Blair's technique, when still leader of the opposition and when first elected Prime Minister, was to try and be all things to all men: to make New Labour, as he put it, 'the political arm of the people of Great Britain'. His tactics were, essentially, to reassure the worried middle classes that Labour was on their side while throwing enough in the way of spending increases and social policy to keep the left of the party less than actually mutinous. Blair's mission, in other words was to make Labour the natural party of government, and his technique was to make Labour synonymous with the middles ground.
Brown has the same mission, but his technique, so far, has been slightly different. he's aiming at making Labour the only party of government by demolishing the Tories. Almost every policy so far announced has been designed solely to stuff the Tories. Policies that might give the Tories a chance to attack from the right, like the decision that City Academies should be run by LEAs, destroying their purpose, have been enacted under suffocating silence. As Chancellor, Brown was adept at hiding proposals and policies in small print and supplementary leaflets. As Prime Minister he has continued the trend.
I said that Brown has been aiming to destroy the Tories; I think it's more personal than that, it's an attempt to destroy David Cameron. Look at the high-profile announcements: casinos 'reviewed', cannabis 'reviewed', detention to be 'reviewed': all three social policies designed solely to cause Cameron troubles on the right of his party. Incidentally, Brown seems to have more reviews than Victorian theatres. But is this how to run a Government?
Ultimately politics is more than a contest between Labour and the Tories: there is a country to run here after all. Seeking, above all other considerations, for party political advantage carries a lot of dangers. Look at the recent Labour announcement that a border police force, an idea espoused by the Conservatives for years now, and routinely derided by the Labour Party, should now be adopted. The problem is that the envisaged force is little more than Customs officials given a different uniform and a shiny badge. There will be very little substantive change to border control, but the Tories will have lost a talking point. It's very clever I suppose, but it looks ultimately empty. Politics is more than mere party politics. It's a point Blair came to appreciate only too well - it's why his sparring with Cameron always seemed a little half-hearted - but for Brown it looks like the only show in town.
Labels: Brown, politics