And now, the end is near…
So 2007 is drawing to an end and what a year it has been politically. We have seen the departure of one of the most successful, yet controversial and talked about Prime Ministers this country has ever had. We have seen the rise and fall and subsequent rise of the Heir to Blair, David Cameron. We have seen yet another Lib Dem leader go and today we will see a new one arrive. But the biggest story of all has to be Gordon Brown, aka Mr Bean. The PM no-one wanted, yet took the Labour party to their best lead in the polls for years only to send them crashing to their lowest in what will surely go down as Brown’s autumn of discontent. But how much is Brown to blame for his and Labour’s catastrophic demise?
Events dear boy, events
Just as his so called handling of the foot and mouth crisis, blue tongue and failed terror attacks had absolutely nothing to do with Brown being in control, the events of the post “election that never was” era were also virtually out of Brown’s hands. Northern Rock was, you could argue, his fault as a direct result of his years as Chancellor, but it would be unfair to pin all the blame on him. The missing discs debacle and the endless run of missing data stories do not directly lead to his door. Nor does the latest donations scandal. Yet while Blair could shake of a Bernie Ecclestone scandal here and a WMD fiasco there, with Brown the mud not only appears to be sticking, but it is getting flung relentlessly. But if Brown is not to blame why is he getting a pasting by the media and in the polls? The answer is simple…
The Root cause
It s roots lies in virtually his first move as PM – he signalled the end of spin and a complete departure from the Blair era. In itself no dumb act – in fact it really did work for a few months. The problem was this very act of ending spin was classic Blairite spin. It was his very own “today is not the day for sound bites” moment”. In that very declaration of ending spin, Brown was spinning such nonsense that Alastair Campbell would have been proud. So why did Blair get away with spin yet Brown can’t? In short, because Brown is absolutely hopeless at it.
The Classic Scenario
Let’s take the election that never was. All this was about spin. Brown tried to con us all that he wanted to get on with business of government. No he didn’t – he didn’t want to call an election in autumn because he thought he wouldn’t improve his majority. Then he smelled blood as the polls started to show a very healthy Labour lead so he refused to rule an election out. Then he dithered, refusing to rule out an election for so long he had no choice to call one… only the polls had reversed and all of a sudden it was the Tories who led. Cue more poor spin and a bungled non-election. All he had to do, if he really wanted to stay away from spin, was to say we’re in the business of government, no election, right from the off.
The Repeat Scenarios
This scenario has now been repeated with every minor or major crisis that he has had to deal with. The EU Reform Treaty is the latest example. First off he thought it would look better if he was seen to be signing the Treaty. Then he realised this poor piece of spin wouldn’t work so he decided to sign it on his own away from the cameras and the other EU leaders. This just meant he looked like an even bigger bungling fool, signing the Treaty in backroom, hoping no-one sees him – yet it just meant we all watched him even more. The man is proving himself to be a walking disaster.
I am in no doubt that if Cameron was in power he would have faced all these same issues – they are events beyond a PM’s control. However, would he have dealt with them better? The EU issue would have been a disaster for him, but you get the feeling that while Cameron is not yet entirely trusted as a potential leader, he could hardly be doing any worse…
Big Day for the Lib Dems
When the Lib Dem leadership election started all those moons ago, you felt that they could finally break away from the shackles of Ming and private life of Kennedy. What could possibly go wrong? They have the perfect leader in waiting – a Cameron type without the (obvious) spin. A Lib Dem with ideas and respected across the benches. Unfortunately, Nick Clegg never showed up in this contest (except to get all tearful about that nasty Chris Huhne chap). As for Chris Huhne, well he was, for my money, the also ran. The man who couldn’t even beat Ming the last time round. Well, he turned in to a big bully, but at least he was a little vocal. So they are left with a choice between a man who was considered worse than Ming and a man who isn’t quite as good as well all thought he was. But that is not even the worst of it.
The inevitable anti-climax
In the meantime we have had Vince Cable to act as stand in. Nearly as old as Ming and leaving Parliament, no-one took much notice. Not until he started to dominate PMQs on a weekly basis. Calling the PM Mr Bean has done as much damage to Brown’s reputation as a truck load of lost data discs could ever do. His ability to mix humour and getting to the heart of the issue make Brown’s and Cameron’s weekly Punch and Judy show look deeply unsophisticated. So instead of Ming’s departure being a chance for a rise in expectations, whoever wins today is going to look like a massive disappointment.
Merry Christmas and a new feature for the New Year
I will not be writing Politics Decoded next week, what with it being Christmas day and all! However, I will be back in the New Year. I will be introducing a new feature to the weekly column, the top five best blog headlines of the week. So keep your eye out for any good ones, or nominate yourself for a mention. I will of course be keeping an eye open too during my daily roundups. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a note in the comments.
In the meantime, I will leave you with some of my favourites from the mainstream media…
Belfast Man Saved, Hundreds die in disaster - Belfast Telegraph reports the sinking of the Titanic
It’s Paddy Pants Down – The Sun, as sensitive as ever
Zip Me Up Before You Go-Go – The Sun covering George Michael’s indiscretions
Cheggers Can’t be Boozers – The news that Keith Chegwin has given up the booze
Man With One Arm And Leg Cheats On Other Half - News Of The World.
Elton takes David up the aisle – Yes, you’ve guessed it, The Sun. Which they followed up with the honeymoon story:
Now Elton takes David up the Grand Canal
Dr Fuchs, off to America – Der Spigel
Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge- unconfirmed…
Fog Over Channel, Continent Isolated – The old classic… but true?
But the greatest of all time has to be Inverness’s thrashing of Celtic, reported by the Sun as
Super Cale Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious
If you can get on a par with any of those, let me know and you will get a mention on the Politics Decoded Top Five Blogging Headlines
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year