Monday, May 07, 2007
Five Hurdles Gordon Must Clear to Have a Chance in 2009
[It's more difficult to find good pics of Gordon compared with Tony so I've posted two to try and compensate] Michael Portillo might consider getting a job as a Labour spin doctor, so hard does he contrive to present Thursday's election results as 'a rosy dawn for Gordon'. Portillo 's suggestion that Brown will begin his stint up to the next election with the lowest of expectations is probably correct however, and, given that Blair bitterly disappointed so many, one could argue that Gordon's virtual tabula rasa is a significant advantage. To have any chance of being (re)elected in 2009, Brown has to mark a clear break with his predecessor and offer voters a sense that he is part of a completely new regime in which it is legitimate to invest hope. To effect this he needs to do a number of things which I list according to their increasing degree of difficulty:
1. Iraq: Geoff Hoon has paved the way with his admission of manifold mistakes in the conduct of the war. Brown could now quite easily step up with further distancing comment. Declaring a timetable for withdrawal and publicly disparaging George Bush would complete the process, if he has the courage to go that far.
2. Appoint a Young Cabinet. John Reid has assisted this possibility by obligingly resigning but there are a number of loyal older Brownites who will probably be expecting some reward. Brown is famously wedded to his cronies so this will be difficult to avoid. Jack Straw, 61, will have to be given high office, Alistair Darling, 54,(tipped by many to be Chancellor) too (though he is arguably not yet 'old' politically). But if he is to favour the Miliband generation in offering a fresh and dynamic team some old cronies will have to be ditched. I'd imagine a likely casualty to be Nick Brown at 57 a bit on the older side and not exactly a raving success as the last MAFF minister. Expect much commentator speculation on this theme in the next month or so.
3.End the Obsession with Spin. Gordon's dissembling presentation of last Budget and his disinclination to release information about that pension taxing decision, suggests someone wedded to information management. However, this failing of Blair is identified by many surveys as something from which voters felt repelled and Brown must seek to convince us that an era of spin has genuinely passed.
4.Offer a New Approach to Public Service Reform. This is likely to be an intractable problem as Brown has been closely associated with the engagement of the private sector in the provision of such services, especially through such devices as PFI, despite his efforts to court Labour's core support by suggesting residual Old Labour beliefs on such matters. Expect Brown, like Blair, to continue relying on Conservative votes for certain key votes on public services.
5.Resolve Conflicts with Scotland. It may be too early to predict the aggressive and resourceful Alex Salmon will be Gordon's opponent as Scotland's First Minister, but a Scottish PM, sitting for a Scottish constituency, whose writ does not run in his own backyard, is likely to hole his period as premier beneath the water line unless he finds a convincing political solution or settlement.
Though I would far rather have the bastard Parliament knocked down and ground into dust. If the Scots don't like it, tough. No region of the UK(for that is what it is) has the right to subjugate another.
The notion of spin is, ironically enough, overspun in the media. People with little grasp of policy or political history can effect an air of political sophisitaction by telling pollsters they don't like it. It says "I'm beyond the arguments and the detail - I understand those already. I'm annoyed by the WAY they're presented"
In truth very few if any voters can say that with any truthfulness. The nature of 'spin' may have changed because we have 24-hour media etc. but the art itself is as old as politics. 'Portraying' himself as a studious dour intellectual is as image-centric as Cameron being photographed with an iPod - it's superficial, transitory.
Brown will keep spinning because it works - even if we don't like to admit it....