Even cynical Guido believed Brown had led us to the promised land by the end of his speech, the Labour benches loved it, despite some very New Labour promises – £14 billion of privatisation for example. Guido thought it was a good solid performance.
Howard was smart enough not to fight over the economy, it is after all in pretty good shape, he focused on the Tory’s negative themes of tax and spend, bureaucracy, red tape and waste. He also cracked a few jokes at Milburn’s expense – who grimaced, looking uncomfortable – Howard likes to highlight Labour infighting. Quoting indiscrete Labour politicians is a smart move, it puts the spotlight on them, Brown’s Treasury / Financial Secretaries have been disloyal and frozen out, so Howard mentioned them as well as Frank Field’s stinging criticism. Howard’s confidence was such that he goaded Milburn’s faltering campaign management skills, his jibe about Brown holding on to the dispatch box “like it was Milburn’s windpipe” raised the most laughs on the Labour benches.