Lansons Conversations

Day 17 – Good day – bad day

The burglary Liam Fox awoke to this morning delayed the launch of the Tories armed forces manifesto. It also delayed the start of an all out attack on Lib Dem defence policy but there will be no shortage of that in tonight’s second televised leader’s debate. A minor irritant for the Tories, surely, who will have been quite happy for a host of anti-Clegg newspaper front pages to run throughout the day. The Tories were keen not to be rude to Clegg or indulge in such negative campaigning of course, but the Tory press had a field day. So the day began with the right wing press briefing against Clegg, David Miliband briefing against David Cameron for briefing against Clegg but everyone still, somehow, insisting “but we agree with Nick”. Strange times. There have been times in this campaign when we have almost needed to remind ourselves that we have a governing Labour Party. Even accepting the Clegg effect, their campaigning should have been better than this. Where are they? What are they doing? Having wrestled for control of the machine it doesn’t look as though this will be a campaign Lord Mandelson will be proud of. The result is all that counts, sure, and as the Tories warn Labour may not need to win the campaign to ‘win’ the election. But even so, what’s happened to that generation of campaign strategists? Each day, each week we wait for Labour’s campaign to take off. Perhaps it just isn’t going to. Perhaps that is the changed strategy. Lord Mandelson’s principal reported comments today were to defend Clegg from a Tory smear campaign. His eye may well now be on events two weeks from now, not day to day PR battles.