Friday, May 25, 2007

Who's afraid of the big Brown wolf?

Dennis MacShane, a byword for mendacity even among Labour's Europe Ministers, has an article in today's Telegraph which peddles the 'steaming juggernaut of experienced attack politics' line about Gordon Brown.
Any careful observer of Brown over the past three decades could have told them that this Len Hutton of a politician, once at the crease, is very difficult to get out.
Hmmm. Len Hutton: exquisitely elegant and tenacious batsman, Yorkshire born and bred. Gordon Brown: Scottish politician. This simile needs a bit of work. If you assembled a group of cricket writers and asked them for a batsman who was primarily known as being difficult to get out there'd be one answer: Geoff Boycott. So, Gordon Brown, this Geoff Boycott of a politician. That works quite well actually. Anyway, MacShane believes Brown will outbattle Cameron.
First, Brown will highlight Cameron's three-front problem. The Tory leader has to struggle against the hard Right of Ukip and the BNP as well as the solid presence of the Lib Dems. So Brown will make Cameron do the splits as the Conservatives have to talk Left to get Lib Dem voters and hard Right to stop a few thousand Ukip or BNP votes preventing Tory gains. Cameron's third front - and his biggest challenge - is to reform his party. Blair and Brown invented New Labour; Cameron has to live with old Tories.
I don't buy this. Both the BNP and UKIP are minimal fringe parties. The Conservatives have, insofar as opinion polls can tell you anything, the stickiest supporters - far stickier than Labour's for sure. On the other front, the defining feature of Labour in Government has been the divisions between Brownites and Blairites: that's not going to go away any time soon. It would be fair to say that Labour have the more divided party, and the greater 'spread' challenge - to appeal to their own disillusioned grass roots at the same time as trying to rebuild support in the South.
Second, Brown will not be outflanked on Britishness or on being tough on crime and against terrorism. Ministers such as Liam Byrne and Margaret Hodge are talking new language on immigration and social housing.
Hang on a sec. A minute ago you were saying that it was Cameron who needed to guard his flank against the BNP, now it's Brown?
Above all, Brown will focus on Cameron...As Blair and his fund-raising team quit No 10, Labour will encourage the media to probe the occult party political financing which the Tories are involved in. Brown has plenty of rough, crude backbenchers trained in the Norman Tebbit academy of polecat politics ready to come out of the traps. By contrast, the Eton, Oxford and Household Division Tories promoted by Cameron have effortless charm but don't yet know how to land punches on Labour.
This needs addressing. The idea that, because Brown has been utterly ruthless in dispatching Labour rivals, he is an unmatched political assassin. If a 'friendly' colleague rings up with a press story about how useless Alan Milburn is, it's a major story: 'Labour heavyweights lose patience with minister!' When a Labour MP slags off the Tories it simply doesn't carry the same weight. And the Labour Party are planning on 'probing' the Tories financing? With a possible court case going on at the same time? With a leader who lied about his role in the Ecclestone affair? C'mon! And I'm sure that the rough crude backbenchers will go down a storm with the sort of voters that Labour needs to retain and regain.
Cameron has yet to show he understands that opposition is a full-time profession. The Bullingdon Club, PR work for Carlton TV and accepting large cheques from Lord Ashcroft are not the best training to enter No 10.
Right - show of hands. What career did Gordon Brown have before politics? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? The nearest Gordon Brown got to having a real job was part time lecturing at the Adult Learning Institute in Glasgow. As far as I can tell he has never had a full time job in the private sector. He has been an MP for 24 years, and trying to be one for nearly 10 years before that. And before slagging Cameron's University photos too much, take a look at Brown's.
Gordon Brown lacks both intellectual flexibility and political courage. I'm with Matthew Parris.
His silence does not betoken strength; his immobility does not betoken carefully guarded plans. His curtness does not betoken honesty. His unyieldingness does not betoken valour. Mr Brown is the most spun politician of our era.

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