Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Still waiting for that Big Vision

When Gordon Brown decided not to hold a General Election this autumn, he said it was because he wanted to set out his "vision" to the country first. That phrase has haunted him ever since as candid friends such as Compass, the Fabians and myself urged him to set out that vision, while opponents such as Michael Gove concluded that he had none, that his sole remaining political objective was to remain in power as long as possible.

Sad to say, I think today's Queen's Speech lends some further credence to the Gove analysis. If this is the full extent of Gordon's Big Vision, then heaven help us.

In my Saturday Column a few weeks' back, I wrote: "If [Mr Brown] is regain the political initiative, he will need to set out an agenda which people will see as authentically and distinctively his own - one based on fairness and social justice."

While there is some stuff in today's package that might merit that description - for instance the initiatives on housing, hospital cleanliness, flexible working and the school leaving-age - in terms of the overall message they will be completely drowned-out by the renewed focus on anti-terrorism measures, and the pledge, from a self-proclaimed champion of "liberty," to extend the detention-without-charge period to 56 days.

Furthermore some of the more "progressive" aspects of the package are themselves problematical, for instance the pledge to build 3m new homes, which will involve some difficult trade-offs with the environmental lobby, and the requirement to keep all under-18s in some form of education, which some will see as another infringement of individual liberties.

I will probably have a bit more to say about this on Liberal Conspiracy tomorrow and in my next Saturday column at the weekend. But take out the stuff about housing - a notorious blind spot of the last Prime Minister's - and what we have here is a Queen's Speech which Tony Blair could have delivered.

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1 comment:

hypocentre said...

I agree with you Paul. Meet the new boss - same as the old boss [won't get fooled again].

I'm a left leaning floating voter. I voted labour before Iraq, lib. dem. afterwards. I don't see a vision to bring me back into the labour fold. I'm waiting to see which way the lib dems go but if it is to the right I can't see myself voting for them either.