Sunday, October 07, 2007

Right decision - but what a bloody mess

For those of us who have always thought of Gordon Brown as a man of principle, who longed for him to replace Tony Blair and usher in a new era of political straight-talking and an end to spin, these are difficult days indeed.

Mr Brown said in his interview on today's Andrew Marr Show, that he wants "a chance to show the country that we have a vision for the future of this country....I want a mandate to show the vision of the country that I have is being implemented in practice."

Having long advocated that he should do exactly that - to lay down some solid achievements and demonstrate that he can renew New Labour in office before seeking the electorate's endorsement - it was impossible to disagree with his reasoning.

But it has taken the Prime Minister so long to reach the right decision, and he has gone about it in such a cack-handed and frankly duplicitous way, that any political dividend he once might have reaped from it has long since dissipated.

Back at the beginning of August, I wrote the following words in my Saturday column in the Newcastle Journal.

"To me, there is an even more compelling reason why Gordon Brown would not risk an election this year, namely that it could cause irreparable damage to the "Brown brand."

The Prime Minister's whole appeal rests on being seen as a man of serious purpose and high principles - not someone who is prepared to cut and run at the earliest opportunity.

Were he to do that in order to take advantage of what is almost certainly a temporary downturn in Tory fortunes, he would risk destroying that reputation at a stroke.

A snap election would also demonstrate a complete lack of faith in his own ability to sustain the "Brown bounce" - or at least the confidence and trust of the electorate - beyond some vaguely defined honeymoon period."

Well, the only thing I got wrong there was my assessment that it would take a snap election to damage the Brown brand. He's actually managed to damage it - possibly irreparably - without having one.

Had he ruled it out back then, he would, I believe, have even further enhanced his then sky-high reputation, by being seen to do the statesmanlike thing rather than attempt to press home a short-term tactical advantage.

But to have let the speculation ride through the conference season, and then only call a halt to it once it became clear Labour was actually behind in the opinion polls was not statesmanlike, merely shoddy.

Which is why his words on the Andrew Marr Show this morning - though impossible to disagree with on the surface - ring so very, very hollow.

The first thing Brown should do now is get himself some new advisers. Who thought it was a good idea to stage a love-in with Margaret Thatcher? Or to employ as an adviser a Tory MP who had been branded a racist? Or to fly to Basra to announce a troop withdrawal in the middle of the Tory Conference? And whose bloody silly idea was this spoof election in the first place?

If I sound angry, it's because I am. Those of us who supported Gordon to become Labour leader, who longed to see him replace the lying phoney who preceded him, feel justifiably let down by all this.

I still believe Gordon Brown can go on from this to be a great reforming Prime Minister. But he now has to to convince the uncommitted all over again that he is more than just another shallow opportunist and cynical purveyor of spin.

It will be no easy task.

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skipper said...

Spot on Paul. What a wanker he's proved to be.... and so soon! Some way to go before he equals TB though in duplicity and spin-meistery.

Toque said...

He should have gone because it was the right thing to do, and also because the decision not to is going to count against him.

Everyone suspected he was a bottler.

Anonymous said...

I don't that Paul is saying that Gordon Brown is a wanker; thta he has messed this bit up yes, but still not a wanker i.e. Paul said:

"I still believe Gordon Brown can go on from this to be a great reforming Prime Minister. But he now has to to convince the uncommitted all over again that he is more than just another shallow opportunist and cynical purveyor of spin".

MorrisOx said...

Unless he really can pull a rabbit out of the that, I think Broon has made a potentially fatal error.

No one is going to forget the complete mincemeat he has made of this situation, not for a year at least. And Cameron hs suddenly had an opportunity handed to him on a plate.

Broon was never a clever 'performer' and he shouldn't try to be one.

Look where it's got him.

barry monk said...

So we remain a nation with an unelected prime minister - not even elected by his own party.

We used to live in a democracy

Anonymous said...

Well Brown bottled it.

It is his most inept display so far, the first of many me thinks. The nonsense spouted by “The Gruiad" about it being the most difficult start to a premiership ever how makes Gord and that esteemed organ of the press both look ridiculous.

I’m kicking myself that I didn't put a bet on the 11th June 2009 (date of next Euro elections) as the date of the next general election back when Bliar resigned: still I'll just have to spend the proceeds of my "lay" best against New Zealand elsewhere. I'm thinking about buying the website "thirtyyearsoftoryscum", but it is a bit too fussy too be successful. Any alternative suggests much appreciated.

Snafu said...

Until recently, I feared an early General Election as I felt that the Conservatives would lose badly. That no longer appears to be the case and now I feel like I've been denied my chance to vote!

Gordon has made a complete hash of it, we can now look forward to at least a year of him squirming as the polls turn against him along with the headlines and the economy. Labour will then be out of office for another generation.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how long it will take him to get back on his feet after this debacle. The Conservatives have to keep him pinned down as long as possible.

Chris Ames said...

I agree with bryan mcgrath. I got so sick of everyone saying it was inevitable that the all blacks would win the world cup. For a side that was only in the quarter finals to be odds-on favourites was and always will be ludicrous. And the all blacks are and always will be chokers.

Anonymous said...

But chris ames I don't think we can blame Gordon Brown for the predictions about it being inevitable for the all-blacks to win... there again he did let the speculation build and he did nothing to stop it???

Anonymous said...

I accept that this has made Brown look like a jibber, but keeping the speculation open through the Tory conference forced Cameron's boys to let off all the fireworks they could muster.

This allowed Brown both to test the public's appetite for tax cuts and to shake the cards from the opposition's sleeve.

Clumsy firework/card mixed metaphor thing going on there. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

It's been pretty bloody awful. As you no doubt know, the whole labour party - volunteers and staff - was led up the hill last week and I was still getting "last-minute" emails and calls on Friday. As of today there has still been no official communication to explain that it's off, no thanks to people for their efforts. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

only just read your entry but what you say about being a labour supporter and feeling utterly let down by this weekend's events is exactly how i feel.

i work at victoria street and the mood here is pretty damn low. douglas alexander is obviously feeling a little guilty for whatever part he played in the f*ck up because we were taken out for drinks on friday to say thank you (or sorry) and today we've been given the afternoon off in recognition of the extent to which we've been mucked about. we were all ready to go and now there's no campaign, there's no work to do.

if just one thing has come out of this mess (and many lessons need to be learned) it's that douglas has been promoted too soon. i have great respect for him but he is not the man to run the election operation. cooler (older?) heads are called for.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you guys at victoria street were taken out to friday drinks but out here in the sticks we still haven't heard a word, officially. A circular letter from Peter Watt to all activists saying - "sorry, we got it wrong and thanks for your efforts" would fill the bill nicely, but I'm not holding my breath...

Anonymous said...

"I still believe Gordon Brown can go on from this to be a great reforming Prime Minister. But he now has to to convince the uncommitted all over again that he is more than just another shallow opportunist and cynical purveyor of spin."

Methinks your confidence maybe misplaced, a spinner and twister he is, and shall remain.