Leading article: No more stunts and cynical manouvering

Share

Aside from the loss of a Liberal Democrat leader, the most obvious casualty of Gordon Brown's mishandling of last month's general election speculation has been the Government's political momentum. Labour's hefty opinion poll lead at the time of party's conference in September has drained away, along with much of its confidence. The Independent's poll of polls today shows that the Conservatives are enjoying a four point lead.

So what does Mr Brown need to do to regain the initiative? First he should put an end to the unseemly scrabble for short-term political advantage in which he and his advisers have been engaged. Since becoming Prime Minister in June, Mr Brown has been dabbling in the sort of headline-grabbing stunts pioneered by his predecessor. Though such techniques might work for a while, the public soon grows weary of them. And when they are used as a substitute for considered policy, that weariness quickly turns to anger. Second, the Prime Minister needs to stop pretending to be something he is not. Mr Brown's attempt at political "cross-dressing", adopting measures and poses more commonly associated with his opponents, has been unconvincing. Like so much of what passes for modern political discourse, it merely serves to insult the electorate's intelligence.

Unfortunately, the signs are that parts of today's Queen's Speech will compound, rather than reverse, these errors. One element of the speech is expected to be an extension of the time that terror suspects can be held by the police. The worrying indications are that Mr Brown feels it necessary to prove himself sufficiently "tough" on the terror threat through such a draconian move. The same motivation seems to lie behind Mr Brown's foolish decision to push ahead with a costly and illiberal ID card scheme. Mr Brown opposed the idea in Cabinet when it emerged under Tony Blair, but now he has adopted it as a way of showing that he is not distancing himself from his predecessor's legacy. Another depressing element of today's likely programme is the demand that migrant workers from outside the European Union be required to learn English. This pandering to xenophobia is distasteful. And as the measure was not part of the draft Queen's Speech unveiled in July, it looks like a panicked response to David Cameron's recent speech on immigration.

Rather than resorting to such cynical manoeuvring, Mr Brown should play to his strengths. He ought to promise calm and responsible government, however dull that may seem. There is much to be said for a period of quiet statesmanship. As for the much vaunted "vision thing", Mr Brown's problem is not that he lacks one, but that he is afraid to talk about it openly. He is, at heart, a progressive politician, deeply concerned with eradicating poverty, both at home and abroad, and in boosting opportunity for all. The Prime Minister ought to have the courage of his convictions and push ahead with this social democratic agenda. He should ignore the inevitable cries from angry Blairites that he is reverting to a vote-losing "old Labour" ideology. After all, Mr Brown was a key architect of the New Labour project – some would even argue that he was the brains behind it all – and his values are well in keeping with the views of most people in Britain.

Mr Brown has achieved his cherished dream of becoming prime minister. It is understandable that he is afraid of losing that prize. But he cannot spend his entire premiership in defensive mode, constantly worried about his right flank. How much worse would Mr Brown feel if he were to lose the most powerful office without at least attempting to implement some of what he believes in? The stunts and cheap positioning have outlived their usefulness. Will the real Gordon Brown please step forward?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world