In thirty minutes it will be midnight and I excuse myself from the table of my host for a pre arranged appointment with his computer to write my New Year blog. The words “hurry, you only have ten minutes” fly at my back. No pressure then.
He follows me into his study with a bottle of the best Champagne I have ever tasted and re fills my glass. I sit in front of his computer which has a screen bigger than the TV in my lounge. This is a serious computer. It is very used to serious input and I wonder how it will react to temporary ownership by a blogging back bench opposition MP.
The technology contained on this desk makes me feel insignificant. As I begin to type I can imagine the monitor mouthing in disgust “Oh for goodness sake!” I press very firmly before it attempts to cross its keyboard arms in protest and repel me. There is a green light at the top in the middle of the screen. I would not list paranoia as my main fault, however, this computer is either watching me or I have had too much Champagne..
I distract myself by moving my thoughts to things more political.
As I left Westminster before Christmas the only conversation was speculative general election chatter. Having died away during the holiday it will re ignite upon our return, if for no other reason than it can only be eighteen months away at most.
In recent weeks I haven’t met anyone of any political persuasion who believes that Labour can win another term, despite the ominous arrival of Mandy - frequently spotted looking down over the debating chamber in the weeks leading up to recess.
My impression of Mandy is that he is both a pragmatist and a strategist. A founder and architect of New Labour, one has to assume his loyalty will be wedded to the cause above the individual.
If your overriding concern was for the New Labour project to remain in power in the long term, what would your advice to the PM be?
Would it be based on damage limitation? Is his job to persuade the PM to go sooner, maybe in June at the same time as the Euro and local elections, rather than wait and see how bad it will be in 2010 risking even bigger defeat?
As the Christmas holiday period ends jobs are going to fall out of the sky like snowflakes. The economic picture remains gloomy and predicted job losses high and rising. If un-employment tips past the three million mark we may begin to witness civil un-rest as the poor become poorer and the poverty gap widens.
Issues such as NHS reform and Education simply don’t resonate with families totally absorbed with making ends meet on a day to day basis. When you lose your job, can’t pay the mortgage and your main worry is do you have enough money to buy food to feed your children before the next benefit payment, I would imagine that political nuances fly straight over your head. All you would be interested in is putting someone in power who can deliver change and throw the economy a life raft.
As the black cash in hand market exploited by the poorest is also hit by recession, my prediction is that 2009 will be a bleak year with no relief in sight for 2010.
Mandelson’s job over the next few months may well be to advise the PM to go sooner rather than later. The advice of MPs will be to wait as they cling onto their seats. Whether or not the election will take place in 2009 is anyone’s call.
Happy New Year everyone.