Friday, October 12, 2007

What next for Gordon?

What can Gordon Brown do to regain the political initiative following this week's catalogue of disasters? Here's a few suggestions from a candid friend.

1. Hold a referendum on the EU Treaty. He will lose, but now it's effectively de-coupled from the election, that doesn't matter as much, and the voters will give him credit for implementing a manifesto pledge. It might also help combat some of those "bottler" taunts and - crucially - draw some of the sting from the Tories' current popularity.

2. End political cross-dressing. If the last week has shown Mr Brown anything, it's surely that there's no real advantage to be gained from apeing the Tories when voters can just as easily choose the real thing. He needs to set out a "vision" which is distinctively and authentically his, not George Osborne's.

3. Introduce a bill for four-year fixed term Parliaments, and announce that the next election will be held on the first weekend in May, 2009. Giving away his power to determine the election date would be seen by the voters as something of a mea culpa for having got things so badly wrong this time.

4. Launch an all-out assault on inequality. The chickens of three decades of selfish capitalism are beginning to come home to roost for our society. Mr Brown needs to acknowledge that and start to formulate policies that will heal the growing divide between haves and have nots in terms of both income and assets.

5. Tackle the problem of "fiscal drag." Rising average wages have trapped millions of middle-income earners in the marginal tax bracket between 20pc and 40pc. The 40pc threshold needs to be dramatically increased, with a new higher rate of tax imposed on, say, incomes over £250,000 a year.

6. Take a fresh look again at proportional representation with a Speaker's Conference on the electoral system. If, as seems quite likely to me, the next election produces a hung Parliament, the next government may need to do this anyway, so why not make Labour's intentions clear in advance?

7. Start to implement the "new localism." Restoring trust in politics will require a huge devolution of power to localities and communities, including giving people locally more power over their own taxes. New localism needs to move from being a trendy political catchphrase to a meaningful reality.

8. Add some ballast to the Cabinet. Three months ago, the new Cabinet looked fresh and young. Now with Labour under the cosh they just look raw and inexperienced. He should consider bringing back Alan Milburn for his bright ideas (eg on social mobility) and Margaret Beckett for her cool authority.

9. Move Damian McBride, who did most of the election spinning, to other duties and make it clear he can do without a personal spin doctor in No 10. Rely on his civil servants for advice rather than "Brown Central" and make good his original pledge to announce things to Parliament first.

10. Make damned sure that whenever our boys in Iraq finally come home, it's before 1 May 2009.

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MorrisOx said...
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MorrisOx said...


1) Just how meaningful would this be with a sub 30% turnout?

2) Tough when you realise the other policy is the one voters want. The lesson Labour has to learn here is to listen a little more to pubic opinion, a lot less to the chattering class theocrats.

3) No, a thousand times no. Four years is right up there with the lifecycle of a PLC chief executive: come in, declare everything bust, rearrange things, shows progress (not hard - everything was bust), take the money and run...after which someone else comes in and does the same thing. Four years is a recipe for nowt but short-termism, and no good for sensible economic planning. Try six. Or even five!

4) Too negative, too idealistic. Define inequality. And launch an all out campaign for opportunity that doesn't involve dragging some people back (as La Toynbee would like).

5) Possibly not compatible with 4, since it's the middle-income strugglers who get walloped every time. Great idea - but financially feasible?

6) Only with a referendum.

7)No, ten-thousand times no! Quit nicking money from local government and local agencies by all means (notice that the CSR has upped annual public sector cuts from 2.5% to 5%), quit giving them responsibility without resource, generally quit passing the buck down. But politicians (and public servants) at the local level have a long, long way to go before they can convince me they have the skills, experience, commitment and vision to deliver 'new localism' without laying waste to local economies. In all too many cases they have, bluntly, no vision and no idea. It is that bad.

8) ...and dump deadwood like Alexander and Balls.

9) There isn't a pole greasy enough for McSpin. He's a relic.

10) They come out when Iraq wants them out. Whenever they come out they are Our Boys and should be treated as such. I wouldn't trust the MoD's Whitehall slimeballs one jot. They have laid waste to morale with their witless penny-pinching and comedy management.

Vicarious Phil said...

I'm the last person to say anything nice about the Tories, so I won't. But whatever Brown now does, it's starting to feel like the party's over for this Labour government. The fact is governing parties don't renew themselves in office, it takes time in opposition.

Anonymous said...

EAZY, he will go to the EU summit meeting and veto the non-constitution on the grounds that the red lines (whatever this means) have been eroded and then come back home asa hero!
Next year he can secretly sign up for it.
This is politics.

skipper said...

Very good advice Paul. I just hope he might have it brought to his attention.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you, particularly on the 40% tax bracket, which is something I've blogged about myself recently.

Speaking of the 'new localism', the CSR did include a white paper on introducing local business taxes; several councils have already done interesting work on how the revenue from these could be used to lever private investment into big infrastructure projects (eg. Barnet). So I think there's more than just hot air in this direction already.

Anonymous said...

Of course the question about all these bits of advice is, has he the wherewithall to take them up... given that he has so misjudged and mismanaged an earlier position of such advantage so as to end up in the mess he is now in?

We must remain hopeful.