Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Brown's 'Bounce' Could be Undermined by his Curmudgeonly Personality

Received opinion in some quarters that the Tories are a shoo-in for the next election has received something of a blow recently. The Sunday Times poll showed Labour narrowing the Tory lead to only two points: 37-35. David Smith commented:

Asked about how they rated Brown and Cameron on a range of qualities, the Conservative leader came off second best on most. Brown was easily ahead on “sticking to his principles” (49%-19%); being strong (44%-11%); and being decisive (38%-12%). He also had a small lead on honesty (23%-18%). Cameron, in contrast, stood out only on being charismatic; 30% said he was, against only 4% for Brown.

In addition it's becoming increasingly clear that Dave Cameron has not yet reinforced the gains made during his first year's leadership, as this editorial suggests. His mistake over grammar schools has highlighted the gulf which still exists between his sunny liberal version of Conservatism and the darker, more selfish realities of what party members actually believe and want.

However, his travails might be lessened by the gradual revelation of our new prime minister's true colours as the personal testimony of those who have worked with him enters the public domain. Andrew Rawnsley's forthcoming Channel 4 documentary contains some highly damaging material. We have confirmed the fact that Cherie Blair passionately resented the way in which Brown treated her husband by constantly demanding he hand over the top job. She responded by urging her husband to sack the Chancellor. In addition:

Staff at No 10 felt like "they were children in a dysfunctional relationship".
["You'd be sitting waiting for a decision and all that you could hear was the crockery being thrown around the kitchen," said Downing St aide Matthew Taylor.]

· Treasury officials believed it was "the kiss of death" to cooperate with No 10.
[Stephen Wall, a senior civil servant adviser highlighted the Treasury's refusal to give Downing Street details of the next budget. "It was a constant battle," he said. "For people in the Treasury to have contact with Downing Street was regarded as a kiss of death for their careers."]

· Mr Blair regretted making a compromise with Mr Brown over foundation hospitals in November, 2003.
[Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary, contributes:"I would categorise Tony's approach to social entrepreneurship ... that is to say to give schools, hospitals, universities the resource to get on with it and do it. Whereas Gordon's view is much more traditional Labour view. Which means that you can pass a law or make an administrative decision in central government and that will change behaviour."]

· The prime minister did not know on the day of the vote on tuition fees in 2004 if Mr Brown's supporters would back him.
[On the morning of the vote on education top-up fees in January, 2004, Mr Wall recalls Sally Morgan, Mr Blair's chief political adviser, saying the prime minister did not know if the government would get its legislation through the Commons "because we don't yet know whether Gordon is going to instruct his supporters to vote for the measure or not".]

Not many people will watch the programme but influential opinion formers will and this version of a curmudgeonly, obsessive non-collegiate person will form the template for how he is going to be perceived. If Brown's performance in government substantially reinforce this highly negative image voters could turn off Gordon big time and he will have to kiss goodbye his hopes for a further term after 2009.

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