You can’t blame Brown for everything
There are two problems with Brown-bashing: it’s immature and it’s making Emily Hill feel sorry for the PM.
As excitement over the General Election reaches a pitch so feverish that only dogs can hear it, and the polls race round and round, chasing their own tails, it’s all very uncertain what is going to happen on Thursday. The only thing anyone can agree on is that the prime minister is a total loser.
Gordon Brown, son of the Manse, newly champion gurner, with his moral compass and his clunking fist… for months he’s been traduced as a bully, has been dusted up by the tabloids for his poor spelling, his colleagues have ganged up on him, and before that it was suggested that he was mentally ill. Now he can’t even remember to detach a microphone from his lapel before letting rip about some perfectly nice northern pensioner who is concerned about too many Ukrainians coming over here. GB may have been the PM who thought ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ was a good slogan, but when he gets a real person expressing something like a similar idea she’s a ‘bigoted woman’. As soon as he got in the back of his car, the fight was over, according to the press. Gillian Duffy had finished him.
‘It is hard not to think that an alternative Labour leader would have done better in this election than Brown’, claims the Spectator’s James Forsyth. ‘Indeed, the return of Blair to the campaign trail has reminded the Labour machine of how much better their previous leader was. On his return to Labour HQ yesterday, Blair was – I’m told – greeted with a massive ovation. He then greeted and thanked every member of staff.’
But take away the personality quirks, the spectacularly bad luck of that back-of-the-car conversation being picked up (you’re saying David Cameron doesn’t say similar things? You’re saying Nick Clegg is a friend of the working man?), and look at the bigger picture. Blair was hated when he left No.10. And Gordon was hailed by some as ‘The Saviour’. As for Brown bringing about the death of Labour, what about David Miliband, currently on the campaign trail doing his flexy-faced Thunderbirds act, or Alan Johnson, the world’s most boring postman, or the minister for children, schools and families, Ed Balls, aka Blinky, who can’t stop flickering his eyelashes at a rate that any body-language expert would chalk up as the behavioural tic of a congenital liar, or Harriet Harman, the thickest woman in Britain, or any other person in the former cabinet whom the public are even less familiar with than they were with Nick Clegg before ‘Cleggmania’ hit and made for the most ludicrous media-driven political phenomenon of this century?
It’s not just Brown who thinks Northern Woman is a racist Neanderthal. It’s all of them. And people aren’t as easily suckered in as spindoctors like to think. Clegg may have a 79 per cent personal opinion rating, but the same voters overwhelmingly dislike his key policies, which makes Cleggmania look less and less like anything that’s going to translate into votes.
Am I the only one starting to feel a little bit sorry for Brown? It is New Labour that is useless, that is completely exhausted, not Gordon specifically. It’s the whole oleaginous tribe of them. The whiners and the windbags, the endless screed of Newspeak spilling out of their mouths as if from a re-programmed Speak Your Weight machine. The prime engineers of the politics of personality, Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, are suddenly complaining that no one concentrates on policy. But all their ‘policy’ has been tinkering and finessing and meddling in private lives – there’s been no grand vision, no policy writ large that anyone could really get behind.
And the idea that New Labour has been in any way much of a democratic institution is exposed by the very people most instrumental in trying to prop it up in its darkest hour. Mandelson, so beloved of the media class for being a cross between Dame Widow Twinky and Iago, recently took offence at Sky News’ Adam Boulton, who suggested that Mandelson is only interested in the politics of personality. Disliking this, the panto-baron hissed back that neither the Financial Times nor the IFS (the sponsors of the event at which Boulton asked his question) is ‘standing in this election’. ‘You are not standing for election either’, Mandelson said to Boulton. It took another journalist in the audience to remind Mandelson: ‘Neither are you.’
Try as I might, I can’t get excited about this election. As much as any liberty-lover in the land must want children to be able to eat cheese sandwiches with impunity, for young mothers not to be fined when their toddler drops a piece of fruit on the pavement, for the education system to be liberated from the crudities of Balls and all the balls he propagates, for free speech to be upheld, and adults to be presumed not to be paedophiles, just like the innocent are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty… the future just doesn’t seem so bright, it doesn’t seem so orange.
The media are concentrating on any colour they can squeeze out of this ditchwater beige race. On whether ‘Gillian Duffy’s postal ballot paper may become one of the great political souvenirs of all time. Something to rival Neville Chamberlain’s air ticket to Munich and back.’ (Thank you Michael Crick.) Or on the state of Gordon’s nails: ‘By this stage in the campaign, you’d have thought that Gordon Brown’s nails would be chewed to the quick. But as this picture from the Observer shows, they are longer than ever.’ (Thank you, Financial Times.) You might get as much insight on the Evening Standard’s Londoner’s Diary: ‘Alastair Campbell is still defiantly spinning away. “Don’t care what phoney polls say tonight. GB has won this [TV debate] hands down”, he tweets. “GB wins debate whatever polls say”, he tweets again. As Norma Desmond said in Sunset Boulevard: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”’ Okay, perhaps not….
It’s not Gillian Duffy who finished off Gordon Brown, or Gordon Brown who finished off the Labour Party. Rather an implosion, internally generated, is finishing off this sulphurous political creed.
Emily Hill is a reporter on the Londoner’s Diary at the Evening Standard and is also spiked’s columnist on celebrity culture. Visit her personal website here.
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