It is as if some in the press pack are reliving an old episode of Star Trek: the impression is given that, this week, there are two Labour Conferences going on, given the wildly different assessments of each speech, depending on which paper you read. Today has brought a superb example of divergence, as Foreign Secretary David Miliband has had his ninepence worth just before the Conference closed.
Let’s see how this played with the Maily Telegraph. Adverse comment about the length of the speech, telling how he went “beyond his brief”, and Pa Broon looking on “stony faced”. Sounds bad. But Toby Helm in the Guardian was in a more favourably disposed universe: the speech he saw was “powerful stuff”, with Miliband “going for the Tories over Europe”, and that Brown “listened intently” and gave his “most genuine smile of the Conference”.
But on one thing both papers are agreed: Miliband put the boot into Tory Chairman Eric Pickles, and a more deserving recipient would be hard to find. Fat Eric has said that the Latvian Waffen SS veterans whose exploits are celebrated by the Fatherland and Freedom Party (one of Young Dave’s new friends in the European Parliament) were merely “following orders”. Aye, and so were all of them, Eric, and we know what some of the Waffen SS got up to.
The Tories aren’t at all happy about the attack, and with good reason: Fat Eric has built part of his reputation on his supposed anti-racism, although the variety deployed in last year’s Crewe and Nantwich by-election was more of a talent for accusing opponents of racism at a time that will do them most damage, and on the most flimsy evidence.
But in any case, if Labour are heading for defeat, why don’t the Tories just smile and ignore the attacks? Ah well. A poll taken after Pa Broon’s speech earlier this week had the Tories down to 37% and Labour up to 30%. That’s a reduction in the Tory lead of more than half, and any number that gets Labour at or over 30% suggests an election resulting in a hung parliament.
Anything hinting that Tory support is at all soft will make them nervous, and will encourage Labour. It will all make for yet more excellent spectator sport.