This week’s British Labour Party conference in Brighton was supposed to act as a springboard for the desperate re-election hopes of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. It failed.

The great British public took little or no interest in the grimly choreographed talkfest. After 11 years in office, New Labour is suffering the same problem little Johnny Howard had in 2007 —  nobody is listening any more.

With an election due in the next six months, Brown descended on the southern seaside town to present the outline of his manifesto.

Fresh from being named International Statesman of the Year for rescuing world capitalism (yes, folks it was the Scotsman and not Kevin from Queensland), Brown sounded like a dyspeptic bank manager from Aberdeen and looked like one, too. He spoke like the headmaster of an out-of-control reform school: one of the highlights was announcing all 16- and 17-year-old single mothers will be placed in state-run supervised homes. Where did that back-to-Dickens idea come from?

The after-speech euphoria lasted until 10 o’clock on Tuesday night when Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, Britain’s biggest selling newspaper, hit the streets with the front-page headline, “LABOUR’S LOST IT” bringing the tabloid’s love affair with New Labour to a screeching halt.

Worse followed. The next day another front page bellowed, “LABOUR’S LOST US — Now the people speak”, and devoted two inside pages to former Labour voters beating up on Brown’s government.

Business secretary Lord Mandleson, aka Peter “Mandy” Mandelson, the party’s former general secretary and chief architect of New Labour, was so furious with the Sun’s party-spoiling bastardry and its switch of allegience to David Cameron’s Tory Party that he placed a call to News International’s chief executive Rebekah Brooks, a former Sun editor.

In the course of their exchange, Mandelson referred to the Murdoch empire as “a bunch of chumps” but other sources claim that he used another word beginning with “c”.

Mandelson’s own speech had the handful of remaining New Labour “luvvies” in a swoon. In fact, it was a twittering load of effete rubbish, a series of sound bites selling a public relations drive without a policy in sight.

His message was undermined by the revelation that he was wearing a Swiss-made Patik watch worth just under $50,000 and that he looked every inch the Tory gent lining up to enter Cameron’s Cabinet after the election, not Brown’s.

Voters remain furious with the betrayals of Tony Blair, especially his slavish role in supporting the US-led Iraq war and they have never taken a shine to his successor.

Two out of every three voters have an unfavorable view of Brown and nothing that happened at Brighton this week will change that.

In the polls, Labour is malingering at 26% and only 17% of voters think Labour can win the next election.

If the drift from Labour is intensified over the next few months as unemployment rises towards 10% and winter sets in, Labour’s vote could collapse to less than 20% by election time.

That would give Cameron, an Old Etonian of the “Hooray Henry” variety, such a majority that Tory MPs will spill over onto the Opposition benches in the House of Commons.

The last card in Labour’s pack is to warn the electors against voting for a lightweight prat such as Cameron, but at present that’s who they seem to prefer over the International Statesman of the Year.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.