Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Brown Gaffes

The BBC news pages comment that Gordon Brown's interview suggests he is feeling more relaxed about leadership challenges and their status as non-occurring prime-ministerial extinction level events. I think he uses at least two phrases which suggest his institutional memory of the office he holds is every bit as poor as his economic recovery plans.

By invoking his school motto ("I will do better") as his continuing inspiration, he inspires comparison with Neville Chamberlain's determination to live up to his nanny's old saying, "If at first you don't succeed....etc etc", as uttered on his return from the triumph we all know as Munich. Both sayings are as banal and insipidly meaningless as they come, aimed appropriately at very small children who can be offered comfort by such useless mantras but used very inappropriately by national leaders who are meant to have attained some level of maturity. (If you want school mottos, of course, 'Keep Faith' might have been a little more in keeping with the times!).

Second, he described himself as a "pretty ordinary guy". A man who is a political obsessive from his teens and becomes prime minister after serving ten years as Chancellor of the Exchequer may be many things, but they emphatically do not include being a "pretty ordinary guy". Worse for Brown, this ludicrously self deluding phraseology bears comparison with Tony Blair's equally erroneous statement that he was a "pretty straight guy". For a thorough going demolition of that piece of aggrandising hypocrisy go no further than Nick Cohen's furious book-length denunciation in "Pretty Straight Guys".

If this really was the best that Brown could do, he is in as much trouble as he has ever been, and the only light at the end of his tunnel is the quiet release into retirement after the next election.

5 comments:

Pier said...

If I have it right, you've spent 4 paragraphs (and 2 minutes of my time), pontificating about how Brown is pedalling 'banal' and 'meaningless' phrases in an interview. Would it be inappropriate to ask exactly which politicians, of any political persuasion, are not guilty of this crime?

Brown cruised through a Marr 'grilling' (with Marr, it's more like a gentle toasting)espousing confidence and calmness, something which has been a rarity of late. For that, the interview should be regarded as a success from his point of view.

GM said...

Hmmm. You really are setting the bar low at the moment aren't you...

consultant said...

From a supporter of the party who managed to collectively wet themselves last year when their leader proved himself capable of speaking without notes or an autocue. And walking round a bit while he did so!

Talking and walking at the same time. Now they're all at it of course...

GM said...

Talking, walking and collecting lots of points in opinion polls...now that's what I call a success for a party that spent ten years unable to properly do any of those things. And at least we're spared Cameron reminding us all of his old school motto!

consultant said...

Indeed, Cameron spends most of his time hoping we'll forget his privileged, out-of-touch background, so I doubt we'll see him reminding us that his school motto is Floreat Etona.

On the other hand, whilst plenty of people could question whether Gordon Brown trying his utmost has been good enough, no one could question that Cameron is (almost) actually sticking to his motto. Plenty of Etonians are flourishing under his leadership.

He'd do well to remember that his poll lead comes more from Brown's crushing unpopularity than it does from any favour he has personally garnered with the electorate. Polls - such as Andrew Rawnsley's recent megapoll for the Observer - have indicated that plenty of people backing Cameron would consider coming back to Labour if Brown were not the Prime Minister. If the plotters get themselves in gear before the next election, Cameron could well see his poll lead narrow enough to give him a real fight on his hands, and not the comfortable stroll to power the Tories now arrogantly expect.