Monday, February 13, 2006

Quick Thoughts on Gordon Brown

I would have thought that allowing Brown too great a profile would, in the long term, prove a disaster for Labour. For all that I despise Blair, I think that in the wake of Iraq, people forget how good he is when he is at his best. Could you really imagine Brown, or Michael Howard, or William Hague looking as statesmanlike as Blair in the aftermath of the July bombings? Not that I support or condone the hijacking of that event to justify much of Blair's political agenda since that day. But if there was a national crisis, I'd ultimately feel happier if Blair was at the helm of the country than just about any other leading politician in Britain right now.

Meanwhile, I cannot see how Brown will appeal to voters in the South of England. For a start, he's a miserable bastard. I can barely remember the last time I saw a picture of him smiling. At PMQs, he looks like he's in a competition for the greatest scowl with John Prescott. The culture shock with Blair will be profound - and I'm not sure that will be in a good way. When Blair speaks, you have a pretty good idea of what he wants to get across. Brown may be more sincere, but he can be a hell of a lot more confusing too. He certainly doesn't have the clarity of communication that David Cameron does.

Added to that is the fact that most economic experts I have read believe something is about to go wrong with the economy pretty soon. Imagining that Brown is an "honest" politician is also a mistake - in December, the Times were calling him 'King Con', after he gave misleading information regarding a financial scheme that hadn't yet been enacted into law. Giving an impression of one thing in the media and then going back on your word? Sounds a classic Blair ploy.

Only minus the charisma. It will be far easier for the Tories to combat a man like Brown, because his instincts are so socialist - monolithic public services and a tax and spend economy. If those are not his intentions, then Brown will be in for a rougher ride from the party rank-and-file than people may at present imagine. For that is the model they are counting on, after putting up with Blairism to get back into power. Clunking on with the present model for education and health isn't working - but I suspect it is where the Chancellor's instincts lie.

What am I saying overall then? Labour should be wary about how soon it pushes out Blair. Brown's best chance of winning an election is taking over late and calling an election within a year of taking power - that way, the 'bounce' he will get from not being Blair will still be a factor. Otherwise, my suspicion is that voters in the marginal constituencies of the West Midlands, and more importantly the South and South-East, will find there is a lot not to like about Gordon Brown.