Brown Plays it Smart
Brown hits the right note in his interview in today's Guardian. After weeks of Blairite assaults (the Milburn-Clarke web-site, the Turnbull attack, Mandelson's musings about the disadvantages of a "coronation", the "revelations" about pensions, the talking up of Miliband, etc) Brown directs a barely-coded sneer in Blair's direction. Coinciding with the launch of his book on "Courage" (Yuck!) he says : "I think we're moving away from this period when celebrity matters, when people are famous for being famous". He says he has faith in the "essential decency" of the British people who, he thinks, "want to talk about big and important issues in a way that does justice to them" (Yeah, sure). But that is exactly how Brown should play it: presenting himself as a "serious", "substantial" figure, who is uninterested in trivia and celebrity. It does several things. First, it plays to his strengths; in a way that earlier attempts to make him more "touchy-feely" plainly did not. Second, it distances him from the Blair style; it is hard not to see his remarks as a rebuke to Blair with his pathetic infatuation for money and celebrity, with which public opinion may well be becoming rather tired. Third, it is just the right note to strike against Cameron, who can be portrayed as a over-privileged policy-lite bantomweight obsessed with image but lacking substance. I am not arguing that Brown does not need to be media-savvy, but that he and his team should use all their media-savvy skills to project just this image: a bit dour, not a natural media star, but serious, solid, hardworking, competent, experienced, and informed by simple but decent values (Which Brown describes as follows: "...every child should have the best start in life..everybody should have the best chance of a job...nobody should be brought up suffering in poverty...these are not the beliefs of the past. I would call them the beliefs that you associate with civilisation and dignity". A bit worthy, perhaps, but absolutely Labour). Brown the enthusiast for PFI and "flexible labour markets" is a bit too right-wing for Politaholic's taste, but at least he sounds like a Labour leader; Blair always sounded as if he had just arrived from the planet Zog.