Reactions by virtually all senior Socialist cadres to the views expressed recently by leading neo-liberals Stefanos Manos and Andreas Andrianopoulos were a prelude to a crucial political phase for PASOK leader George Papandreou, starting this autumn and leading up to the 2006 local elections. Those leading PASOK officials – who slammed the views of the two independent MPs over the government’s move to reform shop opening hours and the labor market – are not really interested in securing PASOK’s ideological purity. After all, it was only a few weeks ago that some of those who now attack Manos and Andrianopoulos expressed no less controversial views, calling for a debate from scratch on social security reform and an end to civil servants’ permanent job status. Their aim, rather, was to warn Papandreou that he does not have carte blanche in deciding the future shape of the party, insofar as he cannot guarantee its return to power in the next election. If Papandreou wants to rally the big names behind him he will have to convince the public, starting with his presence at the Thessaloniki International Fair, that he is capable of putting up a strong challenge to Costas Karamanlis’s political hegemony. This will be largely decided by the December opinion polls. Should the Socialists, and Papandreou personally, fail to make a good showing, the opposition will plunge into a renewed period of navel gazing. Under pressure from leading Socialist cadres, Papandreou will, over the coming months, have to escalate his attacks on the government. The question is, will he stick to his sterile rejection of all government proposals and his vague, anti-statist stance, or will he finally sketch out a convincing political alternative?