Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The man is a genius

An evil genius obviously, but a genius none the less. I am, of course, referring to Gordon Brown - he of the clunking fists. He may have annoyed a number of the members of his own party but he has just stitched up, in a monumental way, his Parliamentary opposition.

Whilst a government of all the talents doesn't necessarily include Blairites, by introducing ex-Tories, Sir Digby Jones, top surgeons, naval chiefs and senior police officers into important governmental roles he has, at one stroke, made the Lib Dems look indecisive (as they can't seem to make up their minds as to whether to accept his offers or not) and the Tories look entirely marginal and stale, and that with their most effective leader since Marge Thatcher.

Whilst some Tories are now frothing about Cameron's lack of seriousness, Brown is posing as the man who works in a serious way with all parts of the establishment. The Tories have been confidently proposing that Brown would shift the government to the left but, unless I've missed Arthur Scargill's appointment as chief advisor on industrial relations or Germaine Greer's new role as Minister for Women he's simply swarmed over everything that is naturally Tory, leaving them nowhere else to go.

Even the recent Tory defector essentially stated that he was leaving the Conservative Party for Labour as a shift to the right, which is quite probably a historic first.

There seems to be a new style to Brown's government too. Yesterday two Ministers were interviewed by Radio Four, Jack Straw on the early release for prisoners and Hilary Benn on the catastrophic flooding. Whilst we're used to Blairites on the defensive, wheedling and making party political points both of these ministers, no matter what you think of what they said, looked serious, engaged and ready to discuss in depth what is going on. Benn even used the interview to issue advise for home owners and those on benefits.

They are clearly styling themselves (and I don't want to sound too cynical about this) as the government that gets things done and is far too busy to care what the Tories or other opponents have to say. This leaves the Tories in an impossible position. They can make snide remarks, which just deepens the appearance of being on the periphery, they can get slicker, bolstering the image of all style / no substance or they can change direction - which requires infighting and either a move to the right or simply copying Brown - neither of which will stand them in good stead with the electorate.

Of course all of this leaves aside something very important. Michael Gove (who always conjures up in my mind the phrase "oily tic" for some reason) defended Cameron against his critics in the Tory Party who wanted a shift towards more "traditional Tory values" by saying that elections are always won on the centre ground. But what if you're politics are not on the so-called centre ground? What if you believe the NHS should be privatised? Don't people enter politics because they believe in something?

The subtext of what Gove is saying is essentially identical to Blair in '95 forget your beliefs, your principles and your ideas - we just want to get in power. Whilst this may or may not be an effective strategy for winning elections it certainly has contributed to the historic low turn outs and the alienation of millions from the political process. Even if it works it is not to be admired.

Brown's "big tent" and "government of substance" is the worst nightmare of the Parliamentary opposition who are not likely to come up with an effective counter strategy any time soon. It doesn't really matter how well this goes down the electorate in terms of winning the next election as long as it emasculates the enemy, but we shouldn't dismiss the idea that there really will be a new honeymoon for Labour. We'll see, but whether you oppose New Labour from the left or the right - the worst thing you could do now is under-estimate the new government.

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