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Last Updated: Friday, 6 July 2007, 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK
Martha Kearney's week
By Martha Kearney
Presenter, BBC Radio 4's The World at One

This week I went to what must have been one of the poshest music festivals ever....more blazers than you could shake a Cath Kidston umbrella at.

Lily Allen
Who would get Lily Allen's vote?

There was the obligatory rain of course but no more than a tiny spattering of mud on the long gravel avenues sweeping up to Chiswick House in West London.

Lily Allen, Sophie Ellis Bextor, The Feeling and Magic Numbers were all playing to raise money to restore the grounds of the beautiful 18th century house.

At one point the compere pointed out a couple of police officers and said: "Police, here? This is Chiswick. The only way things will kick off is if someone claims to know the best fee paying school in the area."

In an idle moment, between oysters, I found myself wondering how this crowd would vote.

'Brown bounce'

Most I would guess would have been Blair in 1997 (certainly all old enough to vote then) but I could imagine many peeling off next time around to David Cameron.

How big will Gordon Brown's tent (or marquee in this context) stretch?

His government of all the talents is designed to reassure the centre ground.

There is no doubt that his position has been strengthened early by leadership over the terror attacks.

Labour seems to have been gaining support from the Lib Dems, perhaps people angered by the war in Iraq who are now prepared to return to the fold.

The Brown bounce has long been anticipated but is still rattling the Conservatives. One senior former minister I met recently said: "It is time for David to stop p*****g all over his own party".

Play for sympathy

We interviewed a party chairman on Tuesday's World at One from Newark who felt the Conservative leader hadn't been nurturing his own grassroots and was angry at being called delusional over the grammar school row.

Mr Cameron hoped to draw a line under that by his reshuffle which moved David Willetts from the schools brief but he also strengthened the position of key modernisers like Michael Gove and George Osborne who has also been put in charge of election planning.

He can draw comfort from a couple of Brown errors early on.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown tries out at Prime Minister's Question Time

In his first Prime Minister's Questions, surely it was a mistake for Gordon Brown to play for sympathy by saying he had only been in the job for five days?

Firstly an arithmetic error from a former Chancellor is a little worrying. Secondly it draws attention to his biggest political vulnerability which is that Labour has been in power for 10 years.

The new prime minister has also been criticised for not paying enough attention to the areas hit by floods in a week when the leader of Hull council said his city had been forgotten.

No doubt the terror attacks had been dominating Gordon Brown's time but that is the challenge of being PM rather than Chancellor - being able to manage many crises at the same time as well as being able to spot the political danger lurking under the radar.

The Big Conversation

Gordon Brown hopes to stay in touch through much greater consultation, giving people in local areas a say in which priorities should be funded.

Mr Brown is very interested in citizens' juries and citizens' assemblies which have been used in Brazil and British Columbia as well as in councils here like Harrow which we featured in the programme on Tuesday. There will be cynicism about this exercise unless people are given genuine power to decide.

The Labour Party embarked on a consultation not so long ago called The Big Conversation. Brown likes to joke privately "It wasn't big and it wasn't a conversation".

He will be scrutinised very carefully in the coming weeks to see if his early proposals for devolving power including greater Cabinet discussion are matched by a genuine ambition to govern in a more collegiate manner.


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