Skip to main content

Brown at the midterm

In the six months since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister there has been an extraordinary volatility about British politics. Opinion polls have shown first a strong Labour lead, then, following the mishandling of the speculation concerning a possible autumn election, the Conservatives took the lead. The election fever that gripped the country created unexpected pressures: the Conservative leader was able to relieve the pressure on him by some astute handling of his party conference. Liberal Democrats, by contrast, were squeezed so intensively that Ming Campbell felt compelled to stand down. Now, as we enter 2008, a new political agenda seems to be emerging.

Gordon Brown, somewhat battered by the blow back from the election that never was, has begun to launch a charm offensive in the media: a long interview with the Observer yesterday was paired with an appearance on the Andrew Marr show and then this morning he was on the Today programme. A veritable blizzard of appearances from a Prime Minister who has hitherto been slightly reclusive clearly indicates some new year's resolutions in Downing Street.

I think it is too easy for the Prime Minister's political opponents to right him off- as the typically misfiring William Rees Mogg does in today's Times. To a degree, despite his early mistakes, Brown still has some powerful weapons in his armoury. As PM, he still controls policy, and remains able to dictate much of the political agenda- and wrong foot the Conservatives, as the inheritance tax policy theft has shown. Even his dour demeanour, often mocked, may prove to be an asset in the more complicated economic environment that the credit crunch is confronting us with. In short, rather than looking a the death spiral of NuLabour, we may in fact only be looking at the midterm blues. In fact, the fact that Labour have been so roundly thrashed in previous years local elections may even give them an opportunity to stage something of a comeback this year. Furthermore, the selection by the Conservatives of the pointless Boris Johnson as their candidate for Mayor of London, even gives a chance for the equally pointless and more odious Ken Livingstone to hang on to his job. So the May elections may prove to be a real disappointment for the opposition.

The Liberal Democrats are looking like a pretty poor bet in the short term. The schedule of the leadership election has meant that the emergence of Nick Clegg as the leader has come at a time of considerable competing distractions. Even his first time out at Prime Minister's questions is likely to be overshadowed by the result of the New Hampshire primary- although to be honest this is probably a good thing, since it will take a lot of the pressure off the occasion. Soon, the new leader will have to move beyond the rhetoric of comfort zones and actually define himself and his party- and again the May results will provide a benchmark for his success in the task.

For David Cameron, although he has begun to unite his party to a much greater degree, the knowledge must still be with him that only four months ago he was on the ropes and looking increasingly shop-soiled. The Conservatives still have much to do to demonstrate their credibility, which could disappear as quickly as their leader's hair line seems to be doing.

So, we seem to be in a much more competitive political environment, but that in itself does not condemn Labour to an inevitable defeat- more's the pity. I think we can expect a bout of political trench warfare. The challenge for Nick Clegg is how to avoid this war of attrition and still remain relevant. Making speeches about the end of the two party system is all very well, but we need to establish a coherent ideological agenda- to look more like the air force than the Conservative and Labour infantry below. That is the challenge for Nick Clegg in 2008.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Cicero ReDux

By Special Request of Baroness Scott and Mark Valladares... Cicero's Songs returns: bigger, longer and uncut.
October 1st marked the half way point of the Estonian Presidency of the European Union.  Perhaps for many people such an anniversary is of passing interest at best.  Yet the conduct of the Estonian Presidency is reinforcing just how forward looking and innovative the most northerly of the Baltic States has become.
Estonia is a country that wants to live in the future, and with its openness and innovation, that future seems a lot closer than almost anywhere else in Europe
It is not that Estonia does not “do” the past: the picturesque cobbled streets of old Tallinn have tourist crowds a-plenty enjoying the mediaeval architecture in an Indian summer of sunshine and blue skies.  The real point is that Estonia refuses to be a prisoner of its past. Lennart Meri, Estonia’s President in the 1990s- who spent years of his childhood in Siberia- once told me that the country had to conc…

Trump and Brexit are the Pearl Harbor and the Fall of Singapore in Russia's Hybrid war against the West.

In December 1941, Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. After the subsequent declaration of war, within three days, the Japanese had sunk the British warships, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, and the rapid Japanese attack led to the surrender of Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941 and the fall of Singapore only two months after Pearl Harbor. These were the opening blows in the long war of the Pacific that cost over 30,000,000 lives and was only ended with the detonations above Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"History doesn't often repeat itself, but it rhymes" is an aphorism attributed to Mark Twain, and in a way it seems quite appropriate when we survey the current scene. 

In 1941, Imperial Japan, knowing its own weakness, chose a non-conventional form of war, the surprise attack. Since the end of his first Presidential term, Vladimir Putin, knowing Russia's weakness, has also chosen non-conventional ways to promote his domestic powe…

The American National nightmare becomes a global nightmare

It is a basic contention of this blog that Donald J Trump is not fit for office.

A crooked real estate developer with a dubious past and highly questionable finances. he has systematically lied his way into financial or other advantage. His personal qualities include vulgarity, sexual assault allegations and fraudulent statements on almost every subject. 

He lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes.

He has, of course, been under criminal investigation practically since before he took the oath of office. The indictment of some of closest advisers is just the beginning. His track record suggests that in due course there is no action he will not take, whether illegal or unconstitutional in order to derail his own inevitable impeachment and the indictments that must surely follow the successful investigation of Robert Mueller into his connections with Russia.

However, all of that is a matter for the American people. 

It is also a matter for the American people that Trump is cheating…