Sunday, July 23, 2006


Will Gordon's Legacy be Better than Major's?

So John Prescott tells us that something about the election of a new leadership is going to happen 'very shortly'. Intriguing, and we await more hard information rather than vague allusions. But what kind of an inheritance will Gordon take on? Will it be more favourable, for instance,than the one John Major inherited in 1990?

Party Unity: Maggie led a party divided over EU and her style of government. Blair's party is not so rancorously divided but very considerable differences exist in the party over many issues.

Foreign Policy: Apart from the EU, there was not much to argue about in the foreign spere during Maggie's dog days while Bliar has Iraq, Afghanistan and the current row over his support for Bush's pro-Israel stance.

Economic Policy: Maggie faced constant problems regarding her preference for advice from Sir Alan Walters and had recently lost her 'unassailable Chancellor,'Nigel Lawson. Blair faces no real economic problems at the moment though some economists predict a major inflation spike in the next year.

Domestic Policy: The Leaderene was impaled on her poll tax mega mistake while Blair faces intense criticism for his apparent desire to 'modernize' public services by outsourcing large bits of it to the private sector.

Competence: Thatcher was generally seen as a tyrannical but efficient premier- she could still kick ass even when her authority had been challenged and weakened. Blair's reputaion for competence is virtually shot to pieces courtesy of the Home Office debacle(s); he cock-up over the 'home improvement packs'; overpaid tax credits to poor people; and the NHS computer project which has cost £30bn and threatens to be abandoned as useless. Simon Jenkins gives much more chapter and verse if you want it.

Sleaze: In 1990 the malodorous sleaze waters had not begun to lap around the base of Conservative rule while Blair's government is now rated in polls as worse that the government of Major in this respect courtesy of Prescott, and , allegedly Lord Levy.

Opposition: Maggie was faced by a Neil Kinnock as Labour leader, who, while impressing as sincere and occasionally dazzlingly eloquent, was still not seen by voters as a credible alternative PM. Cameron provides a major contrast to the strength of oppostion Blair and his successor will face in the run-up to 2009.

Time: Maggie had served three years of her third term and time was running out for her. Blair/Brown have nearly four years but it doesn't feel anything like it.

Finally, Brown, if he replaces Blair as we all expect, faces the problem of being a less gifted communicator than his great rival and current boss and suffers the additional disadvantage of being a bit dour and very, very Scottish; not the most popular ethnic/cultural group to belong to right now for English voters.

So, I would say the balance of difference makes Brown's job potentially much more difficult than the one Major faced. And we all remmeber how well he did...

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