Leading Article: Brown: the case for the defence

Share
Related Topics

The time has come to make the case for Gordon Brown. This may seem counterintuitive. After all, so everybody is agreed, Mr Brown has been a disaster as a Prime Minister. He has no story to tell; he is indecisive, a ditherer in Conservative Central Office's lexicon; and he is painfully slow on his feet. In short, he is a busted flush. Just look at the local elections and the opinion polls.

If he's lucky, the story goes, he might just lurch on for two miserable years to inevitable defeat at the general election. If his colleagues are brave enough to get their act together, they'll dump him sooner, probably for a caretaker such as Alan Johnson or – more likely – Jack Straw. That stand-in's job will be to lose the next election as narrowly as possible, and to serve as a decontamination zone for young Mr Miliband (David, they mean, although some think Ed is a better bet).

The narrative is set. The hacks – politicians and pundits – have agreed their line, rather like sports reporters comparing interpretations of a football manager's post-match quotes. Everything that happens until his unavoidable demise is henceforth seen through the prism of Mr Brown as sad loser. Even normal civilities have been suspended. It is perfectly permissible to be as rude as you like about the Prime Minister.

Into all of this, Cherie Blair decides to sally forth, wielding the stiletto as a scalpel. The effect is to elevate her husband, diss the PM, and, of course, to net her a six-figure sum. Can she really need that money that much? And yet. And yet.

There are two issues to consider. First, the nature of the Westminster beast, and why it might not be as omniscient as it considers itself to be. Second, the relative virtues of the Prime Minister and David Cameron – in short, what politics should really be about: values and policies.

On the first, has Westminster forgotten the key maxims in politics – Macmillan's events and Wilson's week? Less than a year ago, it was all sticky for the Tory boy wonder, so sticky that there were rumblings of another change of leader. If Mr Brown does withstand the current barrage, is it inconceivable that he could recover? In any case, does Westminster speculation really register in the country? Sure, the voters gave Mr Brown a kicking barely a week ago, and may well do so in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election next week, but does that mean defeat is inevitable in 2010? Most voters engage occasionally, in the polling booths, not every waking moment.

On the second and more fundamental question, we say this. Mr Cameron may very well make a good prime minister. The difficulty is that we cannot come to an informed opinion until we can flush out where he stands. He is charming, attractive, and does empathy very well.

Mr Brown is, as we all know, a very different being. He has made some terrible errors. He does come across as indecisive. Mr Blair never gave the impression of worrying about any of his decisions, as long as he made one, but is that in itself so admirable?

The big question, though, is this. What are the core values of Messrs Brown, Cameron and Clegg? The electorate probably realises – and this sounds odd – that Mr Brown is a politician who cares. Do we feel the same way yet about Mr Cameron, or is politics simply his chosen medium for success? It may be that Mr Brown is the real empathiser, even if he can't express it.

It is a long, long way back for the Prime Minister. No one would deny that. He may not have the stomach for it, and he will have to find his mojo if he has to have any hopes of it. From the time he bested Nigel Lawson as the young stand-in for John Smith in 1988 to his despatch of four shadow chancellors during his own decade as chancellor, he has shown that he can command the House of Commons.

He does not deserve to be written off by the Westminster herd. His record as chancellor ought to inspire confidence that he can steer the country through a time of economic uncertainty. As Prime Minister, he has been vilified for some things that have had no practical effect, such as not having an unnecessary election. Meanwhile, most of the Government is getting on with its business, without some of the worst excesses of initiativitis that bedevilled Mr Blair. In the health service, for example, solid progress is being made on making it easier to see a GP, cutting waiting lists and controlling hospital infections. Yet the relative absence of headline-seeking has been filled by a media narrative about how useless the Government is at presentational politics.

British politics needs Gordon Brown at his best. We need him to gird his loins and fight for his achievements with conviction. The odds may be against him, but the country can only be the victor if the next election pits a resurgent Mr Brown against a formidable Mr Cameron.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Sub-System Design Verification engineer

Flexible working, annual bonus, pension & more.: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the oppor...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Architect

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? MBDA has e...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Design Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

MBDA UK Ltd: PCB Technologies Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in April. The classical musical festival is one of the BBC’s most cherished institutions  

The Proms must be dragged into the 21st century

David Lister
Lesley Roberts's benefits were stopped after she was erroneously declared fit for work by an Atos doctor  

I started receiving benefits after being given less than 3 years to live. And now the Government wants to make life even harder for people like me

Lesley Roberts
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor