Monday, October 15, 2007
Gordon in for a Nervous Couple of Months
Yes, he must have expected the fallout to be bruising but as bruising as it has been? It's been like herd of Sebastian Chabals piling into this hugely exposed politician. I sort of doubt he was wholly ready for the intensity of it all. Gordon faces flak from three main sources:
1. Conservatives: Cameron has been as revitalised by Brown's poor judgement as the England rugby team in recent weeks. I have seldom heard a PM taken to the cleaners as Brown was last Wednesday. Gordon's feeble replies clunked; he lacks the sharpness of repartee to match Blair in such situations or the self- deprecating wit to disarm his critics. Stand by for much more of the same.
2. Blairites: We hear that leading Blairites are not content with mere schadenfreude. After years of being disrespected by Brown, they are now feeling more than a bit smug as they see Gordon squirming. Charles Clark, Stephen Byers and Alan Milburn are rumoured to be planning a public critique addressed to Brown's lack of vision. Blair himself is said to have described Brown's conference speech as 'empty' of any such vision. Meanwhile Charlie Falconer, hugely miffed by being refused by Brown the five figure pension he feels he deserves, has penned a critical article for The Times website calling for genuine leadership in shaping a vision voters can share. More score settling cannot be avoided given the awful time Gordon gave colleagues over the past decade.
As Jackie Ashley points out, the reaction to Gordon's bloomer has been about as overblown as the idolatory which preceded it. Having built him up the media is delighting in taking this prickly, sensitive man down. The Economist led its cover with a 'picture' of a naked Gordon(see part of it above) under the title 'The Emperor's New Clothes', his modesty covered only by a 'mini budget' fig leaf. How he must have suffered when he saw that. That press conference last Monday was also a savage affair with no quarter given.
But Gordon must know all this. He has to step very carefully for the next two months if he wants to prevent his Black Saturday becoming the same as the Tories' Black Wednesday. His political stock is vulnerable and could implode for good if he is not careful. He will also know that Ashley has the right answer for his situation:
Labour's taken a knock. But my impression is that people are laughing at the prime minister's embarrassment, and enjoying the return of a real political fight, rather than seething with anger. That's an opportunity. Brown should kick a few walls, remember why he went into politics in the first place, then get down to work and win this. For the time being he's the incumbent and he can, while Cameron can't.
He will have the same problems as Ming.
Ming suffered mercilessly at PMQs with Blair treating him with total distain – this gave him a really false image, pounced on by the media. Cameron must have noticed that and surely will follow the same technique with Brown. May back-fire on Cameron but that depends on how it is reported.
The way he handled the non-election really annoyed the media, (re)building relations takes an awful long time compared to the time it takes to mess them up. This was the single biggest mistake over the whole debacle. They could well be baying for blood.
There are areas he could address to improve democracy & seen to be a statesman.
1) Sort out the West Lothian problem for once and for all.
2) Finish off Lords reform. Make it largely elected, ensure it reflects a devolved commons
3) Make sure every vote counts, some form of PR. Many people don’t vote because there is little point in large swathes of the country – all the efforts going to ‘key marginals’.
4) Move to fixed term parliaments.
If he’s going to pinch Tory policies don’t do it within a week of them announcing them!!
Be honest – he has been very deceitful in the past (10% tax rate for example).
My betting – he’s toast before the next election.
I agree with your 'manifesto' for Gordon and would love to see even half of it achieved. But I think Gordon will survive until the next election- after a period of licking wounds and realising he has been too hubristic by half. I just wonder when Labour will begin to feel nostalgic for Tony just as Lib Dems feel for Charlie Kennedy?
Not sure they'll really miss Blair, Iraq, Kelly etc. still runs deep with many true (Old?)Labour supporters. I think the Lib Dems will rue Ming's departure the second Iran comes to the boil. I agree they miss CK but they have totally failed to capitalise on the values of age and wisdom over youthful enthusiasm (Statesman vs Politician?). If Brown wanted to be really daring Ming would be the best Foreign Secretary since Robin Cook.
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