Sunday, June 07, 2009

Labour Pains

As I write this entry, the trials and tribulations that have beset Gordon Brown's premiership, are mounting by the truckload.

I can't help thinking that Mr Brown's biggest problem by far, is his lack of charismatic authority. The hints were there right from the start... in an early Prime Minister's Questions session facing David Cameron... where he rather embarrassingly came to a grinding halt and sat down before properly answering the question put to him.

True, it was only a small thing... but you could easily argue that it was a microcosm of what has since transpired. I'm not against Mr Brown at all... I've always believed he's had a good agenda that was initially obscured by his predecessor's egomania and obsession with spin. Of course I've never really been a fan of Blair,but one thing you can argue... is that he had charisma in spades (but then it is not always a good quality). Following a man like that is always going to be difficult, it is even more the case if charisma does not come naturally.

I don't have a major problem with Mr Brown's big policy calls... nobody can doubt he's made some brave calls that other world leaders have responded to. My biggest problem is his inability to make the big leadership calls. He had a chance to validate his premiership right from the get go... he had the opportunity to call a somewhat risky general election which hindsight tells us he probably would have won. His response to the subsequent by-elections and local elections that Labour struggled in, was "We are listening and we will learn from this". This was churned out several times in succession and to my ears, it became a bit of a cliched mantra.

Then of course most recently, he finds ministers within his ranks who have played or abused the expenses system and chooses a long term strategy to deal with it. That is not how the real world deals with such matters. If something like that came up anywhere else, you would expect it to be dealt with immediacy. What was needed was not an independent inquiry riddled with red tape (that must follow only as a secondary measure), but a swift yet accurate self diagnosis of who was at fault followed by a case by case instant dismissal and by election.

People may still harbour anger, resentment and feelings of betrayal... but if they can at least see that you are taking genuinely hard steps to put your house in order, you are are likely to win their ears back.

If the stories are true, it would appear that Brown was not happy with Alastair Darling's performance as chancellor... and yet in the recent reshuffle, he backed off doing anything about it because Darling was rumoured to be digging his heels in and refusing to do any other job.

The tougher choice would have been to have called Darling out on that... put him somewhere you feel is better and see how he reacts. If he walks, he walks... but don't let one man's desire to retain a high profile job, rule how you feel the team should be structured.

I feel the only way for Gordon Brown to survive the oncoming storm, is to adapt his personality for the times ahead. He needs to be more bullish.

Should Labour go through with a plot to oust him, heaven help them... because I don't really see any pretenders to the throne. I don't get a strong sense of leadership from Alan Johnson or anyone else for that matter... and if someone should take the mantle from Brown, they are going to have justify the fact that they are the second successive Prime Minister to have not been directly elected.

If Brown goes... or is forced to take some kind of internal electoral action to secure his position, I honestly think a general election will have to be called. He needs to act before his own ministers adopt their own course of action that can only end in mutually assured destruction of Labour at the polls - Blairite or Brownite won't matter... their fate will be the same.

I'll be honest... I can't see any way that Labour is not going to be annihilated at the next general election- I believe that too much water has passed under the bridge. Now is not the time for fingers in the dame... now is the time for something spectacular.

An interesting week ahead of us I would say.

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