Friday, August 03, 2007

As I have been saying

My Gordon Brown as John Major gag gets the serious treatment courtesy of Alice Thomson in the Telegraph (as did the Cameron as Kinnock line in the Observer a couple of weeks back). She also points out that while he's made a lot of dour noises to appease the puritans, who are, it seems, happy merely at the prospect that fewer people will be having fun, he's not done much. Perhaps the lack of action is what pleases the voters but I'm going to reiterate: if the Guardian and Daily Mail both approve of something (eg axing casinos) it's a bad sign. The headline of the article 'spin with a puritanical' twist sums up her arguments nicely.

But if the new premiership achieves nothing else, it should make it obvious that Blair and co were, despite being indelibly linked to the concept, completely hopeless at spin. All politicians try and make themselves look good: but when you only manage to look superficial and insincere it plainly isn't working. Though Brown may not be up there with the masters of spin like Tony Benn or Ken Clarke (I am not joking, they have a genius for personal image making) he's done well on presenting a new image for the government without all the hassle and difficulty of making much of a policy shift.

Example: foreign policy. He flies to Washington, refuses to call Bush 'George'. Wears a suit. Gives the impression that he won't just fall into line. He tells Bush the he could pull troops out of Iraq at any moment. Bush responds 'Ah, but you won't. Because that would be irresponsible'. Brown says: 'Well of course I wouldn't. But I could'. Bush haters appeased, Brown falls into line in return for cooperation on matters of mutual interest such as Darfur. Precisely what Blair did, in fact, only without the chumminess.

Now it can't be that the moralists who have embraced the new Brown premiership so joyously (and who, incidentally, believe no one will ever notice that, as Chancellor, he allowed rich city types to get so rich that they've pushed the price of housing way beyond what most people can afford - and, puritans should hate this, forced lots of desperate people to take on stupid levels of debt, leaving Brown now scrabbling to fix the problem before it becomes a political time bomb. I suspect he might have left it too late) are dazzled by image and style. So why the John Major style bounce - in polls as well as among the punditocracy?

My guess is this: they're seeing what they want to see and Brown has little choice but to let them down later. The people who will eventually feel the most let down by politicians (no matter of what ilk) are the ones who deceive themselves that the politician in question is something they're not.* So while Brown presents himself as not-being Tony Blair (you don't say) he's continuing Blair-era policies. In other words, the people who are reveling in the new political era are deceiving themselves (and the ones doing it newspaper columns are – wittingly or otherwise – codding the public). Their subsequent wailings (say, in 18 months' time) about how disappointed they are that Brown is continuing with the policy direction he funded for ten years the fault will be down to this self-deception rather than a fundamental contempt for the electorate. It's not just that we get the politicans we deserve, we tend to get the spin we deserve too.

*A friend of mine, who will remain nameless to spare his blushes, is the person I know with the greatest level of contempt towards George Bush, precisely because he spend six years singing the man's praises. Needless to say, someone with such catastrophically poor political judgement is now a big Gordon Brown fan.



Anonymous Venichka said...

(and who, incidentally, believe no one will ever notice that, as Chancellor, he allowed rich city types to get so rich that they've pushed the price of housing way beyond what most people can afford

Well, that's one take on it, or one part of it, anyway. Though I would be inclined to add the strict restrictions on where propertly can be built (most notably around London, because of the Green Belt, and a lack of much enthuisasm to do anything about building on many brownfield sites), and the complete absense of any public-sector housing construction have more to do with the utterly ridiculous, and surely unsustainable property prices in London and surrounds. of course city bonuses are a factor too, but far from the whole story.

I am inclined to think Brown will do a good job. Nowt wrong - and indeed much good- in a bit of puritanism.

5:07 pm  

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