Derek Simpson backs moderate to lead Unite
Leaked emails over Mike Hancock scandal
David Miliband tipped for top EU job
87% of MPs raking it in with second jobs
David Cameron exclusive interview
"Red Ed" negotiates a minefield
"Red" Ed's knife-edge win
Don't strike over cuts, says union boss
Harman blocks Gordon Brown's farewell honours
Child benefit for older kids faces axe
Ed Miliband edges ahead of bruv in Labour leadership race
Tory Spring Conference: A Vote for Change?

From Ian Kirby in Brighton

Last week Westminster was abuzz with rumours that Gordon Brown was going to see the Queen this weekend.

Bloggers claimed the BBC had cancelled all leave and Brown was staying close to Windsor so he could pop in and hand the keys to Downing Street back to Her Majesty.

Meanwhile, in the real world a senior Labour MP boasted to me he had just booked a family holiday in the Caribbean for Easter.

The posters haven’t been finished, the Labour leaflets are not even close to going to the printers.

I could be proved wrong by the time you read this, but none of the people who would know say we are about to have an early election.

But the Tories, now straining at the leash, are desperate to get stuck in.

Their own election pledge cards arrived today and are such a rush job they were being folded in the back of a car as it raced to Brighton.

In his keynote speech David Cameron will tell the Tory faithful it is now his “patriotic duty” to get rid of Gordon Brown.

Meanwhile William Hague and George Osborne are doing their best to paint a bleak picture of an apocalyptic Britain if Brown does the unthinkable and wins the election.

The Conservatives have had a rotten New Year. With the economy stuttering back into some sort of half life and Gordon Brown finally showing a bit of urgency and drive their lead in the polls has halved in three months.

Even graphic descriptions of the PM berating his staff while in his underpants have not done any sort of damage.

And with just over a month until a likely dissolution of Parliament, a Tory victory is now dependent on a large amount of luck, plus the £6m they have spent in key marginal seats across the country.

Accusations that they have no policies are starting to hurt.

This weekend we are finally seeing their response.

The Tories’ election campaign will be based around six simple pledges on families, the economy, enterprise, the NHS, schools and cleaning up politics.

And underpinning it will be the rather nebulous promise “Vote for Change”.

Here in Brighton the young, fresh face of the Conservatives can smell victory.

But it is out on the doorsteps in March and April that they may face a reality check.

Gordon Brown’s government is exhausted. It has largely run out of ideas and the Cabinet is divided.

The Labour Party is almost bankrupt, allowing the trade unions to run riot.

But it has not given up.

Their General Secretary, Ray Collins, promised they would “outgun” the Tories, even if they can’t outspend them.

Gordon Brown is also painting an apocalyptic vision of Britain under the Tories – with hospitals and schools being shut, council workers sacked and another recession.

As long as both sides continue to lob these sort of rocks at each other it will be difficult for the voters to vote FOR any concrete policies, as they are likely to be buried in all the mud slinging.

And that would be most damaging for Cameron, who has this weekend pinned his hopes on a message of justice, fair play and helping hand.



    Keeping one eye on the rest of the web
  Westminster blog spy