The pleasure at the shoddy shambles that passes for leadership from our Snake Oil Salesman Prime Minister should buoy the Conservative Party up to Christmas. But it is important not to get carried away with thoughts that, like Australia and the All Blacks, all they have to do is turn up and Brown is toast.

I am reminded of Mr. Churchill’s frank and sober account of operations in France and Flanders in June 1940 to the House of Commons in which he was careful to caution against an excess of euphoria at the successful evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk.

We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.

Before we allow ourselves to believe that the next election is all but over and that Gordon Brown will shortly lay his sword at Cameron’s feet, it might be a good idea rather to plant our feet four square on the ground and contemplate the reality of Brown’s humiliating retreat from holding a snap General Election next month. This was in the nature of an evacuation and must not be considered final victory.

The fact of the matter is that the Tories may well have had a spectacular let off. Having ridden to a series of fine wins in the local elections in May, the Conservative Party had managed over the summer to perform a stunning act of self-immolation and turn a solid lead in the polls into a solid deficit. One need not go over that ground again, save to say that Cameron and others (particularly, I am afraid, some who had their eye on their City jobs and not The House of Commons) seriously took their eye off the ball and by a combination of blunder, miscalculation and misjudgement, made it look as though the Party was determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Notwithstanding Mr. Cameron’s feisty declaration that he wanted an election, it will now remain a matter for political nerds to contemplate for ever and a day who might have won the ‘2007 general election’ and whether he might have sunk without trace like the last four Tory leaders. As it is, it may yet prove to be the case that as well as causing himself enormous political damage, Gordon Brown has given the Tories a second chance to build a solid platform for the election whenever it now comes. Certainly we need now to recognise that we have not won a general election and that there is still a long road ahead with many alarums and excursions along the way and lots of hard work.

With that note of caution, one may therefore make hay whilst the sun shines.

I made the observation the other day that I do not buy into the idea that politics and elections ought to be about policies not personalities. Such a proposition is, with respect, a lot of tommyrot. Those who espouse it are often, I suspect, those who think that there is much to be feared from the character and personality of their champion being exposed to the cruel light of day. There is, in reality, nothing so important as the character of a man who would be Prime Minister and the electorate are entitled to know about him, to see him operating at close quarters and form their judgement accordingly as to whether he has what it takes to be Prime Minister: after all, what is the issue of ‘trust’ about, if not character?

I am certain that it has been the case with Gordon Brown that he and his ghastly cronies have, for ten years, managed, with great skill, let it be said, to conceal a whole Gladstone Bag full of personality defects from which he suffers. Only when Lord Turnbull, former Cabinet Secretary, decided to lift the lid on him did the process of subjecting his character to much-needed scrutiny begin. And since he stepped into Whatsisname’s shoes, we have had a grand stand seat, at last, from which to subject him to closer quarters scrutiny. What we see, we do not like one bit.

And what a view it is! Talk about Turkeys voting for Christmas: this Turkey has just voted to cancel Christmas for a couple of years.

Firstly there is now a serious issue concerning his judgement. Here is a man with a solid majority in Parliament with no obvious crisis at hand necessitating the premature calling of an election. Since the Second World War there has never been a mid-term election which was simply about a Prime Minister wanting to take purely party advantage of a state of affairs to see if he can improve his personal political position.

1951 was about a weak government running out of steam and ideas. 1955 saw the departure of a political Titan who had bestrode the scene for so long that it was reasonable for Eden to seek to show he was no longer in Churchill’s shadow and was his own man. 1966 was about a government with almost no majority seeking a chance to govern freely which, whatever one thought of Harold Wilson and his crew, was a not unreasonable proposition. The two elections of 1974 were born out of extraordinary circumstances of prolonged crisis. Since then Parliaments have by and large run for four years or the full distance.

Yet he decided at the least to load the starting gun for an election a mere halfway through its lawful life on the basis of narrow party political interest. People will see that for what it was, a cheap shot and his speech to his conference simply crude and calculated electioneering, spin, spin, spin. What is worse is that we may now look at the whole of the last three months for what it has been: a cynical manipulation of events to provide a platform from which to launch an opportunist election.

Secondly, there can be no question but that he is a man who is a political coward. Twice now he has marched Brown’s Yellow Jackets up the hill. The first time was to conduct a putsch against Vanity Blair. Then he got to the top of the hill and found that Blair had so managed to camouflage his position with smoke and mirrors that he thought the risk of substantial damage to himself and the rest of what was then no more than a guerrilla band waiting at the bottom of the hill was too great a risk to take, so the Yellow Jackets turned about face and slunk back down the hill, and back to barracks, all the while hoping they had not been spotted in case it ruined their chances for promotion. And when he got back to the bottom, he strenuously denied he had ever been out of camp, thus adding dishonesty to the list of character defects.

Now he has marched the Yellow Jackets back up the hill once more. This time the revetments were occupied by Captain Cameron’s Regiment who were ordered to fix bayonets upon Brown’s approach and to allow them to catch the sun, thus creating the illusion that there were a lot more defenders there than was actually the case.

A-bout turn!

And so, shamefully casting away their arms in the face of the enemy, the Yellow Jackets legged it down the hill once more, there each one to change their trousers on account of the unfortunate accident that had befallen them on the way down.

Thus we now know for sure that Brown is a gutless bully. I had never thought to hear, as I have heard Adam Boulton do on Sky, a political journalist publicly accuse Her Majesty’s First Lord of the Treasury of rank cowardice. That, I think, is some measure of the political damage he has done himself: this was surely the political equivalent of a coward in the trenches shooting himself in the foot so as to give himself a ‘Blighty One’ and get himself sent home.

There is also a huge question mark over his cronies who have been egging him on of late. I think in particular, but not exclusively, of the awful Ed Balls whose smug face has been all over the place recently, smug in the belief that his Boss was about to hand out a hiding to Cameron. Now one may happily anticipate a lengthy period of silence from this smirking fool. Gordon on the other hand might well find himself abjuring for the first time that little phrase that Voltaire’s Candide, upon finding himself in a pile of corpses, heard when one of the, rather damaged, cadavers turned out to be very much alive:

O che sciagura d’essere senza coglioni!*

There is one little feature in all this which seems not yet to have been picked up and that is to wonder why he now appears also to have ruled out 2008, so putting May 2009 as perhaps the next earliest date for an election. Might it be that he hopes that the Lib ‘Dems’ will think eighteen months is enough time to bed in a new leader and that they might now safely take the chance of ditching Campbell? If so, it is a remarkable thing for he and Campbell are said to be friends. But then one is reminded of that other Liberal (in more ways than one) Leader Jeremy Thorpe’s observation:

Greater love hath no man than this,
that he lay down his friends for his life.

Suddenly politics has come alive. I look forward to PMQs next week which should be a real treat for all those who like Steak Tartare.

Meanwhile, back in Downing Street, it’s:

“Kip, kip, kip…..scratch,scratch,…..

NOTE: I thank ConservativeHome and for the quite delicious graphic.

* “Oh, what a misfortune to be without balls!”