Monday, 28 September 2009

Portrait of Gordon Brown - after Landseer

Day one of the Labour party conference as seen in the Herald sketch

It’s official - “Operation Fightback” starts here. It sound like a the title for an episode of the A-Team but it’s actually a slogan to save the Labour party.

Above the podium on Brighton the message in written on big white letters against a moving cloud background. Ad Men think clouds send out a subliminally aspirational message. I’m from the Hebrides where they are portents of a gathering storm, or at least a downpour.

Yesterday afternoon, after one Labour leader announced his resignation (Wasn’t so hard, was it Rhodri?) we were introduced to the fightback troops. These are the new candidates who will be standing at election for the first, perhaps the last time. As they filed on stage they became progressively younger, like we were viewing a strobe photo sequence of one person walking backwards through time.

The clapping ran out before the last, by now teenaged, figure came onto the podium. Half-hearted delegates had to be urged to renew their applause.

There were a number of ways a Labour activist might have spent a sunny afternoon on the south coast of England, joining a huge demonstration outside the conference about cuts in public services might have been one example. Sitting in the glorious sunshine on the beach might have been another.

But no, they listened to wannabes asking anodyne question and Harriet Harman and Gordon Brown congratulating each other on being the best politician in the world, or on equality policy or whatever.

The Prime Minister, fighting for his life and his reputation, said that they were being tested. “What is being tested, and why we should be angry and determined to fight about Conservative policies that are wrong; what is being tested is our belief that we do not walk on by and the Conservative belief that you just let the market take its way.”

It carried on until the Prime Minister’s voice croaked and he admitted, after an hour, that he had talked too much.

Poor man, he certainly is being tested, and not just in agonisingly boring forums like this.

No one asked a hard question, that had been dealt with in the morning when Andrew Marr made Brighton choke on its collective toothpaste by asking the Prime Minister if he was a chemist shop junkie.

That might be a “fair question” in from a “blutter” (a gutterpress blogger, a term I just invented for this situation) but coming from the BBC it was a shocker.

Brown’s physical response was the political personification of Edwin Landseer’s “Stag at bay” - defiant, contemptuous, standing proud, fighting back. Just out of frame the hounds of hell are snapping at his heels.

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