Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Brown is the new Yellow

So Brown blinked first. I fear that if he wanted to win, it was now or never. Let's assume he wanted to win.

David Cameron played his first good hand in months by saying "bring it on" and making us believe it. In folding when he did, Brown lands himself with a hatful of "bottler" tags and ends up on the back foot. If he'd played out the hand and called an election, he'd have had to hold on through fearfully gritted teeth, unless he'd managed to find a way of re-raising Cameron. But how could he have got the stakes any higher? He'd've had to declare that the election would be decided by unarmed combat.

So he has to convince us all that he's not a ditherer or a bottler, and the first thing he does is present us with a grab-bag of diluted Tory fiscal policies. That trick worked for a couple of months, when he could steal Tory policies simply because no-one noticed they'd had them (and that, in any case, "policies" was a bit strong). But when a massive part of the Tory turnaround is based on their "policy" of taking less money in tax from those who've loads of money anyway, then stealing that might be a bit obvious. It's all very well me nicking your new jumper, but if I do it just after you've said to everyone "do you like my new jumper?", they're going to notice.

What's Brown's tactic to be, then? When we've noticed that he was the chief architect of New Labour so can't dissociate himself all that much with the last ten years, when we've noticed that his (delightful) injections of cash into ailing institutions like the NHS have been fatally compromised by PFIs swallowing that cash, when we've noticed that he voted for all of Blair's most hated activities and has ceased, um, none of them, that his famous stability just led to the first run on a British bank in 130 years and that he might not even be the strong leader we all thought he was, what can he do?

He has to be bold. Tactically and strategically he has no other option; politically a change of personality is not proving sufficiently refreshing; and crucially the country's governance needs a rethink.

He says he's a conviction politician but he's not prepared to tell us what his convictions are. Conviction politicians risk their popularity on their convictions. Lincoln risked losing half the country. Brown's only conviction is that the people want a conviction politician.

So why not do something that will actually make a difference, instead of Ranieri-esque tinkering? Why not renationalise the trains or knock PFIs dead and have the NHS run by an independent trust like the Bank of England? Why not abolish grammar schools and introduce a whole new practical and vocational pathway in secondary education? Hell, why not re-introduce the death penalty or have a troop surge in Iraq, declare war on France rather than face them in the rugby or just abolish democracy altogether? Why not do something that will wake us all up?

Why do you think?

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