Saturday, April 14, 2007

The new Attlee?

Fellow leftie blogger Skipper and myself had an interesting debate over on his blog this week about whether Gordon Brown could actually make a virtue out of presenting himself as a sort of Clem Attlee type figure along the lines of "I know I'm a fairly dull sort of bloke compared to the last one, but judge me by what I do."

Skip's argument was that this option isn't really open to him in the modern media age, but I think today's Guardian interview in which Brown eschews the celebrity culture is a sure sign that he is going to try.

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Glass House (There Is An Alternative) said...

Why are we even having this conversation?

We all seem to be saying "Lets elect a leader who the public dislike and then hope that he's not as bad as we thought" - are we insane? Has logical thinking left the Labour Party?

We need to be looking for alternatives, not making the best of Brown.

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Liam Murray said...

I've traded words with Skipper on the same subject but I tend to agree with you - he'll play to his strenghts and make Cameron look shallow...

Not that I'm smug either

HenryG said...

I thought Brown's interview with the Guardian was strong and had depth. He's not going to win a personality contest with Cameron, but I think people want a change from spin and glitz. This is the real Brown, and this is what we like about him.

Similarly in the Telegraph there was an article on Jon Cruddas who I've been very impressed with, about Labour's moral compass.

In it he says:

"What we are doing is pandering to this whole celebrity and shopping agenda and ratcheting up people's aspirations to buy more commodities.

"Now I think people have actually got a very different view of aspiration. It is about security for them and their families which is about good-quality education, health and housing, a security agenda that extends to their local community as well as their extended family and isn't simply an exercise in the commodification of everything that moves."

I think between Brown and Cruddas Labour will have a chance to win back the many progressive voters (and members) which he have lost in the last ten years. It could be a formidable team.

skipper said...

Significant too perhaps that Conservatives have sought to hole his reputation for competence by leaping on the 'pensions' and now 'cheap gold' bandwagons.

Anonymous said...

That celebrity culture may have become stale I wouldn't disagree with and falling tabloid circulations provide at least a little evidence of that.

However, it's huge leap from there to suggest (as Broon does) that people may instead be switching their affections to book clubs and literary festivals. Cobblers!

The truth is that there are now so many different interests we can pursue in our leisure time that it is almost impossible for any one pastime (whether it is watching reality TV or reading a book) to dominate. That we read, watch and do such a wide a variety of things is one of the reasons why ordinary people have so little everyday interest in politics and the Government of the nation. Paradoxically, Broon may therefore be right that smooching with celebrities is ultimately the wrong way to do Government.

Most people don't talk much about the big and serious issues – they expect the Government to sort them out. Broon's biggest asset is that he hasn't cocked the economy up. Provided people believe their way of life isn't under threat they don’t really give a stuff who runs a show.

What would happen if Broon presented himself as Clement Atlee? In this day and age I doubt he could hop off a plane and get away with telling reporters he had nothing to say. Otherwise it would be a whizz - most people would be wondering who this new bloke was...

(MorrisOx, yet again sick to the back teeth with bloody Google accounts)

Honey Weeks said...

I think it is that Brown is trying to hide who and what he is: a Scottish Accountant. Saatchi may have done a stand-up job on Thatcher, and Blair loves make-up (and Mandelson), however I don't think that the foundations are there for Brown. Computers are pretty un-exciting, even when they've got lots of lights flashing on and off; and lets face it no one finds a parking meter exciting (and that's a pretty well disguised computer)!
His strategy is going to be to be to say as little as possible and hence create mystery around himself...until it all gets blown by something like a "Hi Mate!" to the Australain Prime Minister...

Captain Spaulding said...

There is plenty of room for a Gordon Brown type personality but he would be wise not to bang on about it. A previous politician who emphasized his quiet personality was IDS and "quiet man" quickly came to mean "prat". Previously to that, John Major made much of his unglamorous personality and he won an election on the back of it. But his quiet demeanour also, we now realise, implied repression and a spicy private life.

I agree with the anonymous contributor - it's cobblers to say that people are becoming uninterested in celebrities and switching their affections to book clubs and literary festivals. What sort of prigs does Gordon want us to be, and who can honestly say that they are unaffected by fame or celebrity in some form or other (even if it’s just getting a book signed by your favourite author at a festival).

I also agree with Henry G that politicians need to articulate something different from the commodity or shopping culture, and Gordon must find a way of expressing this. Too often he seems to equate human progress with GDP per head and it is sad that he is leaving the lightweight Cameron to talk about the happiness agenda. But this is a matter of political substance and has nothing to do with the politician’s style or personality.

The irony is that Gordon, unlike most of us, will have actually read some of the economists who are trying to widen the concept of well-being and he of all people should be able to define a new socialist agenda for the 21st century on this basis. Let’s hope that he gets on with it quickly.

RedEye said...

Re. Skipper's point, they're taking a leaf from Karl Rove's book, namely trying to turn an opponent's strength into a weakness. The polls (public and private) often find that Brown is regarded as dour and boring, but competent and honest. So the Tories (with the help of some in the Murdoch press, and probably to the satisfaction of many Blairites) try to make him look incompetent and dishonest, just as those around Bush turned the war records of McCain and Kerry into a liability.