Cometh the hour, cometh Gordon Brown

Can Gordon Brown outmaneuver Alex Salmond’s political bluster?

Can Gordon Brown outmaneuver Alex Salmond’s political bluster?

With today’s polling by TNS Scotland putting both sides in the referendum campaign on level pegging, the air of crisis surrounding the Better Together campaign continues.

The response? Step forward Gordon Brown.

His speech yesterday in a Miners Welfare Club in Midlothian in which he, rather than David Cameron et al, outlined a swift timetable for new powers for Holyrood sounded like the passionate argument that has thus far been missing from a Better Together campaign that has, at times, resembled a group of accountants arguing over numbers.

Brown’s mention of Kier Hardie’s plans for home rule being the model for Scotland to follow was a clear attempt to woo those Labour voters considering voting yes next week and who will, ultimately, decide the fate of the Union.

For all the venom and scorn poured over him by the media and political opponents alike during his time in 10 Downing Street, in Scotland, it is perhaps Gordon Brown and him alone that can out manoeuvre Alex Salmond’s political bluster.

Indeed, the first minister will have been livid last night at the way Brown seamlessly pulled off a Salmond-esk trick of making Burn’s night next year the deadline for legislation on further powers to be ready. Such symbolism has been the hallmark of the SNP’s campaign so far and now, at last, Better Together is seizing that agenda.

For those who have felt that Brown’s talents have not been given the recognition that they deserve, the delicious irony now is that David Cameron, the one who launched such scathing attacks on the former prime minister when he was in office, is now simply powerless.

Make no mistake about it, David Cameron’s future as leader of the Conservative Party now hinges on how Gordon Brown performs between now and next Thursday and the Conservatives know it.

As one un-named former Conservative strategist told the Guardian’s Nick Watt:

“There aren’t many problems to which the solution is send for Gordon Brown. But this is one of them. The trade unions are also essential. They have sat on their hands as shockingly as the business community has. There aren’t many problems where the solution is send for Len McCluskey. But this may be one of those. Only the Scottish Labour party can solve this.”

Writing for the Spectator, Isabel Hardman has concluded that “Gordon Brown seizing the initiative is a good thing”. Only time will tell just how good it is.

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