Sunday, July 27, 2008

Brown's Requiem (2nd movement)

And of course, operating from a position of weakness: where the press are keen to attack and every chancer MP thinks they can get their 5 minutes on the airwaves by protesting their opinions, Gordon Brown walked headlong into credit crunch.

Even though you could argue it was tangentially partly his fault, the recent financial problems would have faced any UK leader, and are, ironically, a lot to do with the Tory obsession with Reaganomics.Obsessive Chile-style privatisation of public utilities were sold on the basis that it would bring prices down. But after a bit of consolidation, it turns out your utilities are run by two or three giant companies who can then turn he screw and put prices up at will. The price of gas shadowing the price of oil is a myth peddled to us by greedy corporates in order to gouge profits. What used to be British Electricity is now EON and EDF, French and German corporates respectively, who care nothing for British customers apart from how much they can make from us.

The ridiculous acceleration of the oil price is the work of the Bush/Neocon oligarchs. Even if Britain didn't send a couple of hundred troops to Iraq, we'd still be at the mercy of the Sheikhs and the Texans. Similarly, the mortgage crisis and credit crunch is the result of rampant monetarism - not really Brown's fault. The problems that people are pinning on the PM really are the result mainly of global conditions. Perhaps Labour shouldn't have sold us the endless economic miracle of ballooning house values, credit and standards of living.

Basically he's done little wrong in policy terms, yet placed himself in prime position to take all of the blame.

Brown's Requiem (1st movement)

From where I am sitting, under fire Gordon Brown made two mistakes. The first was to let his advisors prepare the ground for an election and then call it off. The media has been narked with him ever since, because they were denied their moment of excitement and self-importance. You would go a long way to find a story about Labour or its leader that is couched in even neutral terms ever since. And most media reports are still informed by the bitterness of disappointment.

The second mistake was intertwined with the first. Brown allowed an attempt to portray him as cuddly and nice. There are two types of successful politicians. The likeable and the hated but respected. Blair was the first kind. He managed, for the most part, to put people at their ease and come across as a well-intentioned bloke, whilst in the background he had Campbell to shout and swear and issue threats to one and all. Brown already had the stereotype of the 'dour Presbyterian Scot' attached to to him, and foolishly tried to deny it.

When Brown took the helm, I suspect the 'advisors' were too bogged down in the Blair project, desperately trying to make their new charge into a doe-eyed sympathy magnet. Really they should have tapped into the dour Scot thing and thrown in a bit ofrighteous fury for good measure. The decision to bottle out of calling an election was okay, but he decision to soften up the media before a decision was made was idiotic and possibly fatal.

Brown should have been different to Blair. This is mainly because Blair did his thing so very well, but also because people need variety. Instead of being committed to the Health Service because it saved his sight when he was at school, he should have been committed to it because it is scandalous that any country doesn't have free universal health care. He should have challenged his opposers. "If you don't support the NHS then you support poor people dying in the streets." (which would have been pretty much correct for the Tories). When the 10p tax thing came along he should have stood up and said: We are right and we are not changing our decision. If some people lose a couple of quid then tough, those same people have a new hospital, a new school, child tax credits and a job. They are just going to have to lump it for the good of us all."

Instead he allowed himself to cave to that week's opinion polls and performed a pathetic, spineless U-turn. And now every little thing is ripe for pressure from the media and the back-benches. Brown looks weak whatever he does.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

today : unpacking from my holidays

One of the reasons that I have a link to Greg Palast is that I am a fan of his. His work is relentlessly depressing, confirming all that you thought about everything going to hell in a handcart (in fact just pulling into the car-park and ready to disembark) and the sheer amorality of a world run by globalised capital. But with jokes. It's a pretty difficult trick to pull off, but Greg manages to be write in a funny style. In one way this is a negative. Palast does come across like some guy in a bar with a slightly battered hat worn at a jaunty angle (the hat is another reason I quite like him - there are not enough people who wear hats anymore, at agles jaunty or otherwise) who will give you his version of the world over a series of ales. And this slight stylistic dishevelment does make it easy for people to dismiss him (and other protest people like Michael Moore) as NOT SERIOUS.

Maybe Greg should start wearing a pinstripe suit - looking like those he seeks to bring down; infitrating them by stealth.