Sunday, May 04, 2008

Why has it all gone wrong for Gordon?

Why has it all gone wrong for Gordon?

Politaholic thinks there are 5 key reasons:

1 “It’s the economy, stupid”. Following on the Northern Rock fiasco, the credit crunch, and stalling/falling house prices, Middle England is feeling the pinch. It could be argued that it is a tad unfair to blame the government for all of this (Gordon is hardly to blame for the “US sub-prime market”), but then again, uncontrolled borrowing and runaway house price inflation (the latter the God-given right of the middle-classes to get something for nothing) have been as much a feature of the UK as the US economy (this did not begin when Gordon became PM but he was, after all, Chancellor). What’s more, Gordon seems to have bottomless pockets when it comes to bailing out Northern Crock executives (whose belief in market forces seems to have evaporated) and that hardly sits well with hitting the lowest paid by removing the 10p tax band. In any case, what has fairness to do with politics? When the economy goes arse-over-tit it is the government that (usually) gets the blame (unless they can convince the voters to “hold onto nurse for fear of something worse”). The Tories are benefiting from this even although it is obvious they have no magic solution.

2. Gordon himself:

(i) He is a Scot (and the English don’t like it: the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula play well in the suburbs and send the Tory Bloggers into paroxysms of rage, poor dears).
(ii) He simply does not have Blair’s communication skills and the middle-class English just don’t like him. For all that we hear he is warm and humorous in private, put him in front of a camera and he comes across as if he has just landed from another planet. He is at his worst when he tries to appear ordinary: talking about his “young children” and his “love of sport”. In an age of celebocracy, he just can’t cut it. A sad comment on our times, really.
(iii) His style of leadership: government by cabal, intolerance – indeed, incomprehension - of any criticism, a lack of ease: all of which leaks out and tends to repel voters. There he is: powerful, at the top of the greasy pole, a hugely successful politician (Chancellor for 10 years and now PM) and the overwhelming impression one gets is of a lack of self-confidence disguised by a blustering style.

3. “Too clever by half”: Brown seems addicted to seemingly clever political positioning which routinely backfires: inheritance tax (looked opportunist), election-that-never-was (looked indecisive, opportunist, and duplicitous); removing 10p tax band to fund 1p tax cut (looked like a blatant attempt to bribe Middle England); 42 days (pathetic attempt to look tough); Northern Rock (delayed nationalisation to avoid looking like Old Labour, then eventually bailed them out); did-and-didn’t go to the launch of the European Reform Treaty (looked ridiculous) and on and on. Even the “Government of all the talents” which worked well in the press was a gimmick. The “Not Flash, Just Gordon” was a sound PR strategy – it could have worked – but it requires an appearance of straight dealing, and Brown has blown it with his inability to avoid short-term gimmickry. All tactics, no strategy.

4: “Time for a change”. Every government runs out of steam, becomes tired, loses direction, begins to look jaded. Voters think it is time to “give the others a chance”. Brown’s task was always going to be more difficult than Blair’s: winning a fourth term. When a government has been in office for ten years or so it cannot plausibly blame its predecessor when things go wrong. Brown – as Chancellor for 10 years – cannot claim to be a “fresh face”. At the same time he faces a Conservative Party which has been given a new coat of paint (still the same thing underneath of course but looking different, with a crowd-pleasing PR man at the helm).

5: No sense of direction. Blair at least knew what he wanted to do: placate Middle England, privatise everything in sight, triangulate to avoid ever being outflanked on the right by the Tories, cold shoulder trades unions and Labour core voters. Brown can’t make up his mind: does he think “Best when we are Labour” or is it “New Labour Redux”? He can’t decide: it is neither one thing nor the other, neither this nor that, no theme, no “narrative”, no bloody idea of what he wants to do. As several commentators have observed, here is a guy who spent decades plotting to become PM who hasn’t a clue what to do now he is PM.

What can be done?
Nothing probably. I can’t see a change of Leader happening. If Gordon were Tory Leader they would cut his throat and throw him in the nearest canal alongside the rotting carcass of Iain Duncan-Smith, but Labour lacks such ruthlessness (it is too deferential). In any case, changing Leader will not suddenly reverse Labour’s fortunes. It might make things worse: it would certainly look panicky. And who would take his place? David-the-Geek? Postman-Alan? Is either really going to sweep all before him? No, it’s Gordon until the next election, for better or worse.

What will happen?
Well, a week is a long time in politics. But the tide is running against Labour and it looks bad. Tony must be smirking; and Cherie must be in seventh heaven.


Blogger Michael said...

If Labour loses Crewe - millionaire toff versus daughter of popular deceased MP - they really will be in the shit.

The danger is that voters will overlook Cameron's faults, reasoning that any change is better than Brown. Personally, I can't see him turning it round.

1:58 pm  

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