For the first time since 1992 the Conservative party is getting a projected national vote share (44%) which would win an overall Tory majority if repeated at a general election, even given the biases in the electoral system. It's a savage prospect for sure, and Gordon is not in danger of overturning the nightmare any time soon. Indeed, his speciality is finding new holes to dig with one hand while his other hand digs the increasing number of existing holes deeper. And deeper.
Here's the condensed Gordon Brown guide to becoming Prime Minister:
- spend a few months tweaking round the edges of your predecessor's policies whilst wandering about on camera trying to look hard.
- when your poll rating inexplicably rises, toy with the idea of a general election (preferably for so long that even your best friends and advisers get bored).
- At the first signs of a political response from the Conservative party, run back to the red corner with your tail between your legs.
- Do an impression of the most tongue-tied, complacent moron possible.
- Repeat until dead.
The problem is that the worst predictions of the dreadful anti-Brown crypto-Tories who surrounded Blair - Matthew Taylor, Phil Collins (not the singer, sadly) etc. are coming true. John Hutton famously said that Brown would make "a f***ing awful Prime Minister", and whilst he's almost never right about anything, that statement seems to be an exception.
Some of this is due to the dire position which ten years of Blair/Brown dual control of UK plc has left us. With the UK economy pumped up by an unsustainable asset and debt boom, when the credit crunch hit, we were stuck up slack alley with no reverse gear... just waiting for the economic collapse. When you've spent ten years talking about stability, to see it suddenly whipped away like the most flimsy house of cards in history must be a tough gig to handle.
Equally, the lunacy of many of the Blair/Brown public sector reforms - which involve paying as much money to private sector consultants and infrastructure companies as possible, to deliver badly built, overpriced schools and hospitals, and management consultancy whose productivity impacts are, if anything, negative - has now swallowed up so many of our tax pounds that, when it's combined with rampant inflation in essential goods like food and fuel, people are feeling the pinch.
Notice I've said "Blair/Brown" rather than "Blair" above and that's very important. The current crisis is partly due to the idiocy of Blair, but Brown was a willing participant in all of this (and in some cases the initiator of these crazy policies - tube PPP, for instance). That's why it's very difficult for him to make a clean break with the failures of the Blair years.
It would mean having to undergo a Blues Brothers - like instant conversion to radical politics - this could perhaps be stage-managed at the next Labour conference. A shaft of light appearing say, a third of the way through another lumpen Gordon speech, and then suddenly, he's a changed man. Out goes that f***ing awful blue tie and back comes the red tie of the 2003 Conference speech ("we're best when we're labour" etc.) He needs to start by emulating Nikita Kruschev at the 1956 Soviet Party Congress. Kruschev's denunciation of Stalin set the tone for the Cold War's "detente" years and Brown could spark a similar new era by jettisoning the whole Blair legacy in one fell swoop. The speech needs to go something like this:
(pointing to picture of Blair forming the conference backdrop) "see this guy here? You remember him from a couple of years back? Well, he was WRONG! And so was I. WE WAS WRONG!!! (huge red cross is superimposed over backdrop, which fades into collage of many of the dictators of the past - Stalin, Mao, Maggie Thatcher, Rupert Murdoch, Richard Bowker, etc.) From now on it's NEW New Labour! Let a thousand flowers bloom. PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS FOR ALL! AN END TO PFI! etc. etc. etc.Personnel changes would also be essential. The Blairite detritus currently clogging up the cabinet table would be summarily dismissed. Hutton, Blears, Purnell... all for the chop. And demotions for rubbishy Brownites like Ed Balls and Alastair Darling. Promotions for solid and trustworthy performers: Denham, Benn, Ed Miliband. Most importantly of all, a senior cabinet job for John Cruddas - I recommend Home Secretary. A replacement for Darling at No 11? It's got to be Alan Johnson. Trusted, respectable, comprehensible to people from the South.
Only a total relaunch - in policy and people terms - can save the Nu-Lab project now. What is least likely to save it is yet more sanctimonious, dunderhead b.s. about "listen and lead" (Speak and Spell?) and "tough decisions in difficult times". I know we live in environmentally conscious times but please, someone change the f***ing record on Gordon. The public are sick to death of hearing a Budget speech that was stale as far back as 2000, with the nouns slightly changed each time according to the policy area being discussed. And can we ban any talk of "Britishness" please? The BNP performed spectacularly poorly. So that's enough of that, then.
I could turn the situation around so that in 18 months' time Labour would have a narrow poll lead or at least level pegging - starting with that conference speech. But I won't. Partly 'cos they'd never give me the job anyway, and partly 'cos I wouldn't take an adviser job even if it were on offer. So go on Gordon... lose big time. See if we care. RIP.
(By the way... my earlier prediction of a Ken victory looks to have been pretty damn wrong, so I'm sorry if I spread false hope. All hail Boris the blond bombshell. So glad I got the hell out of London in 2000 now. Around the time that Gordon speech started to grate... more on London soon when we have the actual results, god help us.)