Sunday, July 27, 2008

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.

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