctness, and a chance to enact beautiful new ideas like National Citizens Service for 16-year-olds.
After the disastrous stewardship of Gordon Brown, the man best placed to rescue the New Labour project from Cleggmania and reassure the middle classes is Lord Mandelson
I’ll tell you what was going through the mind of the average Labour MP when Gordon Brown managed to stage one of the most spectacular political pratfalls since Neil Kinnock invited the world’s media to picture him walking along a beach with his wife and contrived to be knocked over by a wave. It was worse than Walter Mondale crying on television. It was as suicidal as Cicero being rude about Octavian.
When Gordon Brown went to Rochdale, and ended up making a direct personal attack on the character and motives of Labour’s core vote, Labour MPs weren’t thinking how to rescue the situation. They were thinking it was the end.
It cannot go on, and in the name of common humanity it must not go on. Deep in their hearts, Labour knows that there will be a change of government on Thursday. There are plenty of Labour people who believe – as I believe – that the spectre of a hung parliament will vanish in the polling booth as voters are confronted with a choice: between the endless drift and dither of a coalition, or giving this country the new start it so desperately needs.
“I think you guys are going to get a majority of 40,” one veteran Labour adviser told me at the weekend, and I did not disagree.
Gordon will finally be asked to leave the stage in what most of us can now see is the best thing, not just for the country, but perhaps even for him; and then Labour will have to find a new leader.
So in a spirit of strict impartiality, let me canvass the options. Let us avert our eyes from the car-crash of the Labour campaign, whose press launch on Friday was interrupted – in a glorious example of what I think T S Eliot called the objective correlative – by an actual car actually crashing, and let us focus on the forthcoming battle for the Labour leadership.
I have read somewhere that Harriet Harman believes she is the front runner, since she is already deputy leader and would be expected to step pro tem into Gordon’s shoes. All I can say is that if Hattie Harperson becomes leader of the Labour Party, and uses that platform to advance her bossy, bullying, nannying agenda of yet more workplace regulation – at a time when the country is struggling to get people back to work – then it strikes me that Labour could well be out of office not just for a generation but for a century.
With the Guardian and the Observer already coming out for the Lib Dems, the great Clegg switcheroo would be complete. Labour would be pushed out to the Left, a party of Luddite reaction, supported by only the most traditional of trades unionists, and the Liberals would be the new voice of the centre-Left. So they would be mad to go for Hattie.
Who does that leave? There are the Milibands, David and Ed, who both attract support from respectable opinion.
The trouble is that there are two of them, and the older one, David, lost a lot of points when he bottled an assassination attempt on Gordon and made a reedy speech to his party conference about how the “world is a dangerous place”. We know the world is a dangerous place, David, but if you haven’t got the gumption to take on Charlie Whelan and the Brownites, how can we expect you to stand up to Putin or North Korea?
Some people say Labour should therefore draft his younger brother Ed, but I have to say that as the elder brother of my family – beleaguered by taller, cleverer, better-looking younger siblings – I feel this is an offence against the natural order of things.
The only way to avoid some Cain-and-Abel crisis in the Miliband family is to rule they are neither of them quite ready for job.
Which takes us to Ed Balls, and again, it is hard to see how this would work in the long-term interests of Labour. There are all sorts of reasons for voting Tory this week. It is a chance to strike a blow against over-regulation and over-taxation and political correctness, and a chance to enact beautiful new ideas like National Citizens Service for 16-year-olds.
But for some of us, the most powerful and intoxicating reason of all is that we have a chance to vote out the pugnacious Education Secretary and punish him for his attack on Latin. Even if Ed survives Thursday night, it is hard to see how Labour would prosper under a leader who already mobilises such rage.
There is, of course, Alan Johnson, who would normally get my vote because he is a nice chap and probably a distant cousin,
but he has mystifyingly ruled himself out by saying that he is not up to it.
Who else is there to emerge with any credit from the smoking wreckage of the Labour campaign?
There is one man whose reputation – amazingly – has been burnished by the disaster of the past few weeks; one man who is still sought after by society hostesses; one man whose every silken Voldemortian utterance is still taken down, with reverence, by the political journalists.
It is wholly fitting, after the disastrous stewardship of Gordon Brown, that the man best placed to rescue the New Labour project from Cleggmania and reassure the middle classes is the ermine-sporting, eyebrow-arching aristocrat of the party, the grandson of Herbert Morrison, the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council, President of the Board of Trade and Lord High Everything Else, Lord Mandelson of Foy and Hartlepool.
That is my advice to my Labour friends, though whether they take it is another matter.
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