I linked earlier to David Blackburns piece, regarding David Camerons mini reshuffle before the election heats up. I read it last night and was tempted to pass comment, decided against and have had another change of mind now.
David starts by claiming that James Fortsyth had three weeks earlier laid blame for the Tory downturn at the door of Osborne, Hilton, Coulson and Bridges for the incoherent and dismal message. I had actually published two days earlier then James that the blame lies with David Cameron, and that he needed to appoint a dedicated General Election Coordinator to take charge and control the messaging. That is after all what leaders do; they lead and establish a chain of command and have people observe it. Having four or five people working somewhat independently was always a recipe for disaster.
So, it would seem that common sense has prevailed, and that George Osborne is taking on that exact role. I am about as much a fan of Osborne as I am Cameron but it is the right decision and should help focus some mind and steady the ship. I am genuinely looking forward to hearing what the Tories have to offer, and I hope this will mean they can get in control of the agenda now.
Unfortunately this also means that, quelle surprise, Cameron's other buddy Ken Clarke, who is nobodies favourite Tory will now "step up" and become the face of the Conservatives Economic Policy. I would think that Ken Clarke will put in a better show than George Osborne who I don't think comes across too well on TV. However, Ken Clarke is not the big hitter that he was billed to be. He has completely failed in every way in his current remit which was to neutralise Mandelson and give him a bloody nose. As Mandelson is delighted to remind people, in private he and Ken Clarke agree on just about everything to do with policy. So, from a meritorious point of view, an unwarranted promotion for Ken.
It also therefore begs the question of who exactly is supposed to be countering Peter Mandelson now in the run up to the election? If the lesson has truly been learnt then tackling the economic message is in itself too much of a job on it's own, there is no way Ken Clarke can shadow the Chancellor and Peter Mandelson at the same time. Mandelson will be the king of the campaign and we all know he is a master of electioneering, he simply can not go unchallenged.
I hope Cameron has actually thought of this, because Labour has a number of other big hitters in the background ready to step forward and electrify their core base. Next to Mandelson will be John Prescott, Alastair Campbell, John Reid and the granddaddy of modern elections, Tony Blair. These guys have largely kept out of sight in the last year or so from mainstream TV news and will be chomping at the bit to get on the telly and talk up "an historic labour fourth term" and they will all do what they need to to make Gordon look human. They will sell Gordons lies a million times better than he can. Outside of Osborne and Clarke only William Hague and Boris Johnson are fairly well known on a wide scale for the Conservatives and they need to rectify this quickly. Boris will probably not feature too much until nearer Election Day.
My recommendation to David Cameron is to bring forward John Redwood to counter Mandelson who has torn Labour's record to shreds on his blog. That would provide a counter-balance to swivel-eyed-right-wing-loonies like me who will bash him for the Clarke elevation. I would ask Liam Fox to be on telly as much as possible and I would advise Cameron to make good with David Davis. Chris Grayling, Michael Gove and Dominic Grieve should be told to raise their own profiles and join in the fight a bit more also.
Having a few Conservatives of a more traditional mould in front of the cameras will do them the world of good. I guarantee that the Conservatives will not win this election unless there are many faces on TV proving that as a party they are willing to fight for the right to govern.