Rats queuing to leave the ship of state
Just as public figures flocked to Labour in 1997, now celebrities and business leaders are following the polls towards the Conservatives....Think-tanks, keen to attract business sponsorship, are concentrating on centre-right policies - Demos, new Labour's favourite wonk-house, recently launched a project on Progressive Conservativism.....Across Whitehall civil servants are carefully pulling back from the Labour administration. I am told that it is getting harder to recruit fast-streamers for plum jobs in ministerial private offices - the bright young things don't want to become too associated with the politicians of what they assume to be an out-going regime.
Meanwhile, politicians are thinking increasingly of life after Gordon. Cabinet ministers are jostling for position in preparation for the leadership contest that would follow a Labour defeat. Harriet Harman - who, as deputy leader, has won one party election - is said by colleagues (and rivals) to be campaigning assiduously for the top job..... “Harriet's positioning like mad,” one senior figure says. “She's written off the election and she's thinking about herself.”
She is not the only one. Ministers claim that Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, is “on manoeuvres” with speaking engagements to party groups all over the country - his speech suggesting that the global recession would be the worst for 100 years was seen as an attempt to reach beyond his ministerial brief. Ed Miliband's opposition to the third runway at Heathrow was interpreted by MPs (and No 10) as an attempt to appeal to Labour's green wing.
“There is a massive sense of fatalism both among MPs and civil servants,” a former Cabinet minister says. “Gordon's lost all authority. How can this go on for another 16 months?”